One of the ironic things about the 21st Century is that life in the West has never been more hectic, and yet it’s never been more difficult to stay energised. Everywhere we look, on every street corner, you can find convenience foods and quick fixes promising to keep us chugging along, but actually wearing us down. Let’s take a look at some of the culprits:
Don’t get me wrong: coffee is delicious and can give you a bit of “get up and go”. But you shouldn’t confuse the caffeine buzz with REAL energy. The temporary “pep” you get from your morning latte doesn’t take long to wear off, so you end up having another… and another. It becomes literally addictive, leading to brain fog and headaches if you don’t get your regular caffeine hits throughout the day. And then there’s the opposite sensation of feeling not so much energised as jittery, on edge. Not good if you’re relying on coffee for sustainable energy.
Whether it’s a big bowl of sweet cereal or a flapjack, it’s so easy to rely on sugary snacks to give us the energy boost we need. And yes, you will feel temporarily rejuvenated, because what you’re basically doing is dumping quick fuel into your bloodstream. But, as with the caffeine buzz, it doesn’t last, and leaves you “crashing” a short time later and craving another hit. Real energy needs bodily serenity, but eating sugary snacks causes your hormones to go haywire and can leave you feeling sluggish and distracted and tired. Take the Sugar Quiz to find out your relationship with sweet things.
These can sap your energy in just the same way chocolate bars and biscuits can. It’s easy to forget that, for all intents and purposes, a white bread baguette is a massive sugar bomb being dumped into your system. Simple starches cause blood sugar and insulin spikes in exactly the same way sweets do. That’s why you can end up feeling hungry and tired after scoffing a cheese and ham panini and a packet of crisps for lunch.
So what SHOULD you be eating to keep your energy up throughout the day?
Eggs are jam-packed with precious proteins and other essential energy-giving nutrients. Having eggs for breakfast can keep you satisfied and energised right up to lunchtime.
Kale has become one of the trendiest vegetables of the moment, but don’t let the celebrity endorsements bring out your inner cynic. Kale and other greens like Swiss chard and spinach can make all the difference, thanks to their hearty cargo of vitamins C, A and K. Not to mention calcium, folate, and… the list goes on. Whether you include kale and chard in a morning smoothie or chow down on spinach with your lunchtime salad, the sheer goodness of leafy greens will help keep you feel fresh and alert all day.
Carbohydrates are a key source of energy and we need carbs to survive. However not all carbs are equal, and it can be easy to overindulge on processed carbs which can cause insulin spikes, weight gain and sluggishness. “Good” sources of carbs like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and lentils come packed with vitamins and minerals, and release energy in a slow and controlled way – that means your inner engine will keep on running smoothly, and you won’t feel sudden highs and crashing, demotivating lows throughout the day.
If you’re absolutely craving a hit of something sweet, reach for berries or an apple instead of a Galaxy bar. The sugar comes accompanied by fibre and vitamins, meaning energy is released more slowly inside you, so you’ll get the boost you need without the corresponding “come down” that junk food will saddle you with. Do eat whole fruit, though, as when you drink fruit juice, you just get the sugar without any of the fibre!
And let’s not forget water. Many people simply aren’t aware how dehydrated they get over a day. You might not actually feel thirsty, but that sense of brain-sag might just mean you need a glass of water. You might be surprised at how gulping down water in the afternoon will refresh and “wake up” your mind far more effectively than coffee does. Try it and you’ll never look back!
So there you have it. What are your methods for eating for energy? Do let me know by writing a comment below or on the Raw Energy Facebook page.
For more tips on sustainable energy and performance, sign-up for our Healthy Habits newsletter: