5 Healthy Eating Tips For More Energy Every Day

New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse interviewed over 250 billionaires, Olympic athletes, and world-class entrepreneurs on their best time-management strategies. The key factor to being ultra-productive that was mentioned repeatedly was knowing how to manage and maintain their energy levels. 

This makes sense. If you are constantly tired, suffering from the lack of sleep or falling ill frequently, you are ultimately going to be less productive. Energy is the one valuable resource that enables you to get things done in the different areas of your life.

How What You Eat Affects Your Energy Levels

The relationship between what you eat and your energy level is more closely related than you think. Your body uses whatever you eat as the fuel for the work it has to do, so what you eat pretty much determines your energy level. Hence, if you have been feeling more lethargic than usual, you may want to check if you have a vitamin deficiency.

Infographic on the distribution of glucose after a 90g meal

Photo Credits: Medbio.info

Here’s a little ‘sciencey’ bit about the brain that you can skip if it does not excite you (I’m a geek!). From the moment you wake up, your brain literally does not stop working. Though our brain only makes up 2% of our body weight, it uses energy amounting to 20% of our resting metabolic rate (RMR). The most preferred source of energy for the brain is glucose, which is used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of brain cells. The more challenging the mental task, the more blood glucose is taken up by the brain, as compared to completing easy, repetitive tasks, or doing things that you are highly skilled in.

If you are gearing up for a productivity day ahead, here are 5 tips for you to keep your energy level up throughout the day.

1. Eat Smaller Meals, More Frequently
2. Start Your Day with Breakfast
3. Eat Complex Carbohydrates with a High-Quality Protein
4. Eat Brain-Loving Foods
5. Stay Hydrated Throughout the Day

01 | Eat Smaller Meals, More Frequently

As mentioned above, glucose is the most preferred source of energy for the brain. To keep energized throughout the day, you will need your body to maintain a steady level of blood sugar as fuel for optimal functioning.

One way to maintain a steady level of blood sugar in your body is to eat smaller meals, at more frequent intervals. Without having to change too much of your usual eating habits, make the size of your three regular meals smaller. Then, plan in two healthy snacks during mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The timings of these snacks help to fight off dips in energy during the day.

A smaller-sized meal ensures that you do not overwork your digestive system with too much food at one go. This diverts resources from your brain and makes you feel sluggish and lethargic.

Think about how you can break your usual meals into smaller parts. You can have one slice of whole-wheat toast for breakfast and another slice 1 to 2 hours later as a mid-morning snack instead of two slices for breakfast. Or, you can order less items for lunch and add a homemade smoothie as a healthy mid-afternoon snack.

02 |  Start Your Day with Breakfast

Breakfast smoothie bowl with different kinds of fruits

Eating breakfast in the morning helps to rev up your metabolism and jump start your brain, boosting your productivity and focus in the morning.

Studies have shown that breakfast consumption is positively correlated with increased cognitive performance in school-going children. Kristi L. King, R.D.N., emphasizes the importance of eating breakfast in the morning as it helps with brain function, attention span, concentration and memory. It also reduces irritability and tiredness as the day goes on.

One of the most common reasons people state for skipping breakfast in the morning is the lack of time. If you have only 15 minutes in the morning, make scrambled eggs with spinach and serve it with whole-wheat toast and a side of fruit. If you only have 5 minutes, you can make a simple peanut butter sandwich or cook scrambled eggs in the microwave. Mix eggs and a splash of milk in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out, and stir gently, and then put it back in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Takes under a minute to prepare!

Healthy breakfast on the go - Peanut butter toast set from Toastbox

Source: Peanut Butter Toast Set from Toast Box

Or, if you simply do not have time in the morning to make your own breakfast, grab a peanut butter toast set (preferably no condensed milk and sugar in your tea or coffee!) on the way to school or work.

03 | Eat Complex Carbohydrates with a High-Quality Protein

According to brain researcher Leigh Gibson, the human brain functions best with 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream. You can get these 25 grams of glucose very easily – about the amount of carbohydrates found in a medium-sized banana. Since you can get these 25 grams of glucose from just about anywhere, the concept of glycemic index becomes very important.

