How To Eat For Sustained Energy

We live in a fast-paced world, and many of us are go-go-go. Not only does this often make us feel frazzled, but it can have a negative effect on our food and fluid intake. We ‘don’t have time’ to prepare healthy meals and are using caffeine and sugar to keep going. Feeling low on energy is very common, but there are things that we can change with our food intake that can make us feel better and have more energy. What we eat (and drink) fuels every cell in our body so it should come as no surprise that what we eat will have a big effect on energy levels. Outlined below are some strategies to ensure you are eating well to support sustained energy levels.

Balanced breakfast - starting the day with a balanced breakfast is important to ensure that energy levels and hunger are stable throughout the morning. If you find yourself hungry within an hour or two or breakfast, it might be time to reconsider your breakfast options. A balanced breakfast will include smart carbohydrates (dairy, wholegrains, fruit or veggies) and protein (dairy products, eggs, nuts, smoked salmon). My go-to balanced breakfast is overnight oats or bircher muesli, fresh fruit with natural or greek yoghurt, eggs, veggies and toast, or sometimes plain old peanut butter on wholegrain sourdough.

Protein with all meals - including protein with our meals is a good way to feel satisfied but also keeps us feeling fuller for longer and keeps our energy levels stable after eating. This could be a plant-based source of protein, eg. lentils, chickpeas, beans or tofu, or an animal source of protein, chicken, tuna, salmon, lamb, beef, eggs. If you’re not already doing so, start including a few meat free meals in your week, it’s good for the environment and your awesome body.

Stick to smart carbs - stick to carbohydrates that are low GI and high in fibre, eg. legumes, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. These carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide us with more stable energy levels, instead of causing us to crash. They also keep us feeling fuller for longer, which means we can get on with our day instead of being constantly hungry.

Meal prep to be prepared with nutritious options - spending a little time on the weekend (or one day during the week) to do some planning, shopping and meal prep is one of the most helpful thing you can do to start eating better. Having nutritious and easy options on hand will mean that is what you eat. Even if you don’t want to be eating the same thing everyday, washing and cutting up veggies, boiling some eggs, and cooking some protein and/or legumes or grains, will mean that a healthy salad or stir-fry is just a few minutes away.

Include a smart snack in the afternoon - the afternoon is a time when many people reach for something caffeinated or sugary, but unfortunately this usually leaves us crashing again 30 minutes later. Instead, plan ahead and be prepared with a smart snack to have in the afternoon. A smart snack will be something that provides both fibre, protein and perhaps a little fat. Good options include, a small handful of nuts with 1-2 dates, an apple or pear with some cheese, a natural or Greek yoghurt with some nuts or berries, wholegrain crackers (vita-weats or ryvita are both good) with cheese or hummus, veggie sticks with hummus or other veggie dip, or even a piece of wholegrain toast with some peanut butter.

Fluid intake - many of us simply don’t drink enough water throughout the day. When we are thirsty, our body is already mildly dehydrated. Being even mildly dehydrated causes lethargy and low energy levels. Ideally, we want to be drinking fluids, mainly water, throughout the day. A good indication of our hydration status is the colour of our wee. Have a look next time you go to the toilet, and aim for a pale straw colour. Dark yellow = drink more water.

Watch for caffeine and sugar - We often reach for caffeine and sugar for a quick pick-me-up only to crash again 20 minutes later, and the cycle continues. Switch your afternoon coffees for a herbal or iced tea, sparkling water or even a kombucha! Instead of a 3pm trip to the vending machine for a chocolate covered pick-me-up be prepared with some of the snacks above, a simple piece of fruit is usually a great idea.

Eating enough - the food we eat provides our body with energy, so we also need to be making sure we are eating enough food to make sure our body is getting the nutrition it requires to function optimally.

This advice is general in nature, if you are feeling run down or tired all the time, you need to pay your GP a visit.

As a dietitian and nutritionist in Canberra, I work with people to help them achieve their health goals, and equip them with the knowledge and skills to help them make the best decisions for them. If you would like support and guidance with making changes to your eating patterns and health outcomes, get in touch! I'd love to hear from you.   

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