When does your energy peak? Do you wake up raring to go, only to find your energy level flagging by the middle of the afternoon? Is it slow going for you in the morning, but you’re fired up after lunch? Or do you come alive after 5pm?
We all have our natural rhythms, so it may be asking a lot to expect to have boundless energy all day long. But if you feel like you would prefer to have more energy throughout the day, then read on. What you eat and when can have a big influence on your physical and mental energy.
This is hardly news, but so many people skip meals for one reason or another that it’s worth repeating. Your body relies on a ready source of energy to keep it going. When you eat well-balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day, you can keep your blood sugar level on a relatively even keel. But when you skip meals, your blood sugar can take a nose dive, and your energy level plummets, too. Getting properly fueled is really important in the morning. Since you haven’t eaten since the night before, you need the energy that a proper breakfast will provide. And be sure to have a ‘power snack’ in the afternoon, too, to carry you through the long stretch between lunch and dinner.
Meal size really matters, because meals that are too large or too small can sap your energy. If you don’t eat enough, you just won’t have enough fuel to hold you until your next meal or snack. And when you eat a really big meal, your body has to spend a lot of energy just to process it, which can leave you feeling lethargic. Plan your meals and snacks so that you eat just enough to leave you satisfied—not stuffed. If you’re eating every few hours, you don’t need huge meals.
Protein does more than help you build and maintain your muscles—it makes meals more satisfying and helps keep you mentally alert, too. I like to think that protein keeps you peppy, feeling ready to tackle anything. Protein foods help boost the production of certain brain chemicals that help you think clearly and concentrate. And since protein foods also help to fill you up, your meals will be more satisfying, keeping you energized throughout your day.
You wouldn’t drive your car across the desert without making sure your cooling system was working properly, would you? Well, your body’s engine won’t work very well, either, if you don’t keep your fluid tank topped off. Your system relies on adequate fluids to keep running in top form, so drink often. And if you live in a hot climate or you’re active, try to keep a drink handy. Dehydration can make you tired, and your ability to think clearly and concentrate can be affected, too. Water, coffee, tea, or sports drinks can all be used to help you meet needs. And try a bit of peppermint in your beverage—its energizing aroma can give you a little mental lift.
Balanced meals and snacks help provide sustained energy to keep you going. Proteins, carbs and fats are digested at different rates, so meals that have a balance of these nutrients will give you more staying power than those that don’t. Your protein shake with fruit keeps you going because you get some quick energy from the fruit, and long lasting energy from the protein powder and milk. On the other hand, if you eat an all-carb breakfast (like toast, jam and fruit), everything will get digested at pretty much the same rate—and pretty quickly, too. Without some protein to keep you going, you’ll find your energy dipping in no time.