Trying to eat well but finding yourself tired? What and how you eat throughout the day has a lot to do with overall energy levels. Below are the main foods and number one habit that can leave you with optimal energy or craving for more.
First up is carbohydrates. Simply put, carbs are a source of energy, a.k.a. calories, from food. Depending on the food, they also come equipped with an array of B vitamins, which are used by the body for our metabolism.
Carbs, like those found in fruits and veggies, milk products, grains, beans and nuts, play a very important and often underestimated role in the body. They supply us with the energy for our minds to think, lungs to breathe and muscles to move. That said, depending on the kind and amount of carbs you ingest, they could contribute negatively to energy levels. Simple carbohydrates, or foods such as sugar, honey, soft drinks, fruit drinks, molasses and jams, can temporarily peak blood sugars, and hence energy levels, but the effect is very short lived and often leads one feeling hungry and tired later on.
Many diets now focus on a reduction of carbs. Atkins, South Beach, Paleo and the Bernstein diet are some examples. Iâ€™m not saying these diets canâ€™t be helpful, or that they cut out too many sources of carbohydrate; just be sure that you are getting enough to eat if you are watching your intake. If your diet isnâ€™t supplying enough, you are bound to feel lousy.
For optimal energy, eat a variety of foods, including the above (not simple) carbohydrates at meals and snacks daily. Itâ€™s OK to modify the amount of food you eat for the purposes of losing weight, but not getting enough carbohydrate or avoiding a food group all together, say grains, is a bad idea for energy levels.
The second tiredness fighter, or contributor, is fluids. More specifically, not enough fluids, or the wrong kinds, being a top reason for zapped energy. Our bodies are composed of about 75 per cent water. It is a necessary ingredient for many of our bodily functions, including a carrier of nutrients and oxygen to cells, i.e. an energy supplier!
A classical sign of dehydration is weakness. Itâ€™s true that certain fluids can dehydrate you and leave you feeling even more tired as well, like alcohol. Caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling fatigued, believe it or not. Caffeine does have a slight dehydrating effect, although itâ€™s not as powerful as alcohol.
Many people use caffeinated beverages as a pick-me-up, but this isnâ€™t the best idea. After several caffeinated cups, energy levels can temporarily surge, but like the carbs and blood sugar, this surge is only short lived as energy will crash hours later. In addition, added sugar in multiple caffeinated beverages (not to mention the sweets consumed with a coffee break) can be added energy saboteurs. To ensure you donâ€™t get tired from a lack of fluids, drink throughout the day. Include a large glass around meal and snack times, and consume fluids you enjoy while limiting those with extra added sugar. When it comes to alcohol, for every drink you consume, have an additional glass of water for dehydration prevention.
Finally, the number one habit that contributes to energy levels is how much we eat. Similar to fluids, itâ€™s all about too little or too much. We all know the uncomfortable feeling after overeating. Despite consuming all that energy from food, physical energy levels often donâ€™t increase as the digestive system is now hard at work to break down the food consumed so its nutrients can be utilized.
The opposite of overeating can also weaken energy levels. Itâ€™s a no-brainer that not eating enough, regardless of the foods you eat, can lead to reduced energy. To optimize eating habits for energy, eat at least every three to four hours, and have snacks in addition to small meals throughout the day.
Amanda Oâ€™Brien is a registered dietitian
in St. Johnâ€™s. Contact her through the