If you’ve managed to get in your eight hours of sleep last night and still can’t get through your day without reaching for numerous cups of coffee, sleep may not be to blame.
Of course, rest is important for your energy, but what you eat also plays a huge role in keeping you going and enjoying the activities you love.
Nutrition is a vital part of your health. But there are certain foods that are not giving you what you need. In fact, they might be doing just the opposite, weighing you down and depleting your energy. My best advice is to try to limit them or avoid them altogether!
Your breakfast favorites are to blame
Whether it’s a bagel and cream cheese, a bowl of cereal or even a fast muffin on-the-go, these foods are only setting you up for an energy crash.
All these breakfast favorites are loaded with refined carbohydrates which quickly turn into sugar. Sure, you may feel energized for an hour or two, but once those sugars burn you’ll be left more exhausted than ever.
Although carbohydrates are needed for body fuel, refined carbohydrates do not offer the same benefits. They’re highly manufactured, void of necessary nutrition, and often contain dangerous chemicals because of all the processing.
What’s worse, they can spike blood sugar levels. Unlike whole, unrefined carbs, which offer fiber, vitamins and minerals and take longer to be absorbed by the body, refined carbs are quickly absorbed, leaving you with that post-meal crash.
Switch up your breakfast routine by replacing refined carbs with the unrefined kind, such as whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, and add in some protein (scrambled eggs, anyone?) to give you lasting power.
You buy fruit smoothies or fruit cocktails
Even I understand it’s not the easiest to take in the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables in a day, so a smoothie or other fruit beverage seems like an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
Unfortunately those smoothies and bottled juices you’re buying – although they contain some fruit – also come packed with sugar, whether it’s added or natural to the fruit. Fruits (and vegetables) have sugar, and there’s a lot more sugar in one cup of juice than a single orange, for example. Add in sweetened yogurts or syrups and your beverage is like a sugar bomb.
This April, the Telegraph reported that fruit smoothies contained four times the amount of sugar than what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for daily intake. The beverages surveyed were from local supermarkets as well as specialty coffee and smoothie shops.
Similar to refined carbs, sugar gets into your system quickly and pushes your metabolism into overdrive, leaving you feeling drained. This can also lead to insulin resistance as well as increased blood sugar levels. Sugar has been linked to many health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It’s also a large culprit in sapping energy.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get your fruit and vegetables, but don’t want the crash, make your own juices and smoothies. This way, you can control how much sugar goes into the beverage, and you can add energy-boosting ingredients like spinach, coconut or chia seeds, the plant seeds known for their high fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
You spend too much time at happy hour
An occasional glass of wine has been shown to have great health benefits for your heart, but too much of it will leave you feeling tired. When you’re drinking alcohol, you can feel awake and quite lively, but it’s a temporary stimulant as your blood alcohol content (BAC) rises. Once you stop, it acts more like a sedative.
In particular, grapes for wine contain high amounts of melatonin, the hormone which regulate sleep cycles, which leads to feelings of fatigue.
Although alcohol can make you sleepy, don’t use it as an aid to sleep. It disrupts your natural sleep cycle, making you fall asleep immediately and skip the crucial beginning stage of sleep – rapid eye movement (REM) – that allows you to enter a deep, restorative sleep.
During a typical night’s rest your body will go through six or seven REM phases, but when you drink alcohol, your body only goes through two, leaving you exhausted the next morning.
In addition, alcohol contains sugar, and when the sugar is metabolized, you’ll feel the fatigue soon after.
So to avoid the alcohol crash, don’t consume too much, and especially before bed. And take turns between enjoying a glass of wine with a glass of water to dilute your BAC.
You occasionally skip meals
Not eating regularly can be just as bad as poor food choices! Food is your body’s main source of energy, and although refined carbs and sugars can drag you down, not eating will leave you feeling more tired than ever.
When your blood sugar decreases from lack of food, you can start to feel sluggish and have no desire to even get out of bed. Food (the good kind!) helps regulate your blood sugar to keep you energized. Your body requires essential nutrients and minerals to keep it going.
Folate and vitamin B12 are two key nutrients that assist with the production of red blood cells. These boost oxygen to your brain, keeping you alert and going strong. People with deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12 can suffer from fatigue and higher rates of depression. Eat more eggs, fruits, vegetables and legumes to get more of these two essential nutrients.
Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is another one, increasing feelings of happiness and fighting off depression – which can leave you tired and drained. Vitamin D also supports your immune system, so you’ll feel more energetic and won’t be sick as often.
No matter the nutrient, your best source is food. As long as you’re conscious of what you’re eating, you can still enjoy food and make sure it’s providing you with the energy you need to carry out your day-to-day activities with ease, or even go the extra mile.