Simple carbohydrates, such as refined bread and table sugar, are the most direct sources of glucose as they are easily digestible and release sugar rapidly into the bloodstream (high GI). This causes your blood sugar level to spike rapidly, leading to subsequent energy crashes. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates digest and release glucose into the bloodstream more slowly (low GI). Thus, they are a better choice for supplying the body with a steady stream of energy.

Combine complex carbohydrates with high-quality protein using HPB's My Healthy Plate

Combining complex carbohydrates with a high-quality protein also helps to keep the release of blood sugar at an even keel. Protein has been shown to have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels with adequate insulinA study published in The Journal of Nutrition (2006) found that adding 5 to 30 grams of protein to a 50 gram intake of pure glucose decreases blood sugar responses significantly.

04 | Eat Brain-Loving Foods

In a flagship study conducted in 2005 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), nutrition was found to have a direct impact on our productivity.

Infographic on foods that are good for brain health

Infographic Source: Mindflash

Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are highly recommended for brain health, providing benefits such as improving learning and memory, and protecting the brain from oxidative stress. This makes fatty fish such as salmon, and antioxidant-rich foods such as avocado and blueberries high on the brain-loving foods list.

Registered Dietician, Diana Aronson, recommends including these foods in your diet on a weekly basis, but I would suggest an even higher frequency at two to three times a week.

05 | Stay Hydrated Throughout the Day

Stay hydrated throughout the day for more energy

Photo Source: Dripdrop

Last but not least, the easiest way that you can increase your energy level is to drink sufficient water throughout the entire day. Drinking water increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. This increases alertness, blood pressure and energy expenditure, according to a study conducted at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Mild dehydration, on the other hand, has been found to negatively affect a person’s energy level and ability to think clearly. The tricky thing about dehydration is that we might not even feel thirsty until we are one to two percent dehydrated.

A quick way to estimate how many litres of water you need every day is to take your body weight in kilograms and multiply the number by 0.033. Make it a habit to take a water break every hour, not just when you are feeling thirsty (too late!), or add fruits such as lemon slices, orange slices and strawberries to add a little flavor to your water.

Bonus Tips for More Energy

I am glad that you made it this far! Here are two bonus tips for more energy.

01 | Sleep Better

Sleep better by setting up your bedroom right for sleep

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the successful individuals that Kevin Kruse interviewed for his book. These people were in the top of their fields, and did not have more hours in a day than you or I have. The trick to countering ‘I have no time to sleep’ is not making time for more hours of sleep (but you definitely should if you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep a day!) but better quality sleep.

While the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults to have between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, research has shown that sleep quality is a factor of focus as it is relates better to day-time sleepiness than sleep quantity. Another study looking at the sleep life of postpartum mothers showed that high-quality sleep for a shorter number of hours is better than the highly fragmented sleep new mums get, albeit sleeping for a longer number of hours.

If you are time-pressed, aim for better quality sleep to feel refreshed and energized the next day. A simple step to improve your sleep quality is to go to sleep and get up at the same time every morning, which helps your body to build a routine and optimize sleep cycles. Implement a sleep routine that includes minimizing screen time within 2 hours of sleep and turning down light in the bedroom, which helps you fall asleep faster.

02 | Work in Chunks

It is perfectly normal (and even natural) that your energy level starts to dip towards the end of the day.

To make the most out of your work hours, know when you are the most productive during the day, and separate your time into workable chunks. It is a good practice to start your day with conquering your Most Important Task (MIT) within the first few hours of waking up, as it is when your energy level is the highest. Schedule easy repetitive tasks (such as paying bills) during chunks of time whereby you know your energy levels will be low. The productive hours for each individual differs, but remember, the more challenging the mental task, the more energy your brain needs.

I like using the Pomodoro Technique to manage my time chunks. You can read more about the Pomodoro Technique here.

I hope you are as excited as I am to kick-start the year with lots of positivity and energy! If you found this article useful, please help me with a huge favor and share this with as many people as you can.

Have a fantastic year ahead!

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