Does your energy slump around 3-4pm each day (and possibly also 11am), making you reach for coffee or a snack?
This is likely because your blood sugar levels aren’t balanced.
What happens is that if you eat meals with too many carbohydrates and not enough protein and fat, you’ll get an energy spike right after eating, followed by feeling tired a few hours later.
What’s happening here is that your body is producing too much insulin after the intake of too much carbohydrates, which results in insulin taking too much sugar from your blood that causes you to feel tired (and possibly also experiencing low mood, brain fog/ poor concentration and dizziness).
To minimise spikes and crashes in energy levels, you want to make sure your nutritional intake supports a sustained flow of energy by limiting fluctuation in your blood sugar levels.
An even blood sugar level can also help you improve your focus and concentration, and prevent mood swings caused by hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
Here are 5 tips to use nutrition to support sustained energy levels, so you can get more done in your day:
1. Eat meals with a low glycemic load.
Switch out refined carbohydrates like cereals, baked goods, bread and pasta that cause a high level of glucose to be released into the bloodstream (creating a high glycaemic load, as described above).
Replace with whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice as well as vegetables (high fibre foods) with a moderate amount of good fats and lean protein.
2. Eat foods rich in B vitamins
- Meat and fish
- Mushrooms, green leafy veg, berries
- Nuts, seeds – sunflower seeds, sesame, almonds, walnuts
- Brown rice
- Beans and pulses
Here’s a challenge for you – make green leafy vegetables a quarter of each of your meals.
This one strategy can make a dramatic impact to your energy levels, and is often the first step I suggest women take to boost their energy.
Not only do leafy greens provide B vitamins, they also provide fibre, magnesium, calcium, zinc, as well as vitamins C, E, and K!
All of these nutrients in some way positively influence your energy levels, not to mention your overall health (think skin, brain, hair and immunity).
Green leafy vegetables include broccoli, spinach, kale, chard, silverbeet, watercress, kohlrabi, asparagus, cabbage and spring greens.
3. Get enough protein
So often when I assess a client’s food diary, I find their protein intake isn’t adequate to support their energy levels.
Protein slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream, therefore helping to keep energy stable. Hence it’s important to eat protein with every meal.
Protein will also make you feel fuller for longer – and alongside being vital to many functions in the body – is needed for the creation of neurotransmitters and hormones which can also impact energy (and of course, mood).
The optimal amount of protein is between 0.8g to 1g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
Eat just the right amount of protein for your body – keep a food journal to see how much protein works best for you based on your energy levels and mood.
4. Stay hydrated
So simple, yet so often overlooked!
Dehydration can spike your blood sugar levels and causes fatigue as well as brain fog, which is a common complaint among women.
In fact, being dehydrated by just 2% can reduce mental function, memory creation and concentration.
If your fogginess comes and goes during the day, try drinking water as your first port of call.
The solution is to aim for 2 litres of pimped up water each day.
Pimped up water: add some freshly squeezed lemon, sliced cucumber or berries to your water.
Not only will it add flavour, the minerals and sugars can help hydrate your cells more effectively than normal water (and you’ll be getting some anti-inflammatory antioxidants too).
5. Avoid caffeine
Caffeine can worsen blood sugar fluctuation, as it stimulates secretion of the stress hormone cortisol (which in itself can make you tired over the long term and can lead to adrenal fatigue), which can stimulate more glucose to be released into the bloodstream, triggering insulin to be released and creating the whole cycle I mentioned above, making you tired later in the day.
One option is to switch out coffee lattes for matcha lattes that have a much smaller amount of caffeine yet most importantly contain L-theanine, which has a calming effect on your body (so you won’t get jitters like you can with coffee) while also making you feel more focused.
As knowledge is most useful when followed by action, I’d love to know:
What’s the first step you’ll take to boost your energy levels?
Let me know in the comments.