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Geeta Sankappanavar joins WXN Hall of Fame

Geeta Sankappanavar is Co-Founder, President and CEO of Grafton Asset Management, a Calgary-based energy investment firm. Sankappanavar is responsible for managing $1 billion in capital, focusing on investments in oil and gas. Prior to founding Grafton, she worked with New Vernon Capital, a $3 billion asset management company.

Wednesday, Sankappanavar was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Hall of Fame after being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women numerous times.  This isn’t the first time she has been recognized for her work in emerging markets. She was also named one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People, and one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40.

Question: How does it feel to be inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame?

Answer: Humbled. I have been honoured to be part of the WXN network and have had the opportunity to meet the incredible women leaders who comprise it. I am so honoured to join those amazing trailblazers in the hall of fame.

Do you remember the first time you got on the list of top 100 powerful women?

Of course! I didn’t believe it! I immediately called my family. As immigrants to this country, my family has worked hard to build their lives here, and they have always believed that a focus on constant and continuing education and hard work was critical to success. I live by these beliefs to this day. They have been my strongest supporters my entire life. I was so proud to share this recognition with them, for it was their support that enabled my success. It was a heartfelt moment for us all.

You are speaking at the Leadership Summit Wednesday, with the theme “unbreakable”. Does that theme resonate with you – and how so?

Very much so. I think all leaders face and surmount great challenges to achieve success. I think women in leadership execute those same challenges with significant biases- conscious and unconscious that make their paths even more difficult. Leadership is not easy, and you have to really, really be sure this is the life you want. Leadership is exciting, fulfilling and challenging, but it is not easy and it is not for the faint of heart. I am so proud to be part of the incredible group of women in leadership that WXN is celebrating tomorrow. Sharing our stories, our successes and our challenges, WILL make it more commonplace to be a women in leadership for the next generation.

Why did you help found Grafton Asset Management, especially considering your highly successful career prior?

My business partner and I saw an opportunity to connect Canada’s energy sector to global pools of capital. Canadian energy companies need billions annually to fund their capital programs. This need, however, had not been able to be served domestically in Canada with the traditional sources of capital for this industry. We founded Grafton in late 2010 and quickly grew to ~$1B in capital and have built an incredible team to capture the opportunities we are seeing.

Earlier this year you said that Grafton would be exploring alternative energy sources – is this something you can expand on?

I think our greatest challenge as a resource nation is our need to expand our problem space from a producer of hydrocarbons to a producer of power, fuel and petro products. If we do that, it enables us to understand the greater market forces at play in our industry and invest accordingly, which we at Grafton have done.

What’s next for you professionally and personally?

Continue to build our business and support the great team at Grafton to continue to achieve success. And personally, (besides spending time with my family and our growing list of fur babies (we just got a great pyrenees puppy) it is to passionately support women in business and in leadership in any way I can. It is up to our generation of leaders to support the women in the next generation to achieve their successes. If not us then whom, if not now then when?

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs, especially women?

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about having a vision of where you want to go- Its asking yourself why not? -rather than just saying that something is impossible. And then it’s about assembling the team that wants to try and achieve it with you. It’s the willingness to take risks and not listen to naysayers. To ask yourself what is the right thing to do, and then doing it. It’s casting a compelling vision to motivate others while not being afraid to deliver the hard news or harsh feedback. So, I’d share some advice that has worked for me over the years:

1 – Be flexible- business is a rollercoaster, you need to be able to quickly adapt and pivot your business and your people as required to take advantage of opportunities that you identify,

2 -Hone the ability to assemble and rally a great team around your ideas. Build trust with each other in order to create and sustain a great culture- and I don’t mean picking the nicest people- I mean picking the people who have the courage to challenge you so that together you all get better.

3 – Persevere – Be unwavering, and unrelenting. You must have the belief that with the right partners, you can do the impossible.

For first-time winners, what advice would you give them to stay on the list and eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame?

First of all…Congratulations!!!!! You have achieved great things professionally and Canada is recognizing and appreciating you for it. Secondly, you still need to be the best. You have to be unrelenting in your pursuit of self improvement. You must work twice as hard and twice as long as your male peers. You must be unforgettable. And when you get there, because you will, you will look around and be so humbled and so proud to be part of an incredible group of women leaders who are an inspiration for us all as well as for the next generation of women in leadership.

