If you find yourself, needing an afternoon pick-me-up on a daily basis, it may be time to look at fueling your body in a way that provides sustained energy throughout your day.
Each of us needs to become attuned to our body’s messages to ensure that we are providing it with appropriate nutrition and hydration as well as rest and exercise. So, what does the nutrition and hydration piece of the sustained energy puzzle look like?
Include protein at breakfast and lunch
Protein is an anchoring ingredient in the diet which provides satiety like no other nutrient. Research findings indicate that including protein at meals increases our sense of satisfaction and fullness for sustained periods. At breakfast, choosing an omelet which is rich in protein and nutrients over a blueberry muffin which is high is sugar and refined carbohydrates will provide sustained energy until your next meal or snack. At lunch, eating a thermos full of homemade chili which is packed with fiber, protein, and phytonutrients will sustain you longer than a cup of instant noodles. Consider eating protein at all your meals and snacks to bridge your energy levels throughout the day.
Choose fats with benefits
Hopefully, you are no longer afraid of eating fats, but if you are, let me reassure you that we all need to eat fat! Healthy fats support brain health, appetite regulation, hormonal balance, and cellular function. Some examples of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, butter (preferably grass-fed or organic), olives, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil. All of these fats give us back nutritional benefits that promote good health and well-being. Without healthy fats, we are unable to properly absorb valuable fat-soluble nutrients in produce like beta-carotene in butter squash and lycopene in tomatoes.
Be mindful of caffeine and sugar intake
High caffeine and sugar intake is related to fluctuating energy levels throughout the day.
The following caffeine and sugar intake patterns could contribute to energy slumps during the day:
Exceeding three 8oz cups of caffeinated beverages (400 mg of caffeine) per day
Exceeding six teaspoons of added sugar for women or nine teaspoons of added sugar for men per day.
Snacking can be a smart way to build nutrition into your day and bridge energy throughout the day. Select balanced snacks to provide sustained energy like a cheese stick, apple with nut butter, hummus and veggies, Greek yogurt with berries, or a handful of nuts.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so staying hydrated throughout the day can play an important role in avoiding energy slumps. The old adage that we should drink eight glasses of water a day is not supported by research. Our fluid requirements depend on an individual’s exercise level, environment, and illness as well as pregnancy and breast feeding. A general guideline by the Institute of Medicine is that women should drink 2.2 L of total beverages each day and men should drink 3 L of total beverages each day.