When fatigue sets in during our day most of us reach for a “pick-me-up” in the form of sugar or caffeine. Sure, both of these boost energy levels fast. But they also lack staying power — and aren’t good for our overall health in excess.
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Fortunately, you have better options for staying alert and awake. Once you know what high-energy foods to eat and a few best practices on how to eat them, you’ll be on your way to feeling better in no time.
Start your high-energy diet with these five quick tips from dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, RDN, LD.
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. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be less active or even lethargic in the morning.
2. Don’t overdo your 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 for your body. But highly refined carbs such as white bread, candy and sweet baked goods lead to a carb crash, making you feel groggy or even sleepy. 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 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 serving of nuts, nut butter (no sugar added), plain yogurt, or hummus to your meals or snacks.
5. Choose small, frequent meals to fuel your day
For some of us, when we skip meals or eat too infrequently, our energy levels can fall so low we may 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 carbohydrate such as brown rice and the most important part, the vegetables!
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.