Nutritional boosts to keep your energy levels up
It’s October. The days get shorter, the weather grimmer and our schedules busier – and all of it makes us more tired.
So, here are 10 tips to help you keep your energy levels up!
1. Get the right start for your day
Whether or not you have time for a sit-down breakfast in the morning, try to fuel up with the two things your body needs: fluid to rehydrate, and slow-release energy food – so go for high protein (nuts, seeds, eggs, milk and wholegrain cereals) and low sugar (mind the honey and the sugar-loaded cereals).
2. Stay hydrated
When the temperatures drop, we tend to forget to drink. This can lead to fatigue, headaches and reduced concentration. We need to drink 1.5 to 2 litres a day, so keep a bottle of water on your desk. And if you struggle to drink plain, cold water, try other beverages like herbal teas, barley drinks, miso soup, warm milk, soup, etc. (Just keep in mind the amount of caffeine and extra calories you might take in).
3. Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits
Packed with vitamins, minerals and polyphenols, fruit and veg are the powerhouse for your immune system this winter. And since they are rich in fibre, they will help regulate your blood sugars and energy levels. So add a banana to your porridge, cabbage to your soup and tomato to your pasta. Aim for 5-a-day… or even more!
4. Take a vitamin D supplement
Even with the best diet, vitamin D is THE vitamin that you will struggle to get in high-enough quantities (see here for full story). So, take a daily supplement to support your immune system and keep some sunshine in your head.
5. Don’t forget to eat one portion of oily fish a week
Another crucial nutrient for your immune system is omega-3s, a type of fat found mainly in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna. (Omega-3s are also found in flax and chia-seeds but these are not as potent as the fish source). Omega-3s are well known for their anti-inflammatory functions and role on memory, but are also believed to have a protective effect on depression. The current recommendation is to eat a portion 130g of oily fish every week.
6. Manage and choose your carbs
The reduction of daylight can have an impact on our serotonin levels, which can lead to carb cravings as a means to boost our mood. But carbs are also known to have a soporific effect. This is because not all carbs are equal. Wholegrain and slow release carbs (tortilla wraps, oats, pasta) are much better to maintain your blood sugar levels, and because they are rich in fibre, they will support your immune system.
7. Eat a protein-packed lunch
To avoid the early afternoon energy dip, make sure that your lunch is not too heavy on carbs. Instead, increase the amount of protein, either animal-based (eggs, tuna, chicken, lean meat, low fat cheese) or/and plant-based (beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya, nuts).
8. Plan your snack
If you are hungry between meals, listen to your body and have a snack but don’t go for the cereal bar or the muffin option. Instead prefer a handful of nuts, fruit (fresh or dry), a yogurt, or hummus with pitta bread.
9. Exercise regularly
Make sure you include 30 mins of physical activity every day. If you can vary your exercise, even better, but if it is just a 30 mins walk then you are already doing a lot of good to your body and mind, preparing them for a restful sleep.
10. And don’t mess up with your sleep!
Sleep deprivation impairs our food choices, making us opt for fattier and more sugary snacks which, in turn, will affect our energy levels. So, try to go to bed at a regular time that will give you a chance at 6-9 hours a night, depending on your individual need. Increase your chances of a good sleep by avoiding caffeine after 3pm, and electronic devices in the hour before bedtime. If you haven’t been able to get enough sleep, just be aware that you will have to work harder than usual to overrule any urges to make unhelpful food choices.