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Eating for Energy

Posted Oct 15 2009 1:37am

Often it’s only when we’re tired, run down or sick that we get that energy is the key to a quality life.   Generally how we feel when we get out of bed in the morning dictates whether we have a great day …or an average day, and who wants one of those?!

So, is there a specific single solution to our energy crisis?   Well, the good news is that by making relatively small tweaks in our diet and lifestyle we can experience results quickly.   The not so great news though is that it’s unlikely that we’ll find a single answer, rather it’s multiple strategies that work in combination to zip up energy levels overall.

Let’s get to work with four easy ways that will zip up energy levels which will enable us to lead the quality of life that we aspire to…

1.   Stress is a Killer

Thousands of years ago when we were likely to come up against the odd hungry dinosaur every now and then our bodies often experienced what is referred to as ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode.

When this occurred the stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol would be pumped out by the adrenals; two little glands situated at the top of the kidneys.   These hormones prepared our bodies for emergency situations so that blood was pumped to the relevant areas of the bodies to maximise our survival.

Modern day stresses however are different, and it’s unlikely that we experience life or death situations on a daily experience.   When we’re stressed though, our adrenals don’t understand the difference between missing the 8.15am flight out of Heathrow or being chased along a track by a spear wielding savage, rather they pump out adrenalin and cortisol regardless.   This is a problem because the release of stress hormones can interfere with, and often override, the release of other essential hormones, eg, sex hormones, or those released by the thyroid gland, which can lead to imbalance in hormonal patterns so that they become out of rhythm.

The best way to combat stress is to acknowledge it, then deal with the root cause and figure out ways to integrate relaxation time on a daily basis.   Yoga and meditation work really well, as do breathing exercises, a warm soak in the tub, spending time with nature, or even a cup of tea with a favourite book or film.   Whatever works for you really, but schedule time to switch off for whatever activity that makes you feel human again.

2.   Rest and Play

Let’s look at sleep first …ideally we should be aiming for c8hours of good quality, unbroken sleep per night …some people need a little less, some a little more, but it’s a good ball park.

Don’t forget, stress depletes the body’s nutrient reserves resulting in tiredness which can lead to a cycle of can’t sleep because of stress, and then feeling more stressed because we’re tired.

To get out of this cycle get into the habit of winding down and quietening the mind a few hours before bedtime by taking some time to relax whether that be having a warm bath, herbal teas, reading or whatever it is that calms you.

Physical activity is not only a brilliant stress reliever, but it also energises, so if you can get yourself to the gym, out to a class, or even out for a twenty minute walk you’ll feel you have more energy, not less.   Exercise is a winner on so many levels because it sends oxygen and nutrients to the brain, improves circulation, stimulates release of those all important endorphins which ultimately give you that ‘Yay! Life is good’ feeling.

What’s really important is that you include time in your day to do the things you enjoy …even if it’s doing something fun in your lunch hour, it’ll pay dividends, and the likelihood is that you’ll be so much more productive if you do.

3.              Stabilising Blood Sugar Levels

Last up, but really important, a balanced diet!   Keeping blood sugar levels stable is critical in energy management, because rather than experience peaks and troughs in energy levels through the day, it means that we have consistent energy.

Think means eating whole foods, real food, foods that haven’t been processed.   Think of what your grandmother would have put on the table 75 years ago and replicate that …food was naturally organic then, people ate seasonal produce and there was no where near the levels of refined sugars in the average diet.

4.              Detox not Retox

Stimulants such as nicotine, alcohol, chemicals, caffeine and sugar may provide a quick fix and a sense of temporary energy, but ultimately they rob our bodies of energy.   They’re actually anti-nutrients in that they don’t contain any nutrients that serve the body, rather deplete the body’s nutrient reserves to actually process them.

                   Detoxing gives the body a chance to rest and heal because putting less stress on the digestive system allows the body to rid itself of toxins while facilitating healing. Benefits are multiple; the liver, kidneys and colon all benefit, blood is purified, spirits are lifted, the immune system is strengthened plus we lose excess weight and water so that we look and feel great.

                  There are several detox strategies to choose from; they tend to range from one to seven days, but rather than go for one on the supermarket shelf, it’s often less complicated to limit food intake to small portions of nutrient dense foods such whole grains eg, rice or quinoa plus include unlimited vegetables (green veg is particularly good) along with nuts and seeds, berries and fruits, steamed fish and juices and broths.

Additionally other elements come into play too, for instance reduction in the amount of food you intake, supplements, water, getting in touch with yourself spiritually, animal protein, breathing and getting rid of toxic relationships, all play a vital role in energy levels so these areas are well worth looking at too.

The best advice is to try these for yourself, experiment and find out what works for you.   It’s worth the investment because it will leave you feeling refreshed with abundant energy levels that mean that you’ll achieve more success and happiness in your life …and that is something everyone wants, right?!

Sarah Lantry received her training at Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, leads workshops on nutrition, and offers individual health and nutrition coaching to busy professionals and families.


Please contactsarah@attitudetofood.comto arrange a


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