Featured image courtesy of oilandgascouncil.com

Toronto pushes climate change to back burner

Toronto is taking an aggressive approach to tackling climate change with a new plan to transform the city into a green metropolis — or are they?

TransformTO, the new climate change policy being proposed to city council, was supposed to be discussed on May 24, but it was deferred until the July 5.  This came as a disappointment to Toronto climate supporters, who would love to see the city embrace a plan that will actively decrease greenhouse gases in one of the Canada’s largest city.

The ambitious climate change plan would see Toronto reduce greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050. The city has already lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 24 per cent, which has exceeded the six per cent 2012 climate change goal. In order to meet this more strenuous climate change goal by 2050 though, serious action is needed. The plan will take aggressive action to lower emissions, including diverting 95 per cent of waste from landfills to recycling programs and 100 per cent of public use vehicles will use zero-carbon energy. There would be more focus on creating bike lanes, infrastructure related to low-carbon vehicles, and cycling parking.

The climate change plan also wants Toronto to focus on building green houses, condos, and apartment buildings in the future. The plan would mandate city structures to have near-zero greenhouse gases by 2030 and retrofit most other buildings by 2040. Retrofitting buildings will save 40 per cent of energy costs and the city also wants to use renewable energy that would lower the amount of heat that homes use to 20 per cent of the rate used in 2015. This goal would be achieved by collecting waste heat and converting it into power.

TransformTO is an ambitious move that will ultimately help support creating a greener and healthier city — if it gets off the ground, that is. The City of Toronto would benefit by taking the climate change plan seriously and pushing it through as a key item in the July 5 council meeting to ensure no more delays.

Woman of the Week: Jen Aitchison

One of the best ways to effect change is to make it happen from the inside out — instead of waiting for the world to change, why not do it yourself? Jen Aitchison, Vice President of Sustainable Energy Insurance at Jones Brown Inc., embraces this concept, offering risk management solutions for companies invested in renewable energy, giving green technology a competitive edge in the business world.

Upon meeting Aitchison, she exudes a strong, confident demeanour. Hanging around her neck is a pendant that says, ‘Fearless’. The necklace was given to her by a family member, and is one of Aitchison’s life mantras. “When I first started down this route, I was terrified of walking into a room full of people and shaking their hands. The best thing I can tell women is eat the fear,” Aitchison says. “Shaking one person’s hand at that event is a success because you can build on it and you realize it isn’t scary.”

Aitchison is one of the first insurance brokers in Toronto to start a sustainable energy insurance practice, and over the last eight years she has helped several companies in solar and wind energy navigate their way through the complexities of risk management solutions in an emerging industry where no standard existed before. Aitchison initially brought the idea of sustainable energy insurance to Jones Brown as a side project. “I asked myself how can I use my eight years of experience in the insurance industry and couple that with my environment and sustainability passions? Maybe there is a way to work from the inside out, this being a bit of a capitalistic environment and a bit of an old boys club here,” Aitchison says. “When I first pitched the guys, they were like that is so cute. They said that I could pursue that pet project on the side, but also asked that I don’t let my normal day job slip.”

Aitchison began researching sustainable energy insurance and visiting various renewables companies. She quickly discovered there was a large gap in the renewables industries when it came to insurance and over the course of six years, worked hard to create a sustainable energy insurance practice. Within the practice, she focuses largely on product development of integral financial instruments such as performance guarantees, educating industry members on risk management specifics for renewables and an annual sales budget exceeding $150,000. After being promoted to partner at Jones Brown six years ago, Aitchison is one of the leaders of insurance for renewables and a leader for women and the environment in the insurance sector.

“That’s how I made insurance not suck, for a lack of a better term. I ended up working both sides, teaching insurance companies what some of the emerging technologies were, what challenges were being faced and what some of the solutions we needed,” Aitchison says. “At the same time, I was teaching the renewable energy sector about insurance and some of the things they should consider when setting up their projects.”

