Maybe it’s the change of weather or the fact that it’s getting darker earlier but lately I have heard a lot of people complain that they’re feeling more tired than usual. The kind of fatigue that makes your head feel foggy, takes the bounce out of your step and makes you feel sluggish throughout the day. People always ask me what they should be eating to help increase their energy levels and lift that proverbial fog.
First off, let’s dispel the myth that sugar provides energy (other than calories). Eating candy or cookies or cake will give you a short-lived sugar booar only to be followed by a sugar crash and renewed fatigue.
If you’re starting your day with coffee-only, donuts or Pop-Tarts you’re doing your body, and energy level, a disservice. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and sets the tone for how you feel throughout the morning so reach past the sugar sweetened cereal boxes and choose a real energy boosting meal that includes protein and complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs are legumes or grains such as breads, cereals and pastas made with 100% whole grain, which unlike refined white flour, take longer to digest to avoid spikes in blood sugar, contain more fiber to promote satiety and provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Protein is important to build and repair tissues as well as to make hair, nails, bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes and hormones.
Aim for heart healthy proteins which are also low in saturated fat and cholesterol such as nuts or peanut butter, beans or hummus, low-fat dairy and skinless poultry or fish. Try whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter, low-fat cheese on whole grain crackers or a high fiber cereal (at least 3 grams of fiber per serving) with 1% milk and sprinkled with nuts.
Pair these healthy bites with a little bit of physical activity. If you can’t squeeze in a full-fledged work-out, a brisk 10 minute walk will help increase energy and overcome feelings of fatigue. Also, give yourself mental breaks throughout the day. In this age of multitasking it’s easy to feel like you’re moving nonstop throughout the day so take a 5 minute time-out to recharge your batteries. Also, eat something every 4 to 5 hours, even just a quick snack (complex carb + protein) to keep your brain well fueled, but be sure to eat what you need and not overeat as too much food at one sitting can leave you feeling sluggish afterwards.