Energy – we all seem to struggle with not having enough energy throughout the day (every day it seems lately for me). A lot of times, improving our energy balance throughout the day comes down to simple little changes in your diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Today, we are going to explore the ways that might be silently draining your energy stores.
1. Blood Sugar Regulation
We have talked about this time and time again. When our blood sugar has extreme highs and lows throughout the day, our body feels that as surges of energy and extreme fatigue. This is not a good place for the body to be – these extremes create a state of stress and inflammation in the body.
What happens when we have poor blood sugar relegation? Well for starters, we begin our day with a breakfast low in protein and healthy fat, usually one that is carb based like cereal, bread, or breakfast pastries. Then, we add juice and sugared coffee and start our day with nary a drink of water. This carb-heavy breakfast shoots our blood sugar high as the carbohydrates in the meal convert to glucose in the body. Our pancreas secretes insulin, a storage hormone, to come and fix the problem, but sometimes insulin can’t work fast enough or there isn’t enough room for storage of glucose in our liver and muscles (where most of glucose is stored as glycogen). Eventually though, our blood sugar goes from super high to super low and crashes. We feel this as a lull in energy about mid-morning, so we reach for another cup of coffee or a granola bar to keep us going.
Then comes lunch, and we repeat the pattern, having a sandwich or pasta or salad with dressing made from artificial sweeteners and vegetable oils and hardly 3-4oz of protein. We then have a mid-afternoon slump in energy, as our blood sugar has once again rose sharply only to fall back down just as quickly. So by the time evening comes, we can’t seem to stop eating sugar (or keep our eyes open) because our body is searching for the quick energy it needs that sugar will provide.
How do we stop this cycle? Eat MORE protein and fat at breakfast and lunch. It’s that simple! Protein at breakfast can go beyond eggs (trust me, there are other proteins you can choose) to include fish, beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Have a decent sized portion, at least the size of your hand at both breakfast AND lunch. Healthy fat options include avocado (my personal favorite), olives, real butter, dry roasted or raw nuts and seeds (not roasted in vegetable oils), or coconut products of any kind. Loading up on protein and fat along with vegetables will be your best bet in keeping blood sugar and energy levels steady.
But if you do need a snack mid-morning or afternoon, grab something protein or fat based like a hard-boiled egg or raw almonds. That will be much better than any sort of granola bar (STAY AWAY!), yogurt, or pretzels.
You must drink water. Period. This is one of the best way to regulate energy throughout the day, especially if you find yourself having the mid-morning or afternoon yawns. We’ve talked about your water goal before, but if you need a refresher, the daily water intake equation is as follows:
½ bodyweight in ounces + (1.5 x oz of diuretics consumed per day) = total oz of water needed per day
Get a water bottle (preferably not plastic) and make it a goal to drink a certain number of those bottles full of water per day. I try and drink 3-4 of my 32oz bottle of water before lunch!
Just like water, you MUST BE SLEEPING in order to have stable energy throughout the day. We need both adequate sleep quality and quantity. Making sure you have a dark, cool room; shutting off electronics before bed; and relaxing before bed are steps to help you start improving your sleep. Plus, regulating blood sugar helps SO much with sleep as well.
4. Exercise & Movement
Exercising throughout the day and making time for movement is so helpful in regulating energy, especially if you sit most of the day. Getting up for movement breaks throughout the day and making sure to get in an actual workout a couple of times per week (preferably strength training and walking) go a long way. For sleep and energy issues though, I usually recommend staying away from super late evening workouts, as they can spike your cortisol and lead to trouble falling asleep.
Last but not least, working on stress is so helpful in regulating energy because the more stressed we are, the more dysregulated our cortisol levels become (need a reminder? Reread last week’s post on cortisol). Chronic stress leads to too high or too low cortisol, both of which also cause energy disturbances as well.
If you are working on all of these issues and still are having major energy issues, it might mean something deeper is going on, like cortisol issues. Let me know if you are interested in an adrenal hormone test to get to the root of what is going on!