Though Aitchison has achieved great success at Jones Brown, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Being a woman with an environmental agenda in the insurance industry had its struggles and Aitchison had to fight for pay equity as recently as 2015. “I didn’t get pay equity until November of last year and it was a 30 per cent difference. I threatened to leave,” Aitchison recalls. “It was shocking. It is important to talk about that still happening.”

Alongside becoming one of leading environmentalists sporting an insurance portfolio and fighting for her rights as a woman in a leading role, Aitchison also won the 2015 Canadian Solar Industry Association President’s award because of her work as the Fire Safety Committee Chair for the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA). Aitchison helped create a PV Fire Safety handbook to keep firefighters safe in case they encounter electrified solar panels during a fire.

Aitchison is also a founding committee member of Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE), a group that brings women together across various renewables industries. Aitchison is in charge of field trips to various renewables companies, support on networking and awards, and overall direction of the group with the other committee members. WiRE began in 2013 when the initial founding members met at Women of Wind Energy (WoWE), a group supporting women invested in wind energy. “We were talking about being from different backgrounds and that there wasn’t a group that encompassed all types of renewable energy,” she says. “We were frustrated that wind and solar were all fighting for the same piece of the pie. We didn’t want that and wanted to break those barriers down. That’s the type of women we are at WiRE. We see barriers, and we rip them down.”

She also emphasizes it was important to the committee that WiRE was not a ‘hen’s club’ or ‘a clique’ and is a very opening group of women professionals. There is also a mentorship aspect to the group that brings young women and professionals  together to collaborate and network. “In the WiRE environment, we connect women with women,” She says. “We also run a speed mentoring event. It is so great to see them succeed and get out of their shell.”

Aitchison is a single mom of two kids, ages 11 and 17, and manages to balance her work life while being an inspiring parent as well. She is currently reading “Bet on Me: Leading and Succeeding in Business and in Life” by Annette Verschuren. In her rare spare time, she likes to play guitar, cycle, draw, snowboard, hike and kayak with her kids. She also builds shelves and other odds and ends on the side, confessing “I’m a bit of a junkie for making things out of nothing.”

Aitchison is a born mentor; she is fierce, empowered, kind-hearted and patient. Her own passions and experience have given her a credibility in the renewables sector that cannot be ignored and yet she is modest and sincere about her successes. If more women like Aitchison join the fight to change the world to a more environmental one from the outside in, sustainability and women leadership will certainly stand a chance to rise out on top.

 

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How to combat your coffee addiction once and for all

It’s one thing for your morning cup of joe to help you get through the day after a long night. However, if you’re on your third cup of espresso before noon and it’s the only reason for your existence at the moment, you may have a slight problem. Sure, coffee helps knocks things off your long to-do list, but it is also responsible for increasing anxiety and depression, indigestion, and other health problems. Coffee addiction is not easy to combat. It takes determination, perseverance, and a little bit of that New Year’s motivation that we’re all currently striving on. With these few easy steps, your coffee addiction can be a thing of the past once and for all.

 

  1. Start on a weekend

It’s probably not a good idea to start your coffee cleanse the week you have a big project coming up. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can leave you with a brutal headache, not to mention give you a bad case of the jitters. To avoid experiencing these during your 3 o’clock meeting, start your coffee cleanse on a weekend, when you’re at home and able to relax.

  1. Eat chocolate

Dark chocolate not only tastes good, but can help satisfy your coffee craving. You can substitute your morning cup of joe with a good old fashioned cup of hot chocolate, or casually nibble on some chocolate throughout the day. Remember, everything is okay in moderation! Let’s not forget those fitness goals while we’re trying to combat our addiction.

  1. Switch it up!

There may be many reasons why you want to cut coffee out of your life. Whether it’s the amount of sugar you put into your lattes, the increase in high fat dairy that your body can no longer endure, or the overall disadvantages of caffeine, it’s important to make gradual substitutes when it comes to combatting coffee addiction. Start off by decreasing the amount of sugar, switch to black coffee, or try decaffeinated coffee. It’s not an overnight process, so take your time!

