The other day a girlfriend was asking me how it’s possible that she could have increased her exercise regime again and yet felt much more tired and sluggish than normal. There may be a few reasons for this.
As autumn sets in with its seasonal changes, it is a great opportunity for us to stop and examine the fuel we are providing our bodies. Gone are some of the easy summer stone-fruit snacks and often we find ourselves looking for more than just an apple, pear or an orange. We may now find ourselves purchasing long shelf- life items which are generally lacking in nutrients and additional caffeinated beverages to wash them down, all the while wondering why our energy levels are fluctuating.
The first thing to remember is that to sustain good energy levels the body needs the right combinations of carbohydrates, protein and fats eaten at regular intervals. This means providing your body with both quick burning fuels such as carbohydrates, which are just like adding paper or kindling to a fire, and also ensuring that you eat enough protein, slow burning wood or long lasting fuel for the body, throughout the day.
To keep your energy levels from falling, plan to eat small meals or snacks every three to four hours. Eating healthy snacks will help blood-sugar levels stay even so that there are no energy ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.
· Stick mostly to natural unprocessed foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. Pre-pack combinations of sliced veggies such as carrot and celery with sliced apple and sultanas, goji berries or nuts.
Natural sugars are much better for you than refined sugars. Avoid processed fruits – one 125g tub of Goulburn Valley sliced peaches in juice contains 3.5tsp of sugar
· Choose wholegrains snacks and cereals.
· Drink plenty of water- at least 2 litres a day.
Not enough fluids can cause fatigue due to dehydration. So drink plenty of water and herbal teas. One cup of berri apple juice will add 6.5 tsp of sugar to your day and only offer a quick energy fix.
· Have regular chiropractic adjustments to help elevate your immune strength.
· Maintain exercise. A lack of activity breeds sluggishness.
· Take a multivitamin supplement every few days.
When you do occasionally indulge with a less than ideal treat, as we all do from time to time, choose quality items. Forget “low fat” filled with additional sugar, have exactly want you want, just don’t gorge yourself and eat the whole lot in one session. That is to say, have some good full fat ice-cream occasionally just don’t eat half the tub. The key is to enjoy all foods in moderation.
· Try not to skip meals or scheduled snacks.
· Avoid eating just carbohydrates such as breads, rice, pasta and fruit and veggies – your body needs PROTEIN! This can be animal, bean, pulse, sea veggie or plant based.
· Eating fried or fatty foods can make you feel sluggish, this includes eating potato chips, gravy and sauces.
· Avoid consuming added sugar (in coffee, tea and cereals)
· Minimise your caffeinated beverages. Caffeine plays havoc with your energy and most types of these beverages also contain loads of hidden sugar – one 375ml can of Coca-Cola = 10 tsp of sugar.
· