What is energy? Energy is defined as the capacity for vigorous activity. The foods we eat can either increase our energy or decrease it. Many of the foods that decrease our energy are foods that you probably associate with the opposite effect. Caffeine, coffee, soft drinks, and sugar are some of the things you might turn to for a boost. These foods, as well as a few others, actually deplete the body and drain you of energy. Instead we should turn to food choices that create sustainable energy for our bodies.
One of the first things you might look to for energy is caffeine – usually in the form of coffee or soft drinks. In actuality, this is not a good choice. Caffeinated beverages cause dehydration which can make you feel more tired. It also causes blood sugar levels to go up and down rapidly which makes your body work harder and depletes energy. You might feel an initial boost but it is quickly followed by downward crash, which just causes you to grab another caffeinated beverage for another quick rush. Another common food choice is sugar – usually refined sugar found in candy, cookies, processed chemicalized foods and snacks. Like caffeine, you might feel a short term lift which will eventually leave you worse off then before. Sugars are found in natural foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. In their natural state, they are linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins and add to a balanced diet. The sugar in candy, cookies, processed chemicalized foods and snacks is refined and usually extracted from sugar cane or beets. Refined sugar requires extra effort to digest because it lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber. The refining processing strips necessary nutrients from the sugar, so our body depletes its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb it properly. Emptying the stored minerals in your body drains you of energy and very often causes you to crave more sugar. Similar to caffeine, refined sugar also causes your blood sugar level to increase dramatically and then fall quickly. This up and down reaction makes your body work harder and exerts more energy.
Eating foods that will help to increase and sustain your energy level is not very difficult.
Drink Water. The first thing to do is drink more water. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated. Before you go to sugar or caffeine, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens. The formula for the amount of water you should drink in a day is simple; take your body weight, divide that by two, and the answer is the number of ounces of water you should drink in a day.
Eat Greens. Start to incorporate dark leafy greens like broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, or kale into your diet. Greens are full of vitamins and nutrients and great for improving circulation, lifting the spirit, purifying the blood and strengthening the immune system.
Eat Whole Grains. Eat whole grains like steel cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, or kasha. Whole grains digest slowly keeping blood sugars level and create long lasting energy. Be wary of products that say “made with whole grains,” like some cereals. In reality, most of these are not whole grain because the grains have been processed and refined to make a packaged product.
Natural Sweetners. Choose gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar and stevia. These options won’t deplete your body like refined sugar and also won’t cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels.
Something else to consider is evaluating the amount of meat and dairy products you consume. Eating too much meat, dairy, chicken and eggs can lead to low energy. So can eating too little. Take some time to experiment with either eating less or more of these foods to respect your body’s individuality. The majority of Americans eat too much meat, dairy, chicken, and eggs so keep this in mind during your experimentation.
Evaluate Lifestyle. The foods we eat are only one way that we nourish our bodies. Take your lifestyle into consideration as well. Think about taking some time for yourself. Find activities that restore your energy, such as a walk, a spa treatment, a museum, or whatever you enjoy, and schedule a weekly date with yourself to do these things. Take notice of the times you feel most tired. People can drain you of your energy; It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unimportant, but it is useful to notice who drains you and why. See if you can transform those relationships by communicating and setting boundaries, or if necessary end the relationship.
Maintaining steady energy levels requires a balanced diet and lifestyle. Using caffeine or sugar to remedy the problem will cause an even bigger problem. It’s important to take small steps to change – cutting out sugar and caffeine all at once will probably lead to withdrawal symptoms and eventually to failure. Try to eat less of these foods, or to eat more healthy alternatives. Ultimately you will be able to eliminate them altogether. Slowly incorporate more greens in your daily diet and experiment with natural sweeteners and different types and amounts of proteins. Each one of us requires a different recipe for sustainable energy. Take some of these tips to make gradual changes which will lead you to feel healthy and energized everyday.