Eating for energy

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We all know, in theory at least, that what we eat has an impact on our long-term health, but we rarely consider how it affects our day-to-day energy levels. As an introvert, I believe that we cannot afford to overlook the role of nutrition in helping us to balance and boost our energy reserves – after all, we need all the help we can get!

Patrick Holford, in his book The Optimum Nutrition Bible, says “Keeping your blood sugar balanced is probably the most important factor in maintaining even energy levels […]”. Understanding how this works, and what different foods really do to our bodies, was enough to get me thinking differently about what I eat, and generally I have found it to be a virtuous circle – the more I eat the right things (energy boosters), the less I feel the need to eat the wrong things (energy robbers).

Of course, in an ideal world, we would all eat nutritious, organic, home-cooked meals every day. But personally speaking, I don’t have the energy to achieve this, let alone the time and money. So instead, I have focused on a few simple changes that make a real difference to my introvert energy levels but that don’t take too much effort. The main ideas are:

  • Reduce sugar

This is much easier said than done of course, but sugar is BAD. When our energy reserves are low, we reach for the sugary snacks to give us a quick high. It seems to work at first but, unbeknown to us, the body sees this sudden surge of glucose as an attack and diverts all our resources towards dealing with it. The result: a couple of hours later, our energy levels have plummeted to much lower than they were before.

  • Eat carbs with protein

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy, but many carbs – even good ones like fruit – are fast-releasing, i.e. they provide a quick energy boost but the effect soon wears off, causing our energy levels to yo-yo up and down. Eating some protein with the carbs helps the energy release more slowly, keeping the supply more even. Protein doesn’t just mean meat and dairy, by the way – plant proteins such as seeds and nuts are very easy snacks and immensely good for you.

  • Substitute white with brown

Flour, bread, rice, pasta. Wholegrain carbohydrates are slower-releasing than the refined, white versions, which helps prevent the yo-yo effect mentioned above.

  • Graze

Eating little and often really does help to balance your energy levels, especially if you’re doing everything above.

  • Drink more water

OK, not the most exciting of drinks perhaps, but it’s quick and easy and your energy levels will quickly deplete if you don’t keep yourself topped up regularly. Incidentally, caffeine is a major energy robber, contrary to popular belief.

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