Two Critical Elements to Improve Energy Levels through Nutrition

Thursday, July 6, 2017

By Diana Steele, Registered Dietitian

Food is our fuel. It gives us the energy we need to live the life we want. Food fuels our brains, nourishes our cells and energizes our muscles. But both the type of fuel we consume, and timing in which we consume it, affect our energy levels. Here are some tips to keep in mind to keep your energy levels up throughout the day!

Timing: Our bodies require a constant supply of energy to function at their peak. If we wait too long to eat in the morning, or if we skip meals mid-day, energy levels can dwindle, our ability to focus and concentrate decline, and our motivation to exercise or be productive can be lost. One of the best ways to ensure you start your day with high energy levels is to eat breakfast within the first 30-60 minutes of waking up. Then, follow up breakfast with a morning snack three hours later. In two to three hour increments, follow that morning snack with lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner. If you find that you are not hungry for breakfast, think back to what you ate before bed. Often eating late at night can lead to loss of appetite in the morning. Since you don’t need fuel to sleep, the bedtime snack may have been simply stored as fat for use later. If you aren’t hungry for your afternoon snack, look at how your big lunch was. Ideally, if lunch was the right size for you, you should be getting hungry again about three hours later.

Type of fuel: Carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel source for our bodies. Carbohydrate foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide energy that is easy to digest and absorb into the blood stream for delivery to our cells. Unfortunately, because we digest and absorb carbohydrates so efficiently, eating only carbohydrates doesn’t provide us with long-lasting energy.[i] To anchor the energy from carbohydrates, we need a source of protein such as meat, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs, nuts, dairy and protein powder.[ii] A perfect breakfast combination could include a slice of whole grain toast topped with a slice of tomato, spinach leaves and a poached egg. For lunch, a brown rice bowl with teriyaki chicken and sautéed vegetables. For an afternoon snack containing both protein and carbohydrates, try vegetable sticks and hummus, or berries and Greek yogurt.

Certain nutrient deficiencies – such as iron deficiency, anemia and B12 deficiency – can lead to low energy levels. Heme iron, which comes from animal foods such as meat, fish and poultry, is easily absorbed and keeps energy levels high. Plant sources of iron such as legumes, nuts, whole grains and dark green vegetables contain non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed.[iii] Absorption can be improved by including fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C, as well as by avoiding coffee and tea at meals. Foods containing B12 include meat, fish, poultry, dairy and food fortified with B12 such as soy beverages.

Always remember that there are many factors that may affect energy levels – proper hydration, sufficient sleep, daily physical activity and managing stress levels can all contribute to higher energy levels and a better quality of life!

This article has been sponsored by BOOST®, but all comments and opinions are my own.

Diana Steele Registered Dietitian Diana Steele is a Vancouver-based registered dietitian, published author and owner of Eating for Energy, a nutrition consulting company in Metro Vancouver. She has helped over 2,000 individuals, couples and families achieve their nutrition goals, and has conducted more than 500 corporate seminars. Diana holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and is a member of the College of Dietitians of B.C.

 

[i] Diabetes Forecast. “How the Body Uses Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats.” Retrieved from: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/mar/how-the-body-uses-carbohydrates-proteins-and-fats.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[ii] Amercian Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. “Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels.” Retrieved from: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/38/7/e98 (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[iii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Iron.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Iron.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)