Anyone who tries to balance family, work, and self knows the demands on our time and on our energy reserves. There never seems to be enough time in a day to work through the growing pile of paperwork or accomplish enough on our ever expanding to-do list. We give our focus to our families or jobs (or both!) and often push ourselves to stay up just a little longer at night to finish just one more thing at home.
Lack of energy can be caused by many factors, but what you eat or don't eat can have a profound affect on your feelings of energy or fatigue. Here are a few suggestions to be sure you are maximizing your nutrition potential so you can make the most of your day.
Eat Breakfast If you feel you don't have the time to get something to eat in the morning rush, then you probably can't afford not to eat breakfast. Breakfast helps you be more alert, improves concentration, focus and mood. Eating in the morning can even lower your LDL or bad cholesterol. Breakfast doesn't have to be something elaborate. It can be simple and quick like instant oatmeal made with fat-free milk. Try a banana and string cheese or lowfat yogurt.
If you are a breakfast skipper, try something small at first, like just a piece of fruit. With time your body will learn to expect fuel in the morning, and it won't have to store calories from the day before to run on in the morning.
Eat a Small Snack If you feel your energy level fading, it may be time for an energy break. Eating a healthful snack goes a long way to refueling your body and helping you stay productive and patient. Some people like to eat small meals every few hours while others find it better to eat three meals and a snack in the afternoon. Just as your car needs to be fueled periodically when driven, your body needs periodic and regular energy consumption to be able to produce energy for the tasks at hand; have planned snacks to avoid impulse eating from the vending machines, a co-workers candy dish or your child's plate.
Watch the Caffeine Some people have trouble sleeping if they drink a caffeine-containing beverage early in the day while others feel no effect from coffee consumed at night. Some people even feel jittery and have a harder time focusing on work with caffeine. Tea can be a better option for some people, but be aware that tea, even green tea, contains a moderate amount of caffeine unless you drink a decaffeinated variety or an herbal tea without caffeine. Although some can be a part of a healthy diet, relying on coffee or caffeine is a sign that you need to get your lifestyle, and sleeping habits, back on track.
Avoid Sugary Snacks Especially During Mid-Day The common energy slump in the afternoon can be made worse with the effects of sugar. Although you may feel a quick boost of energy with a regular soda or other sugary item, the effects are short-lived since sugar is metabolized quickly leaving you feeling as tired or more tired than before the sugar. Foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit or dairy products are good choices since they usually have fiber or protein, which slows the release of sugar in your body and provides a more sustained form of energy.
Drink Enough Fluid During the Day Being dehydrated can cause feelings of fatigue. For most people, a good gauge is to drink when you feel thirsty. Be sure to drink a little more when you exercise, when the weather is hot or if you eat a high fiber diet. Take a drink of water when you pass by a water fountain or keep a cup or bottle of water handy and try to finish it by a certain time each day. Be careful not to drink too late in the evening or you might disrupt your sleep to go to the restroom!
Monitor Late Night Eating Eating at night may be your body's way of trying to get energy to keep going when it would rather just go to sleep. The allure of staying up when everyone else is asleep and the world is quiet so you can finish just one more thing is a trap. We are much less effective and less productive when we are worn out and exhausted from the day or from the week. It would be better to simply go to bed and wake up feeling more refreshed and able to take on the tasks of the day. No food or energy product is going to make up for lost sleep. When we rest we feel better physically and emotionally and are more productive in less time.
Don't Rely on Energy Drinks, Bars or Pills Most of these products contain carbohydrates, fats or proteins, which are the primary sources of fuel or energy for your body and can be obtained from eating real, unprocessed foods. Some products contain added caffeine or other stimulants like guarana to give you the impression that you have more energy, but in reality you are just feeling the temporary effects of stimulant chemicals.
Be Active This doesn't just mean a formal exercise program. If you move more throughout the day you will recharge your battery in a healthier way. Even a short walk will perk you up and leave you feeling more energetic than before. It's great to get outdoors when possible. Breathe in some fresh air, drink some water and feel the sunshine on your face. You are likely to feel refreshed and recharged.
Talk to Your Doctor If you continue to feel fatigued and you think you lead a healthy lifestyle, it may be time for you to make an appointment to see your physician. Your doctor can evaluate you for conditions such as anemia or a thyroid disorder, which could be zapping your energy.
Nutrition won't make up for lack of sleep, excessive amount of stress, or a medical problem, but it can go a long way to helping you feel great with the energy you need to take on whatever comes your way and handle it in a healthy and productive way!