Looking to gain more energy to start the New Year off strong? In addition to getting enough sleep and exercising regularly, as young women we also need to focus on our nutrition to fight fatigue and thrive in this coming year. Follow these tips to find the energy that you’ve been seeking:
Regularly plan your meals and snacks. Don’t skip meals and don’t forget to eat. With tough work schedules it can be easy to make eating a last priority, but this only leads to low energy and overeating at a later time. Instead, plan out your day trying to include at least three different food groups for meals and two food groups for snacks. If you know you’ll be in a hurry in the morning, shop for on-the-go breakfast items such as greek-yogurt with a banana, toast with a hard-boiled egg or even overnight-oats. Also, even if you’re busy at work, take an intentional break for lunch. Invest time into fueling your body to best complete the day’s task.
Choose complex carbohydrates. While carbohydrates have previously picked up a bad reputation, they’re actually an essential part of our diet to provide energy we need. As opposed to proteins and lipids, carbohydrates are complex sugars that break down to provide our greatest source of immediate energy. When we choose to eat food containing complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and seeds, the digestion process takes longer, preventing spikes and rapid falls in energy levels. Grains and select seeds (such as chia seeds) specifically provide the essential B-vitamins that serve as cofactors in the energy production cycle. Especially if you are physically active, find ways to fit in whole grains throughout your day, both before and after your workout to give you that extra energy that you need. Choosing brown rice and whole wheat bread instead of their white counterparts, will keep you fuller longer and give you energy that lasts longer.
Get enough iron. Know what foods in your diet provide your body with iron and if it is not sufficient then supplement as needed. Iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most prevalent deficiencies world-wide. Since iron is needed in energy production and for proper red blood cell development, iron deficiency leads to great fatigue can pose serious problems. Healthy young women need 15-18 mg per day to maintain their iron stores. Meats are the easiest food sources to get iron, so if you are vegetarian, make sure to find iron-rich plant sources such as dark leafy greens. Always eat iron plant-sources with vitamin C to increase absorption.
Skip the simple sweets. Sugars, whether hiding in bakery products and sweet sauces or added to coffee and tea may give you quick energy, but it won’t last long. When you’re craving something sweet, go for some natural sweetness mixed with a fat or protein, such as sliced apple with almond butter or dried fruit (without added sugar) and raw nuts. The fat and protein will help to curb the quick sugar absorption preventing later energy lows.
Drink caffeine-containing coffee or tea, in moderation. If you need a little pick-me up, tea and coffee may suit your needs but stay away from sugary drinks that boast their caffeine content. Different teas have different levels of caffeine; white tea containing the least, then green, and finally black tea with the most. A cup of tea has less caffeine than coffee. Although opinions differ regarding caffeine consumption and everyone reacts differently, generally try to limit consumption to two cups per day and at most up to four cups daily. Know your own limits to prevent the over-consumption caffeine jitters, and remember that with caffeine consumption additional fluids are needed to stay hydrated.
Eating for the purpose of having energy changes our mindset for why we choose the foods that we do. We put time into the things that are important to us, so why not also invest in the foods that fight sluggishness and help us reach our goals? For 2014, choose eating as your ally to provide the energy you need to meet your New Year’s resolutions.
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