Condition - Energise yourself - keeping blood sugar levels steady
If you’re struggling to get out of bed, or lacking get-up-and-go, it’s time to take action. Follow our top tips to help you put the spring back in your step.
We all feel tired from time-to-time, but if you’re suffering from a constant energy crisis, spring is a great time to rethink your diet and lifestyle. Bouts of low energy are often due to poor diet and lack of exercise and sleep. But we can also run out of steam due to overwork and stress. So, if you’re looking for more energy, here are some simple steps to follow:
1. Avoid the See-Saw Effect
Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is probably the most important factor in maintaining concentration and energy levels throughout the day. For sustained energy, focus on slow-releasing carbohydrates, balanced with a serving of protein or healthy fats. So, instead of refined, sugary foods such as white bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes, switch to wholegrains like oats, brown rice, vegetables and fruits and add some good quality protein, e.g. lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and soy. Avoid sugar and stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and alcohol, which may give you an instant lift but will result in an energy crash later. Try herbal teas instead, such as cat’s claw or green tea. In fact, green tea extract is a known energy aid, containing nutrients called bioflavonoids, including epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which has been shown to maintain healthy energy levels.
2. Try xylitol
If you’re looking for a healthy, natural alternative to sugar, which has minimal impact on blood sugar levels, try xylitol. Not only does it taste like sugar, it contains 40% fewer calories, is ideal for sweetening drinks and foods, and can be used in baking. It is suitable for people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome and may also help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
3. Up your energy nutrients
For food to be converted into actual energy, your body needs a whole range of vitamins and minerals. B vitamins are crucial for energy production and many people’s diet can fall short of these vital vitamins. A B vitamin complex is a simple way to ensure adequate supply. If you’re suffering with energy dips or craving sugary foods, chromium may be useful. Chromium helps control blood sugar, by stimulating insulin activity, and is involved in the burning of glucose for energy. Low iron can also contribute to fatigue, as can low levels of B12 and folate, since these nutrients are all involved in the production of haemoglobin and the oxygenation of red blood cells. Make sure your diet includes plenty of lean meat, poultry, leafy green vegetables, eggs, prunes and wholegrains, and contains plenty of vitamin C, which can aid absorption of iron.
4. Get that spark
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another nutrient crucial for the production of energy. When levels are low, muscles tire more easily and can leave you feeling low in energy. While present naturally in the body, levels of CoQ10 start to decline as we age so, if you are over the age of 40, taking a supplement may help stamina and energy levels.
5. Eat breakfast
Breakfast is a must if you want to feel energised all day. Focus on foods which release their energy slowly, such as porridge with nuts and seeds, yoghurt and fruit, or egg dishes like omelettes or scrambled eggs. Pushed for time or don’t feel like eating? Then opt for a protein shake with a combination of cranberry, spirulina, apple, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds. Blend in some fruit and you have a great energy-boosting meal in a glass.
6. Get the snacks in
Erratic eating and skipping meals can cause our blood sugar levels to crash, resulting in low energy and fatigue. Keep them balanced through the day by including a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Include some protein and healthy fat such as nuts and seeds, or try a delicious pumpkin seed butter spread on a couple of oatcakes or rye crackers.
7. Adrenal support
If you’re low in energy because of stress, it’s time to give some support to your adrenals. These glands are responsible for producing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, but faced with ongoing stress, levels can fall, resulting in fatigue. If this sounds familiar, adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragulus and ginseng, together with B vitamins, may be useful. Taking steps to relax and unwind is also important. Theanine, passion flower, taurine and magnesium have all been shown to maintain a sense of calm in the body.
Stress can also cause you to lose focus and concentration. To help your brain stay sharp, include foods rich in phosphatidyl choline, like eggs, soybeans and lentils, which support the production of acetylcholine, an important brain neurotransmitter. Phosphatidyl choline is also found in lecithin granules that can be easily sprinkled onto food or taken by the spoonful.
8. Sleep tight
Simply not getting enough sleep each night can cause us to struggle to get up in the mornings. If you wake up during the night, check what you’re eating through the day, as low blood sugar late at night can interrupt sleep. Include a snack about one hour before you go to bed, which includes some tryptophan-rich foods like oats, bananas, milk or yoghurt. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin, which produces melatonin, our sleep hormone. 5HTP may also be helpful. Remember to cut out caffeine before bed and switch to herbal teas instead. Calcium and magnesium powders, which can be stirred into drinks, can also be useful to help you wind down and get some shut-eye.