Energy Is Everything In Foods
Vitality, verve, that get-up-and-go feeling! Some people seem to sail through a busy day and still have energy to spare at the end of it. In the search for stamina there has to be some commitment to exercise, time to unwind and recharge the batteries and inevitably, an audit of your kitchen presses.
Energy is measured in either joules or calories. We tend to stick to calories in this country. People use large amounts of energy so we use larger units called kilocalories (or kcal for short) to express how much energy we need or how much energy is found in 100g of a particular food.
All foods and most drinks contain calories which we can use as an energy source. The nutrients that provide us with energy (calories) are carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol.
For optimum health, it is recommended that over half our energy should come from carbohydrates and not from protein as many celebrity diets might suggest. Starchy foods such as wholemeal pasta, breakfast cereal, rice, bread and potatoes provide fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as energy. Our bodies run most efficiently when carbohydrate is burned as a fuel. It’s more difficult to utilise fat and protein as energy sources.
Eating at the right time of the day can make a difference to our feelings of energy and alertness and can therefore make a difference to sleeping and relaxation patterns. By tweaking the amount and type of food we eat, as well as the timing of our meals, we can help sustain mental and physical energy when we need it most.
So if you experience fatigue or a dip in energy after lunch, you could take a closer look at your lunch. High-protein lunches appear to produce greater alertness and more focused attention, whereas lunches that are high in fat tend to lead to greater fatigue, sleepiness and distraction.
Unfortunately endless cups of coffee throughout the day only temporarily improve alertness by stimulating an increase in blood glucose and adrenalin. It also appears that we can get so used to our regular caffeine fix, that it just becomes less effective with time. Moderate caffeine intake (2-3 cups of coffee per day) doesn’t appear to cause problems in most healthy people but if you drink more than this and you want to cut down, it’s best to do so gradually in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, nausea, headaches and mood swings. Space out your drinks over longer and longer periods, then make them weaker and finally replace them with water, herb teas, fruit juices or smoothies.
Too much alcohol will also sap your energy completely. It robs your body of vital vitamins, especially B vitamins which play an important part of releasing energy from food. In excess, it causes high blood pressure and its diuretic action can dehydrate the body, causing tiredness and headache. On the other hand, moderate drinking is associated with decreased risk of heart disease and lower overall mortality. It’s really back to a little of what you fancy.
|ENERGY BOOSTERS||ENERGY ROBBERS|
|Have a carbohydrate rich breakfast to kick start your day|
|Porridge or muesli with low fat milk, fruit or fruit juice|
|A safe limit is 14 units (women) and 21 units (men) over the week.|
|Have one or two alcohol free days|
|Small protein rich lunch|
|Tinned tuna or warm chicken salad|
|Feta cheese on rye crackers with watercress or baby spinach leaves and vinaigrette.|
|Hummus and tomato on a toasted English muffin.|
|Robs you of precious energy|
|Makes extra work for the antioxidants which detoxify the body.|
|Speeds up the rate at which you use up Vitamin C and B vitamins. Smokers need twice as much vitamin C as non smokers.|
|Low GI Carbohydrates for your evening meal|
|Pasta salad or hot pasta main course|
|Causes fatigue, digestive problems, lowered immunity and loss of appetite.|
|Low fat yoghurt|
|Pear, apples, some grapes|
|Oat cakes or flapjacks instead of ordinary biscuits or cake|
|Sports drinks, smoothies|
|Raw veggies and low fat dip|
|Iron deficiency anaemia|
|A lack of iron to transport oxygen and release energy from the cells can lead to chronic fatigue.|
|Tannin in tea and coffee can interfere with the absorption of iron so avoid these drinks at mealtimes.|
|Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)|
|Fresh air during lunch or break|
|Eight large glasses of water every day|
|Regular exercise boosts energy. Walk briskly, meditate, listen to music or get into the garden to unwind.|
|Food intolerances or allergy|
|Fatigue can be a symptom of a gluten intolerance because iron is not absorbed from the damaged gut|
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