Most people are aware that getting enough sleep and exercise are important for keeping the body running all day. Equally important is the fuel the body is running on. “Eating habits are one of three pillars of energy, next to sleep and exercise,” says Shannon Smith, a registered dietitian in Vancouver. “The combination of food choices and meal spacing are really going to affect how stable your energy levels are and how bright and focused you feel throughout the day,” she says.
Here are five expert tips to help keep the batteries charged and running, from morning to night.
1. Fuel up with fibre
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are loaded with fibre that will give your energy levels a boost. Unfortunately, most Canadians still aren’t meeting their daily needs, says Nishta Saxena, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Toronto. “Women are getting an average of 12 to 15 grams a day, when we really need more like 30 to 40 grams,” she says. “Fibre-rich foods are so important because they will keep you feeling full and give you energy throughout the day.” Bulking up on fibre is pretty simple: Add an apple to your morning snack, swap your bagel for whole grain bread at lunch or nibble on trail mix in the afternoon. “When we eat nuts and seeds in their whole form they have a ton of fibre and as we chew and digest them, they slow down our appetite and signal to our brain that we are full,” she says.
2. Pack a protein punch
Eating enough protein throughout the day will also keep energy levels up and help keep them steady, says Smith. “Fibre, fat and protein are the main components of slow digestion and slow release of energy,” she says. She urges clients to think beyond meat, fish and dairy for their proteins. Try nuts, seeds, quinoa, even something like freekeh, a whole grain that contains 10 grams of protein in just a half-cup serving.
3. Eat on a schedule
The notion of eating five or six small meals a day, for weight management, is becoming outdated, says Saxena. The thinking was more frequent meals would prevent blood-sugar spikes and crashes and encourage better food choices. And while not everyone benefits from frequent small meals, eating less than three squares a day isn’t the best idea either. “There are very few people for whom eating only two meals a day is beneficial, healthy or safe,” Saxena says. The best plan? Listen to your body and figure out a style and schedule that works for your lifestyle, taking into consideration your age and activity level — and stick to it, she recommends. “Eating on a regular schedule, whatever that is, will help with energy.”
4. Take your pulse
“Beans, legumes and lentils are almost perfect foods, in my view,” says Saxena. Also known as pulses, these foods are high in fibre, and contain protein and complex carbohydrates, making them the ultimate energy boosters. Toss together a bean salad, dip your veggie sticks in hummus (mashed chickpeas) or whip up lentil soup — the options are deliciously endless.
5. Drink more H2O
That late afternoon energy slump could be a sign that you’ve had too many coffees – and not enough water. “An early sign of dehydration is fatigue,” says Smith. That’s because when you’re dehydrated your blood pressure drops, blood flow to the brain slows and your heart rate increases, all of which makes you feel tired. Instead of another latte or a sugary snack, a large glass of water may be what your body needs. How do you know if you’re actually dehydrated? “Urine colour is the best indicator of whether you’ve had enough to drink throughout the day,” she says. It should be a light straw-yellow colour, not dark or concentrated looking. And if you wait until you feel thirsty, you’re probably already getting dehydrated. Making that effort to drink water throughout the day will help you feel refreshed and energized.