Eating for More Energy
Do you often have the feeling that you could never get enough sleep to feel good?
The truth is, most people feel that way on a daily basis, which is why most of us begin the day by pouring caffeine down our gullets. Sometimes the culprit is a lack of sleep, but often, a poor diet is to blame for our lack of energy.
First things first!
Starting the day off right is essential to an energy filled day. Beginning the day on a bad note can leave us playing catch up for the rest of the day. Everyday should begin with either exercise or a meal within the first hour after waking up. Much of our metabolic functions are gauged and set up in this time frame. This is where our body either says, “I’m going to rev up and burn as many calories as possible to create energy” or “I’m going to slow down and conserve energy by storing calories for later”. The first statement occurs when your body is stimulated immediately in the morning with either healthy food or exercise (followed by food).
Obviously the second statement is what happens when we get up and don’t exercise or eat. Maybe we have a cup of coffee, but remember, coffee is not food! The reason our body responds either way is because certain hormones that regulate energy, hunger, and much more are released based mainly on what occurs during this early morning time. These hormones are mainly comprised of thyroid hormones and a hormone called gherlin. I’m not going to go into detail and bore you with the biochemistry of it, but I’ll break it down for you.
Basically, if you don’t eat or exercise within the first hour of waking up, these hormones will be released at a lower rate which will make you feel sluggish and tired all day and we don’t want that.
“What do I eat?”
Eating for more energy is easy to plan. It’s doing it that is the hurdle for many people.
Basically, your best food for energy and all over health are going to be found in the outskirts of the grocery store. I tell most of my clients to stay out of the aisles as much as they can. The reason is, that most processed foods are found in the aisles. These foods, although calorie dense, do not make you feel good and energetic. Actually, it’s the opposite, They are often made out of broken down food parts instead of the whole food variety. Think about it this way: Wheat and vegetables are healthy. Right? But, if you break down the wheat into flour, the vegetables into vegetable oil and put them together you get a donut. Food that we eat is meant to be in it’s original form. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t occasionally have pasta, pizza, or a sandwich and stay healthy, but you should save these meals for a “cheat meal” once or twice per week.
Whole foods are the way to go for good health and energy. Your diet should consist of a large quantity of grains, starches, fruits, and vegetables. This will give you the carbohydrates you need for energy as well as an array of vitamins, minerals, enzymes(in fresh/raw fruits and vegetables), and cancer fighting phytonutrients. You also need to make sure you get an adequate amount of protein and good fats. If you eat meat, add in a small to medium portion of meat/poultry/fish at each meal. If not, you can add legumes and nuts/seeds to your diet. When these are combined with some starches(rice/wheat) the amino acids in both foods create a complete protein. This being said, don’t eat too much protein because it can make you tired. We need some protein in our diet to repair muscles and other tissues, but it doesn’t provide us with energy like carbohydrates do. A natural athlete can’t usually assimilate and utilize more than .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Anything more is going to slow you down.
“What if I’m trying to lose weight?”
My suggestion to those who are trying to lose weight is to modify the diet I just gave you slightly by eating more fruits and vegetables and staying away from eating large amounts of starches. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense and don’t carry as many calories as the heavier starches.
The other suggestion I have is: Don’t eat late at night! Late night eating and alcohol are the number one and two diet killers. Eating or drinking alcohol(or sugar) right before bed blocks your body’s natural release of growth hormone. This will make you fat and tired, so figure out a way to go to bed at least 2-3hrs after your last meal. You will sleep deeper, recover more, and wake up feeling more awake. This is everything you want!
Ok! I’ve given you the plan. Now it’s up to you. Clear out all the junk out of your house and plan your cheat meals around social events or weekends. If you have trouble following this plan then plan out your meals for the week and make them on Sunday(or any day you have off). Writing down what you eat each day and how you felt will give you some evidence of how the diet is helping you. This can be just the motivation you need. Basically, it doesn’t matter how you get it done. Act like NIKE and “Just do it”! Your newly found energy is just a trip to the grocery store away.
Written by: Coach Bill
Personal Trainer/After School Director