Food is energy… plain and simple. It’s right there in the definition of a calorie.
However, how our bodies use food can affect how energetic we feel. Some foods are great for making us feel energized all day. Others can give us energy for a while, but then we tank and feel tired & sluggish.
One big key to beating fatigue and having energy all day is to eat the right foods.
What drains our energy?
One of the biggest culprits of low energy is the consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars. Refined carbs are stripped of their nutrients (the germ and bran are removed along with most of the fiber and some of the vitamins). When you consume these, you are not only missing out on the fiber and nutrients, but they can also deplete your body of vitamins and minerals as well.
But the even bigger issue here is how refined carbs and sugars affect your blood sugar levels. These carbs are quickly digested as they lack the fiber that would help slow down the digestive process. As a result, the glucose in these carbs hits your bloodstream relatively quickly.
While this gives you a burst of energy, it also results in a quick response from your body to send out insulin to take care of this. The rush of insulin does its job, but that is also about the time you feel that mid-morning or mid-afternoon energy crash…and the cravings for carbs/sweets. It’s not lack of willpower, it’s your body riding a blood sugar rollercoaster that just hit rock bottom. And how do you bring it back up? With more carbs.
This pattern not only causes you to overeat (and often eat more of what isn’t the best choice), but long term blood sugar swings can lead to things like insulin resistance, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.
So what gives us energy then?
Just like some foods can take away from your energy, others help you stay energized. There are 2 main keys here:
1. Eat Whole Foods
Eating foods as close to nature as possible is always the best bet. Avoiding processed foods will greatly decrease foods that drain you and get you eating more of what energizes you. Avoid those processed carbohydrates (refined flours, breads, cookies, chips, snacks, drinks, etc) and sugars. Instead opt for whole grain flours, beans/legumes (if you tolerate them), nuts/seeds, whole fruit (not juices), meat, healthy fats, full fat dairy, and of course, lots and lots of veggies!
2. Eat in Balance
Eating balanced meals is one of the keys to keeping blood sugar steady and avoiding energy crashes (and subsequent cravings). While the fiber in whole grains does slow digestion (and release of glucose), it’s also important to add in fats and proteins as well to aid in this. Fats are great at slowing down digestion to allow a slow release of glucose into the bloodstream. Aim to incorporate a mix of fat, protein, and carbs into your meals and snacks. You can read more on this in these other posts of mine:
Healthy Eating for Better Blood Sugar
Healthy Snacking for Better Blood Sugar
It’s amazing how small tweaks in what we eat can give great results in the end. And keep in mind that if your body has been on a blood sugar rollercoaster for a while, it may take time for it to adjust and regain energy. If you still feel hungry or a big energy drop between meals, incorporate a healthy, balanced snack. Over time your body will adjust and you will find you need a snack between meals less and less.
I want more energy!
If you feel like you’re ready to get your energy back, beat sugar cravings, and simplify your eating, fitness, and life, check out this article about beating stress and getting energy. There’s a free mini-course at the end about balancing hormones for more energy!