If you find yourself dragging every afternoon, that’s probably a sign that you are not fueling your body with foods that promote healthy and stable energy levels. What and how we eat are directly related to how energetic we feel throughout the day. In my new book, Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week , I devote a whole chapter on “how to energize your day the healthy way”!
To understand this process, you need to know what actually is “energy”. Calories are the simplest form of energy. While it’s true that most people get more than enough calories each day, it’s how we distribute them over a course of a day that can be a problem. That’s because when you skip a meal or snack, it causes your body to conserve, instead of use, its energy, which means your metabolism moves in slow-mo.
You see, your metabolism is like a fire; if you don’t put wood on a fire after a while, it will burn out. Likewise, if you go longer than 4 hours without eating, your metabolism will slow down and your blood sugar will drop, both of which cause your energy levels to plummet. Try to make sure that you are evenly distributing your calories between three meals and a snack or two, making sure to eat a meal or snack at least every 4 hours. For lasting energy, choose one of the energy-boosting snacks from the breakout box below.
5 Energy-Boosting Snacks from Schedule Me Skinny:
- 1/4 cup hummus + 1 sliced bell pepper
- 1 slice whole-grain toast + ½ sliced banana + 2 tsp peanut butter + dash of cinnamon
- 1 medium pear + string cheese
- 6 oz non-fat Greek Yogurt + ½ cup berries + 2 tbsp slivered almonds
- 1 brown rice cake + 1 tbsp whipped cream cheese + 2 oz smoked salmon
When you are feeling low on energy, you may find yourself craving sugary snacks or soft drinks, but don’t give in. While these may seem to give you a quick energy fix, after the spike, your blood sugar will take a nosedive that will leave you feeling like you have even less energy than before.
Plan each of your meals and snacks to include a combination of both carbohydrates and protein/healthy fats to give you a maximum energy return. This is because carbohydrates, our bodies’ first source of energy, provide energy quickly. When eaten with carbs, healthy fats and proteins help that energy to be released at a slower and steadier rate. This helps to avoid a blood sugar spike that leads to an energy crash.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is also important for maintaining high energy levels, as even slight dehydration can cause a decrease in energy.
A moderate amount of caffeine is okay to provide a quick fix for your afternoon pick-me-up. In fact, some studies have linked moderate caffeine consumption from coffee and green tea to weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. The bottom line is that for the majority of healthy adults, it’s completely safe to have two to three cups of java daily, or at most 300 milligrams of caffeine a day.
As you can see, making small changes in the way you eat and staying hydrated can have lasting effects on your day to day energy levels.
Sarah-Jane Bedwell is a registered dietitian and media personality. She blogs daily on food and nutrition for SELF magazine and has appeared on the TODAY Show several times. Her book, Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week was released in January. Learn more about Sarah-Jane at: http://www.sarahjanebedwell.com/