Energy is defined as:
The ability to do work or
The strength and vitality for sustained mental or physical activity
We would all like to have more energy or at least be able to get more energy when we need it. Let’s take a look at the dietary energy robbers in our diets as well as the energy boosters we can add daily.
The greatest energy robber in most of our diets is sugar in all its visible and hidden forms.
- Watch for refined carbohydrates and the highly processed foods that are an unfortunate main stay of Canadian diets. Ie. white bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cookies, desserts, baked goods, sweets. Not to mention all the hidden sugars that come in so many forms. Read labels and watch for names that end in “ose”, “itol”, as well as syrups, sweeteners and fruit juice. Why is sugar so bad? The main reason is that it plays havoc with your blood sugar. When the refined carbohydrate gets into the blood stream, it causes insulin to be released which removes the sugar leaving you with less energy than before it was consumed. Foods that have a high Glycemic Index cause a high and rapid increase in blood sugar resulting in a greater insulin secretion and a deeper energy dump.
- Caffeine is another energy robber. It causes a similar reaction to sugar leaving you with less energy after about 15 minutes. Caffeine increases the firing rate in the brain causing thoughts to race followed by an energy dump. Chronic consumption can cause sleep disruption due to over-stimulation of the adrenal gland.
- High Allergen foods or intolerances can also cause an over taxed system taking their toll on the immune system. Congestion, swelling and difficulty breathing result in energy depletion.
- Consuming a high fat and/ or protein lunch will leave you feeling sleepy because more energy is required to process this macro nutrient. A lighter lunch combining complex carbohydrates and lean protein will give you the energy you need for the afternoon.
- Highly processed foods that are for the most part, “pre-packaged and ready to eat” contain non-food chemicals that interfere with accessing energy from the food.
So what can you eat to get energized for the day?
- Include a source of magnesium in your diet. Almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, wheat bran/flakes and soybeans help to decrease fatigue.
- Beta-carotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, squash, pumpkin help to boost the immune system freeing up energy.
- Spices are a great energy boost! Add some cinnamon, curry, fenugreek, allspice, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano to daily cooking. They help to increase the blood’s sensitivity to insulin.
- Include a regular source of Omega 3s in your eating plan. You will find them in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines as well as flax seeds, chia, hemp and algae.
Let’s not forget to HYDRATION!!
Water is one of the main energy boosters. If you are feeling draggy and tired, drink a full glass of water and enjoy an immediate energy boost! Keep a water bottle in your car and on your desk and sip all day long, don’t wait until you are thirsty!
Let’s finish off with a winning energy formula for meal planning.
Combine a complex Carbohydrate with a Protein for snacks and meals and you will reap the benefits of sustained energy throughout the day! Complex Carbohydrates take longer to breakdown and don’t cause high glycemic responses in the blood stream. Add a healthy source of fat and you are ready to perform at your best.
Examples of winning combinations
- Complex Carbohydrate+ Protein
- Veggie sticks and hummus
- Multi grain toast and almond butter
- Berries and Greek yogurt or kefir
- Apricots and cream cheese
- Pineapple and cottage cheese
- Apple slices and seed butter
- Multi grain pita,avocado and chicken
- Jicama sticks and black bean dip
- Oatmeal, nuts and milk
- Brown rice and edamame
- Fruit smoothie with tofu
The combinations are endless! Use this formula to plan meals and snacks for maximum energy through the day!
For a great no-sugar added snack check out our Carrot Cake Energy Balls.