As the days grow shorter and the winter nights grow longer, it becomes harder and harder to stay energized. But by charging up with healthy ‘fuel’, you can help your body and mind keep pace and maintain their peak performance zones. Below are a few suggestions on how to eat your way to extra energy.
Eat breakfast. Your mother was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that people who skip a morning meal often have trouble concentrating, feel fatigued and irritable. Bypassing breakfast to save calories is also a bad idea since you’re likely to overcompensate at lunch and dinner. Avoid foods high in sugar — toaster treats, store-bought muffins — that instantly raise your blood sugar and cause it to drop as quickly. Instead, stick to a balanced meal that contains complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grain toast or cereal), protein (e.g. an egg, a slice of cheese or lean meat) and a serving of fruit or vegetables.
Snack well, snack often. Eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day ensures your blood glucose levels remain steady. It also helps avoid that shaky or headachy feeling that occurs when you deprive your body of food for too long. Keep healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, fruit, yogurt and veggie sticks on hand at work and at home. Steer clear of ‘empty’ foods such as pastries, candy, pop and other processed munchies that are normally high in calories, low in nutritional value.
Don’t overindulge. Loading up at lunchtime — especially with carbohydrates — will leave you craving a siesta. Stick with lots of vegetables, lean protein (beans, chicken, fish etc.) and ease off the breadbasket. Moving your carbohydrate consumption to dinner will help you sleep better.
Avoid caffeine. Coffee or tea may give you the jolt you need to get up in the morning, but rely on it too much and it can actually have the reverse effect. More than three cups a day can create a jittery, then lethargic cycle and may also interfere with your quality of sleep.
Drink up. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help stay alert as fatigue is a sign of mild dehydration. Eight glasses is standard, but if you had a tough workout or overdid it on the caffeine, try to drink more. Thirst is one of the final cues you’re dehydrated so it’s important to indulge in the H20 before you start feeling thirsty.
Eat a balanced diet. While in-vogue diets claim a
‘quick fix’ to weight loss and energy gain, most nutritional
experts agree that over the long run a balanced diet — that’s
big on whole grain, unprocessed foods and includes the four major food
groups — is the best way to maintain energy levels and weight.
For more information visit Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating
Pump up the iron. Sluggishness, especially in women, is often a sign of a low iron levels. Iron found in red meat is most easily absorbed by the body. Other options include: seafood (clams, in particular), spinach, fortified cereals, almonds, dried figs and legumes. These should be consumed with foods or drinks rich in Vitamin C (e.g., orange or grapefruit juice) to maximize absorption of the iron. If you suspect your iron is low, or have noticed a drastic change in your energy level, consult your doctor.
Need more help staying healthy during the summer? Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help. You can receive support through a variety of resources, including your EAP’s nutrition service. Call your EAP to see if you are eligible at 1.800.387.4765 for service in English, 1.800.361.5676 for service in French.
© 2005 WarrenShepell