Low energy - sleeping cat

Low Energy? Top Nutrition Tips for a Boost

As lockdown measures begin to ease and the pace of life picks up once more, the demands on our energy are inevitably rising.  There are some who feel fuelled by this return to something more normal, whilst others feel anxious about heading back to the office or classroom, wondering where that extra energy is going to come from.  In this blog post, you will find some top tips for low energy that you can implement today, so you feel energised and motivated throughout the day. Low energy? Read on for top nutrition tips for a boost.

To get energy into our bodies, we need to eat.  The food you eat contains energy and our body has a process of transforming that energy into a useable form, to fuel both our activities and the many every day, automatic processes – like your heart beating or breathing.  At its most simplistic, we take in energy from food in the form of calories and convert it into fuel for our bodies.  

So we take in energy in the form of calories and burn those calories, right?

Not quite!

It turns out that a calorie is not, after all, a calorie.

The Energy Sappers

The food choices you make can have a big impact on how energised you feel – and how long that energy lasts.  Some foods will give you a big boom of energy, whilst others will provide a more slow-burn supply.  

Compare these 2 breakfasts:

  • A café-bought blueberry muffin – 450 calories (this obviously varies with size of muffin and choice of ingredients)
  • 2 egg omelette with spinach, plus a bowl of natural yoghurt with blueberries and walnuts – 450 calories

You probably don’t need to read any further to know that the egg-based breakfast is going to fuel you in a more sustaining way than the muffin.  I should say here that I am not against muffins – I love a muffin!  However, firstly, I change the standard recipe (for those of you on my mailing list, I’ll include my berry muffin recipe this month) and secondly, enjoy them at one end or other of a long walk at the weekend.  

So, the breakfast examples above show you that you can eat the same volume of energy from food in the form of calories, but experience very different results in how energised you feel.  Why is this?

Low Energy? Top Nutrition Tips for a boost!

Let’s assume that the blueberry muffin is made with sugar, white flour, milk, margarine, egg and blueberries. The predominant ingredients are sugar and white flour.  These are examples of simple carbohydrates. Stripped of fibre and nutrients, these foods are quickly broken down by our digestion, giving us a surge of glucose in the blood.  This situation needs to be managed, as high blood sugar levels are dangerous. Our clever bodies send out signals to keep us safe – glucose is sent where needed (organs, cells etc), stored in the liver and muscles and finally, when all those stores are full, in fat cells.  

Phew, job done.  

But no, with all that glucose now safely stored away, and with you stuck in a meeting or at your desk for the next few hours (i.e. not accessing any of those muscle fuel stores), you feel hungry and tired.  The answer? – a coffee and a biscuit!  

Thus begins the blood glucose rollercoaster, with sharp peaks and deep troughs, with your energy booming and slumping throughout the day.  By mid afternoon, you are stifling yawns from your colleagues and could put your head down on your desk for a nap.

Other Energy Drainers

Other examples of energy drainers are stress, caffeine (use your coffee wisely – see below), alcohol, heavy fatty meals and cigarettes.  This blog post would turn into a book if I covered all these in detail, so take a look on line if you feel you need particular help in these areas.

So what can we do to support our energy levels?

Top 3 nutrition tips for steady energy

Top 3 Nutrition Tips for an Energy Boost

No. 1. Reduce your intake of simple carbs

Reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates and instead focus your main meals on foods that contain protein, fat and colour.  If you cover all 3 of these bases, then you will have some slow-burning food which will keep you going for hours.  This doesn’t need to be complicated.  How does this sound:

Breakfast – banana and almond pancakes, with natural yoghurt, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and berries. Mug of green tea.

(My breakfast this morning 😊):
Lunch – it is June as I write this, so let’s build up a delicious salad.  4-5 different salad leaves (this is not hard, they come like that in bags), chopped pepper, carrot, fennel, cucumber, radish, avocado/olives, a piece of cooked salmon or half a tin of butterbeans or chickpeas, topped with either an olive oil/lemon dressing or a tahini/soy sauce dressing.  This is easy to prepare and great for a packed lunch
Dinner – steamed fish or tofu with pak choi, spring greens, garlic, lemon, coriander and Thai style dressing.  Serve with a baked sweet potato if you are feeling hungry.

Delicious?  That’s my kind of food day – simple, tasty food that the whole family will enjoy.

Simple, tasty food that the whole family will enjoy

No 2. Keep on top of your hydration.  

When you are dehydrated, you not only feel thirsty but every cell in your body is crying out for water.  When your cells get dehydrated, they are unable to function efficiently so become sluggish – as do you.  Other than your first void in the morning, your urine should be a pale straw colour.  If it is any stronger in colour (other than if you are taking a multi-vitamin or B vitamin complex that contains Vitamin B2 or riboflavin, which gives your urine a vibrant green/yellow colour), then you are dehydrated.  Interestingly, our thirst reflex declines as we get older so we can’t rely on this signal to drink, so you need to be routine about it.

Well, coffee lovers, it is not all bad news

Whilst on the topic of hydration, where does caffeine fit into hydration? Well, coffee lovers, it is not all bad news.  Coffee has good elements, namely polyphenols (the colours in fruits and vegetables) which our bodies love. The caffeine, if used wisely, gives us a good energy boost.  However, ‘wise’ use is the essence.  If you are throwing coffee into an empty symptom, you will be absorbing the caffeine quickly.  Your body then releases adrenaline, and you are firing on all cylinders.  However, if you are sedentary, you won’t be burning the adrenaline off and it can lead you to feeling jittery.  Much better to enjoy your coffee as a digestive aid – it’s a good one – after a meal, which slows the absorption of the caffeine.  No jitters, just calm, creative energy to see you through the afternoon.

No. 3. Eat lightly in the evening and not at all for 3 hours before bed

Going to bed empty and trying to have a stretch of 12 hours when you are not eating is good for your health overall, and also is good for helping with blood sugar balance – as long as you are making wise choices when it comes to food and drink. This can be tricky for shift workers, especially if you are living with family members on a different daily pattern.  When working nights, I recommend that you eat a lunch-type meal before work, a light dinner during your night shift and then head home for breakfast with the family, before bed.  Make sure that your room is cool and dark, using blackout curtains during the summer or if having to sleep during the day.  

So, there you go.  3 steps and some delicious food ideas to fuel your energy.

If you’d like to explore these ideas further and whether nutritional therapy could be right for you, please arrange a free call with Clare.  These are available on Mondays and Thursdays. No pressure, just time to talk through your situation and how Clare works.  For further tips for nutrition steps you can take today, check out this blog post.

Every month, I share more simple nutrition tips, ideas and recipes in a short email.  Sign up to get these straight to your inbox.

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