When feeling lacking in energy, it’s DEFINITELY taking a look at your nutrition. The body is designed to feel good! Feed it well and provide what it needs, address any lifestyle factors getting in the way, and you should get a spring back in your step. Energy is provided by food in the form of calories, but affected by many factors such as stress, insufficient quality sleep, poor eating habits, lack of exercise. Low energy leads to fatigue which breaks us down physically and emotionally and weakens the immune system. We may become more susceptible to illness, depression and disease.
Food and energy
You can consume the right amount of calories for energy, but if the nutrients are lacking – your body can’t use it! Optimal energy and metabolism requires lots of vitamins and minerals. So if your diet is lacking in nutrient rich foods, your metabolism won’t be able convert into usable physical and mental energy, and you will feel tired and sluggish. To eat for maximum energy:
- Choose foods that have a lot of nutrition per calorie: Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts & seeds (high calorie but nutritional power!), wholegrains and lean protein.
- Choose foods high in antioxidants – plant based foods. THINK COLOUR!
- Make breakfast a priority. It gets your metabolism working and will keep you alert till lunchtime. Keep meals small and consistent and use snacks between to prevent dips in blood sugar.
- Say yes to snacks! A steady flow of energy throughout the day is better for blood sugar control. Ideal snacks would consist of some slow release carbs with protein to slow the resulting rise in blood sugar. Hunger causes blood sugar to crash leading to fatigue and cravings too.
- Keep hydrated throughout the day.
- Avoid alcohol, which reduces your energy then acts as a stimulant a few hours later disrupting sleep.
- Be wary of caffeine. Yes it does provide a stimulant effect, but it also causes a big sugar high and drop leading to exhaustion and hunger. Green tea is a gentler lift, with some caffeine and lots of antioxidants.
All vitamins are necessarily for biological functions and processes in the body. B vitamins in particular play a big part in energy metabolism. Fortunately most B vitamins are present in many everyday foods. Wholegrains, vegetables are particularly good sources. Notable vitamins for energy:
- B12. Converts carbohydrates into glucose. Found in fish, dairy and eggs, but not present in plant foods. Vegetarians or people not eating dairy may be lacking in the vitamin.
- Vitamin D. If you are deficient you may feel very tired, and depressed. Egg yolks, oily fish, mushrooms are great sources along with specially fortifed foods.
- Iron. Carries oxygen in the body and needed for energy metabolism. Some people are prone to low iron levels. Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals as they hinder absorption of this mineral. Combine iron rich foods with vitamin C to promote absorption. Red meats, eggs, dark leafy greens are great sources of iron.
Eat well, and feel better!