When fatigue sets in, most of us reach for a “pick-me-up” in the form of sugar or caffeine. Both boost energy levels fast, but they lack staying power.
Fortunately, you have better options for staying alert and awake. Start with these five tips from Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed, RD, CSSD, LD, Director of Wellness Coaching at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
1. Never skip breakfast
Research shows that people who eat breakfast perform better at tasks, eat fewer overall calories and miss fewer days of work and school than those who don’t.
2. Don’t overdo coffee
A daily cup or two of java is fine. Going overboard sets you up for fatigue later in the day. On top of that, drinking caffeine late in the afternoon or early in the evening may lead to sleepless nights — and even more fatigue the next day.
3. Avoid refined carbs
Carbohydrates provide much-needed energy. But highly refined carbs such as white bread, candy and sweet baked goods lead to a crash. For lasting energy, seek unrefined carbs and foods rich in fiber. Try oatmeal, brown rice, blueberries, oranges, legumes, broccoli, asparagus, spinach and kale, for starters.
4. Add a little lean protein to meals and snacks
Protein takes longer to digest and absorb. When you eat it with a carbohydrate, it slows the release of sugar into your bloodstream. You get sustained energy without the crash. For example, try adding a little low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, yogurt, or almond or peanut butter (no sugar added) to your meals or snacks.
5. Choose small, frequent meals to fuel your day
When you skip meals or eat too infrequently, your energy levels can fall so low you’ll overeat at the next meal or graze on unhealthy snacks. Combine the tips above for success, and do it regularly. For example, pair a lean protein such as fish or chicken breast with an unrefined carb such as brown rice.
If you follow these tips, you’ll keep your mind and body at their best all day long — and avoid the blood sugar roller coaster in the process.