  1. Hydrate

The solution to all of your life problems is to hydrate. Increase your water intake! Drinking enough water is known to help combat fatigue, decrease unwanted weight gain, keep your blood pressure down, and well as flush toxins out of your body. The sudden boost of energy will aid in removing other toxins out of your life too, like Jimmy from Marketing. So quench that thirst.

  1. Sweat it out

Another solution that’s not just for coffee addiction, but a lot of other health and wellness concerns, is daily exercise. Increasing your heart rate as well as practicing muscle strength and endurance can help combat the fatigue and lack of energy that may come without your everyday coffee. In addition, exercising releases serotonin, which will put you in a better mood. Not even your dog drinking out of the toilet for the 30th time this week can phase you!

These simple but effective solutions can keep the caffeine at bay! Welcome to a new life of whiter teeth and more pocket change. Don’t forget to share your journey with us in the comments below! Good luck!

Woman of the Week: Ingrid Thompson

Ingrid Thompson combines the practical love of science with passion for the environment. As the newly anointed Chief Executive Officer at Pollution Probe, one of the oldest environmental charities in Canada, she brings over 20 years of real-world experience into the boardroom.

“One of my quirks is I have a certain amount of appreciation for the geekiness of science and the complexity of information,” Thompson says. “Energy is very important for building the type of societies we want, but if you sacrifice the environmental part, we aren’t getting very far ahead.”

Thompson began her career as press secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Norm Sterling, in 1996. She briefly left to take on a role as a Senior Consultant for National Public Relations and returned in 2000 as Chief of Staff for the new Minister of the Environment, Dan Newman. During her tenure with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, she had to deal with the Walkerton E-Coli outbreak, one of the biggest environmental crises in Ontario’s history.

“It was one of the bigger crisis experiences.  On the May long weekend, a bunch of people showed up at doctor’s offices complaining of intestinal issues,” Thompson says. “They were noticing that there was a cluster of sick people and that it could be an E.coli infection. Eventually it became clear that the water was the source of the infection. Six people died and thousands got seriously sick.”

Thompson was very involved with the Walkerton Crisis, calling water supply companies to bring clean water to residents and attending town hall meetings in Walkerton, among other things. She also helped the environmental minister reconfigure the water administration. Thompson said the experience was a test for the minister and his staff, who were elected into cabinet barely two months before the Walkerton catastrophe struck.

After 2001, Thompson became the Director of Communications and Marketing for a government relations group invested in energy, the environment and infrastructure law practice, and was a subsidiary of the law firm, CMS Cameron McKenna. From there, Thompson played a leading role in a cellphone company called Vodafone in Prague, and moved back to Canada briefly to do environmental consulting.

“I met a Dutch marine on the beach and that screwed up everything. I met my fiancé and decided to hit a reset button on my career.” Thompson took a job across the ocean as an Independent Consultant at Thompson Marcom in the Netherlands for the next six years. In October 2016, she returned to Canada and accepted the role as the Chief Executive Officer for Pollution Probe.

Thompson emphasizes that Pollution Probe takes a unique approach to environmentalism and works with oil companies and not against them. “We are a pragmatic, science-based company. We don’t take the view of putting all oil and gas companies in an automatic black hat and we choose not to do that,” Thompson says. “If you work directly for an environmental solution, we would rather work with companies than fight them. We work with a lot of companies, including Shell. They are pushing for the decarbonisation of the economy.”

After 20 years in the environmental and energy sectors and amassing an extensive amount of job experience, what does Thompson believe is the single most pressing environmental problem affecting the world today?

She didn’t skip a beat before responding, “Climate change.” Thompson explains it is imperative greenhouse gases be managed by finding credible and reasonable solutions through networking.

Supporting women in the environmental and energy sectors is also an issue close to Thompson’s heart. “Twenty years ago when I was a young consultant at a PR firm, I used to bring an older vice president along with meetings with me because my clients were unfortunately middle-aged white guys,” she says. “In order for me to be comfortable, I felt I needed to bring a ‘beard’ to my meetings. It is important to make a point of supporting strong smart women and connecting with them.”

