Do you find yourself running out of energy at different points during the day? Do you end up reaching for coffee or something with a bit of sugar in it to keep you going?
While there may be a burst of energy from the caffeine or sugar, there is often a big dip that follows, and then the cycle repeats itself. Then perhaps you find yourself amongst the sleepy passengers on the TTC or GO Train on the way home: too tired to cook a complete meal when you get there.
What is happening in the body through these energy bursts and dips is actually a blood sugar and insulin roller coaster that can be avoided by eating certain foods in particular combinations. The result is more sustained energy, better mental focus and appetite control. Getting more stability in the body’s blood sugar response is often one of the first things that I work on with my nutritional counseling clients, and it usually does not take long to see improvement.
So what’s the trick? Try these tips:
1. Avoid refined flours, sugars and white rice as they are too quickly metabolized in the body.
2. Avoid or at least minimize coffee as it contributes to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar.
3. Start your day with a good source of protein (e.g. plain Greek yogurt, eggs, lean meat) along with some complex carbohydrates (whole fruit or vegetables, whole grains) that provide energy and fibre – those morning pastries will spike your blood sugar and set you up for a day of swings.
4. Have five to six small meals (that includes snacks) throughout the day so that your blood sugar does not have a chance to crash before your next meal; include healthy protein, a good fat and complex carbohydrate. A couple of good snack examples are an apple with a handful of raw almonds, or vegetables with hummus or guacamole.
5. If your energy lags mid-afternoon, rather than taking a break for coffee or cookies, use that time to take a short walk, even if it’s just down the hall and back – physical activity promotes energy.
6. If you find yourself so hungry when you get home that you end up over-grazing before dinner, try eating an apple or some vegetables before you leave work to reduce your hunger later.
The key to making this work is to plan ahead so that you are never caught unprepared and needing to grab something quickly, as that’s when less healthy decisions are made. Every weekend, try to stock up on the next week’s worth of healthy ingredients and put together your snack packs for the office so that they are handy. Before long you’ll be unstoppable.