If you’re desperate to add some pep back into your step, I’ve got a food cure that will bring back high-energy power days. Follow these six tips and I promise you’ll feel stronger, sharper, and faster on your feet all day long.
1. Get a good night’s sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, then no amount of smart food choices (or caffeine) is going to keep you energized and alert…so the most important thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep.Try making some changes to your daily routine to maximize your chances of a solid night’s rest.
2. Don’t skip meals. It’s easy to justify skipping breakfast or lunch when you’re crunched for time, but don’t do it! Eat a meal or snack every 4 to 5 hours to keep your body fueled and energized.
3. Avoid energy-zapping foods. Cut out junky foods that can bring on the infamous “food coma” and make you lethargic, sleepy, and weak. At the top of this unwanted list, you’ll find sugary foods (like soda and other sweetened drinks, cookies, candy, donuts, and sugary cereals) and junky refined carbs (like white bread, pasta, rice, and crackers). These foods have a crash and burn effect—after eating them, your blood sugar spikes, then quickly falls, leaving you feeling tired and cranky. You’ll also want to steer clear of heavy, fatty foods like fatty red meat, fried foods, and full-fat dairy.
4. Combine lean protein and high-quality carbs. At every meals (and whenever possible with snacks), pair high-quality carbs (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) with lean protein (skinless poultry, fish and shellfish, low-fat dairy, egg whites, beans and lentils, soy foods, and lean meat). This is the magic formula for energy-boosting meals: the “good carbs” provide slow-release energy and the protein helps stabilize your blood sugar so you have a slow, steady stream of energy fueling your brain and the rest of your body.
For example, instead of having an energy-sapping white flour bagel for breakfast, go for a whole grain English muffin (that’s your slow-release carb) with a smear of peanut butter or a few slices of reduced-fat cheese (that’s your energy-sustaining protein). Follow this eating pattern at lunch and dinner and you’ll start to see improvements in just a few short days.
5. Stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration can make you feel drained. Fight fatigue by drinking plenty of plain old water with every meal and throughout the day. On average, women need 9 cups of fluids per day, while men require about 13 cups.
6. Caffeine is fine in moderation if you need an extra jolt! There’s no harm in enjoying a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea (or two) in the morning to help get you going.
Heads up: You won’t get any extra benefit from switching to energy drinks and shots, so don’t fall for the hype. The “lift” they give you derives solely from the caffeine, and they typically provide the same amount as a standard cup of coffee. The extra B vitamins and amino acids don’t have any added effect—it’s all marketing. Plus, many popular energy drinks come packaged with a whole lot of added sugar, which doesn’t do your body any good. (And, even if they’re sugar-free, they’re still incredibly pricey!)