Recently, the Pollution Probe Annual Gala  ‘Generation Now’, focused on youth engagement and innovation in the environmental sector. The event also included awards that were given to two young women named , Eden Full Goh for creating a solar panel from a gravity powered clock, and Nivatha Balendra, for discovering a bacteria that can digest oil spills. “I was so thrilled to be able to support our awards program because it happened to result in two young women being the ones selected for incredibly impressive accomplishments,” Thompson says. “They were both incredibly intelligent and as women tend to do, they also had a sense of humility.”

In her spare time, Thompson enjoys knitting and scuba diving — things she finds to be meditative and peaceful. Pollution Probe has a bright future with the energy and environmental veteran who is leading the way towards the hopeful decarbonisation of the Canadian economy.

Why you should unplug this year

Are you rolling your eyes yet? Have you closed this window? Please, before you leave to read something else, hear me out!

It’s true that every year someone makes a claim for a tech-free existence. As a reporter, that very thought terrifies me. Technology has become such a critical part of not only my life, but society as a whole. There is, quite literally, no way to live a digital-free life, which in itself is a pretty scary thought.

What I am arguing is the benefits of a short-term unplugging, or rather the importance of limiting your digital intake this year.

In this digital age, it’s nearly impossible to go a day without technology. For example, personally, I wake up in the morning and look at my phone — what time is it? What’s the weather? Did someone comment on my Facebook page? I then travel to work, listening to a podcast and checking my Twitter feed as I go. Once I get to work, I’m on the computer for all but my bathroom breaks. Then, I travel home and sit myself down in front of the television to unwind. If I feel like it, I’ll check my emails after dinner and my social networks. Maybe I’ll play a game or watch Netflix in bed? All of this is to say that technology has, quite literally, become my life.

This is what led me to this realization: every once in a while we have to unplug, get rid of the temptation to check social media or the need to be up to date with our work 24/7. By unplugging from the digital world, it gives you the opportunity to live in the REAL world — not one that is judged by hashtags and filters.

According to Forbes, 61 per cent of people feel depressed after checking social media and 71 per cent say their devices contribute to their overall stress. This doesn’t shock me. Every time I pick up my phone, I see friends and colleagues succeeding in their workplace and/or messages from people upset with their life. Both scenarios evoke strong emotions in me, and that’s before I read all of the heartbreaking news posted in my feeds.

Technology also makes it incredibly difficult to separate your business and personal life. If you are always checking your emails on your phone, you’ll never get to experience anything else. Do your work at work, and when you get home, make sure to spend time with your family or on yourself.

An easy way to start this new chapter of your unplugged life is to remove all technology from your view an hour before you go to bed. Instead, do the dishes, read a book, or go for a walk. The artificial lights in your television or cell phones can actually trick your brain into thinking it should be awake. You may find you sleep better if you don’t check your devices in the middle of the night.

In the morning, instead of checking your phone first thing, make yourself a cup of tea and/or coffee first. Take that 10 minutes for yourself and think about what you are doing that day. Maybe do a short yoga practice or meditation. Starting the day with presence of mind, deciding what YOU want rather than what Twitter tells you to want, will help set the tone for the rest of the day.

Resist the temptation to take a photo of your food at a restaurant. Keep that phone in your purse! Unless your job is in food photography, no one really cares! Why not enjoy what’s in front of you, as well as the conversation happening around the table?

And finally, try to spend one day a week away from the television and/or computer. Go out of the city, meet up with friends, or simply run some errands. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve technology — knitting, writing, painting, or a sport! The entire goal of this unplugged time is to allow yourself to be present and aware of what is happening around you, without interruption or distraction.

I know unplugging can be hard — I myself suffer from withdrawal if I don’t check my phone after an hour or so. But, this year, my plan is to be more present. I want to try more things, be more alive, and that is not something I can do if I’m constantly glued to my computer or my phone.

Ultimately, remember this: living life is much more important than documenting it. With this kind of mentality, you can’t go wrong!

NOW ANNOUNCING: Sustainable Living E-Newsletter

Sustainable living is our future. Without it, our natural resources will die out. The reality of climate change is hitting us all hard — wildfires, droughts, and floods, not to mention the amount of greenhouse gasses people breathe in on a regular basis.

You may ask: What does it mean to live sustainably?

