Eating for energy

If you find yourself yawning a lot, or even nodding off as soon as you sit down on a chair or sofa, you may be suffering from fatigue or as it is often called these days – TATT – ‘tired all the time’.  With many of us leading increasingly busy lives – juggling work and family – it is hardly surprising that lack of energy is increasingly common. Feeling energetic all of the time isn’t possible and it is perfectly normal to feel tired at the end of a busy day or to have temporary dips in energy during the day but if you feel persistently tired and haven’t got enough energy to get through the day, what you eat could play an important part.

A well-balanced, healthy diet is essential for high energy levels. At its most basic level, the food and drink you consume is the fuel that your body and brain needs to function at its peak. Skimp on the quality of that fuel and you will pay the price with weight gain and low energy. Skipping breakfast, not drinking enough water, over eating, dieting, eating on the run, consumption of caffeine and alcohol, and eating a lot of refined, processed food are the major causes of low energy levels.


Rate Your Diet:


          Do you eat breakfast every morning?

          Do you eat at least 2,000 calories each day, mostly comprised of healthy, freshly prepared whole foods?

          Do you grab a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds instead of a bar of chocolate to fight your mid afternoon doldrums?

          Do you limit yourself to fewer than three cups of coffee every day?

          Do you drink six to eight glasses of fluid every day (colas, coffee and alcohol don’t count!)?

          Do you make sure you eat something every couple of hours?

          Do you sit down and take your time when you have a meal, chewing your food thoroughly?


More than one ‘no’ answer suggests that your diet may play a role in your energy crisis. Follow my eating for energy diet rules below and you should see your energy levels improving within a few days or weeks.


Breakfast: If you skip breakfast your energy will almost certainly dip in the mid morning so make sure you always eat a healthy breakfast. You may be tempted to reach for sugary foods in the morning, like sweet cereals or marmalade on toast, to give you an energy boost but this will only give you a quick kick-start followed by a dip which leaves you craving more sugar. Instead go for a healthy breakfast that will keep your blood sugar levels balanced and digested slowly so that you have sustained supply of energy in the morning ahead. Try a bowl of oat porridge with some ground nuts or seeds sprinkled on the top or scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast with mushrooms and tomatoes. Avoid black tea and coffee, have a herbal tea like peppermint instead.


Take a multivitamin and mineral: As an insurance policy to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to keep your energy levels constant.


Elevensies: Steer clear of coffee first thing in the morning as it will just unsettle your blood sugar levels and make you feel tired later in the morning. Don’t skip your mid morning snack, though, as eating little and often is essential for keeping your blood sugar and your energy on an even keel. Have some herbal tea and an oatcake with some pure fruit jam or a handful of nuts and seeds and an apple.


Lunch: Be sure to include protein rich foods in your lunch, such as tuna or mackeral, pulses like baked beans, or tofu or quorn. Protein will help boost concentration and beat the afternoon energy slump. Add some slow release carbohydrates, such as a whole grain roll or whole wheat pasta, and finish with some fruit to give you the best possible chance of staying focused and energetic in the afternoon.


Time for tea: Herbal tea that is – ordinary black tea is a stimulant, like coffee, that will unsettle your blood sugar and your energy levels. Remember, stable blood sugar levels are essential for sustained energy and the best way to keep your blood sugar levels stable is to avoid stimulants like sugar, caffeine, chocolate and processed foods and to eat a healthy meal or snack every three to four hours.  


Dinner: research from the University of Sydney in Australia has found that eating slow release carbohydrates within four hours of going to bed helps you to sleep well – and a good night’s sleep is vital for beating fatigue. So have a serving of brown rice or whole wheat pasta with your dinner. Don’t forget to have a good serving of vegetables and to eat some healthy protein too, such as oily fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes as eating a little healthy protein with every meal and snack also helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Oily fish, eggs, dark green vegetables, baked beans, nuts and seeds are also great sources of iron. Iron is the mineral that circulates oxygen in your blood and a lack of it can cause tiredness.


Throughout the day: Stay hydrated by drinking between six and eight cups of water a day; more if you exercise or sweat a lot. Herbal teas and diluted fruit juices are also great. Not drinking enough can make you feel tired, stressed and irritable. And finally, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise, preferably in the fresh air so you get all the energy boosting power of daylight. Regular exercise releases feel good hormones and lowers stress hormones and encourages a good nights’ sleep so it is a fatigue-fighting essential.

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