We all know that energy relies on the food you put in your body; when you feed your body the right foods at the right time, it’s better able to regulate blood sugar and keep energy levels steady. Eating for all-day energy isn’t hard! In fact, following these simple dietary rules will help you blaze through your workout—and your day—with energy to burn.
Bed to breakfast
Eating a breakfast of complex carbohydrates and lean protein, such as a small omelet or sautéed tofu with a slice of whole-grain toast, within a half-hour of waking will get your metabolism buzzing and set you up for a whole day of sustained energy. If you wait too long to eat in the morning, your body will assume it is not going to be fed, and it will kick into preservation mode. So, to prevent bouts of low energy, loss of concentration and a voracious appetite come lunchtime, eat a healthy breakfast early in the morning.
Avoid fast-burning carbs
Chances are when you’re feeling a little sluggish, a cookie, bagel or soda sounds like just the thing to give you that burst of energy you need. However, such simple carbohydrates will ultimately drag you down. When you eat fast-burning carbs, your blood sugar shoots way up, giving you that quick jolt; but it is very short lived. Your body then releases a hefty dose of insulin into the blood, sweeping all that sugar into cells and storage, leaving you once again lagging and in need of fuel. It’s no surprise that sugar-filled sweets fall into this category, but the truth is white bread, white rice, potatoes and fruit juices can be just as harmful to your body. Instead opt for whole-grain breads, grains such as quinoa and yams.
It takes a lot of energy to run all the functions of your body. In fact, it’s estimated your body needs ten times your weight in calories just to sustain itself. In other words, if you weigh 135 pounds, you need to eat 1,350 calories a day just to maintain. Now add in all the thinking, creating and running around you do, and what you are left with is a fuel-guzzling machine. Of course, if you don’t fill it up regularly, you are setting yourself up to conk out later, or more likely overeat. Aim to distribute your total calories evenly throughout your day. The key is to include foods that the body absorbs more slowly, such as protein and healthy fats.
Eat protein at every meal
Including 1–2 ounces of lean protein with every meal keeps the body strong and delays the absorption of sugar into the blood—meaning a steady flow of energy for you. One way to think of it is to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with a healthy starch and a quarter with protein. But not just any foods will do. Stick with lean protein sources such as fish and beans, and complex carbohydrates like brown rice, barley and winter squash. Snacks should include a combination of slow-burning nutrients too.
Replenish before and after exercise
Regular workouts are a great way to strengthen your body, ease stress and stay trim; but when the endorphin rush is over, all those burned calories can leave you feeling less than energetic if you don’t replenish your stores. First, to keep your energy high during your workout, consider eating half a banana or a couple of crackers 15 minutes before exercise—it’s the one time of day when eating carbohydrates by themselves is useful. Then, rebuild your glycogen reserves by eating a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein within 45 minutes of working out. Good choices include half a turkey or nut-butter sandwich on whole wheat or a small yogurt sprinkled with a little low-fat granola. And don’t forget the water. Drinking heartily before, during and after a workout will keep your muscles and organs hydrated and your energy high.
What keeps you energized?