It means you are producing as much as you are consuming. Whether that means you are growing your own food or installing solar panels on to your house — each small step will protect this planet and the life forms that preside in it.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m leading up to something gastronomic! Women’s Post now has a sustainability section on its website and will be featuring content about green living, low-carbon innovation, and city building. We will also be starting an e-newsletter in September.

This is exciting news and we want you to be part of it! First of all, let us know what you would like to read about in the comments below. Second of all, sign up for our e-newsletter! Let’s all play our part!

Sign up for the sustainability e-newsletter below:

 

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Rock lives: Female rocker, Urvah Khan and class-act, Old James

Rock n’ roll is not dead, at least not according to lead singer of a scrap metal rock n’ roll band, Urvah Khan. Women’s Post caught up with the female rocker and namesake of the band after her show at Lee’s Palace. Khan was sporting a blonde Mohawk and a traditional Pakistani bindi and jewelry.

“Rock n’ roll is the sound of an oppressed nation. It is a liberation front for people who don’t have freedom. I found my freedom through rock n roll,” she said. “I want to spend the rest of my life creating a sound called scrap rock. We build our music from the scraps of what is left behind, and mix it with Indian and south Asian sounds.”

Photo provided Urvah Khan
Photo provided Urvah Khan

Khan hails from Pakistan and grew up in Dubai. She was 12 when her family moved to Canada. She is a self-proclaimed feminist who firmly believes rock n’ roll can help to spread the message of gender equality. She also passionately loves her chosen style of music and believes that you have to truly love rock n’roll in order to make a killer rock song.

Khan got into rock in her early 20’s after performing a song with the band The Central Nervous System. She was a rapper prior to this performance, but after listening to N.I.B by Black Sabbath, she fell in love with the music. She also sees rock n’ roll as a source of liberation for women in the East.

“I want to make rock music for Muslim girls where I came from. I’m making music for brown women who need to realize freedom is not a choice, it is a right,” said Khan. “Why do we have to walk with hijabs for a man to feel good? Why can’t we just do it because we want to or we don’t want to. As a woman in the West, I can do anything I want. Let’s take rock to the East.”

The headliner band at Lee’s Palace, Old James, believes the message in the music is the key to a great rock song as well.

“Music with a message is what stands out. The difference between our band and every other band is that we have guys that aren’t cool. We aren’t cool. We are happy being in our band, pissing in bottles, and touring the world. It is about the music.”

Old James and Urvah Khan both stole the audience at Lee’s Palace, bringing heavy rock melodies to a venue often filled with popular hipster indie bands. Khan is a fascinating artist to watch live and an avid advocate of on-stage energy, even pulling a fan on-stage to “scrap” with her.

“Sometimes when I’m performing, I run out of breath and my notes aren’t perfect. My rap isn’t perfect but I believe that if my energy is perfect, I can afford to compromise myself,” said Khan.

Lead singer of Old James, Brian Stephenson, is an unstoppable force of nature on stage, bouncing from end to end while hitting every note seamlessly. As a fan that has seen Old James perform previously, each show is different and equally interesting to attend, making them unforgettable to watch on-stage. The band also surprised fans by performing new songs from their upcoming album, due to be released later this year. They performed “Speak Volumes”, their title track, as well as “Lovefire”.

Old James often performs with women and Stephenson was excited that Urvah Khan was on the bill.

“We love her message. She has taken several pieces of different genres and created her own music,” said Stephenson. “With women playing and sharing the stage, there is a massive amount of respect. They are sticking their necks out because they have to put up with a lot of crap still. A lot of the attitudes towards women in music are unfair. It doesn’t matter what gender or colour you are.”

Both Old James and Urvah Khan believe in the power of music with a message. Though their focuses differ, attending a gig where the music is deeply meaningful is inspirational and has the ability to change the world. As it turns out, rock is definitely not dead.

Photo provided by Urvah Khan
Photo provided by Urvah Khan

“Rock n roll came from the blues and came out of an oppressed generation of people. Once I found that out, my band and I decided to create the next wave of rock n roll,” said Khan. “People say that cannot be because the pioneers of rock n roll are done but I don’t agree. Let’s take rock to India, Pakistan and to places where women don’t know what freedom means.”

 

6 tips for all-day energy

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.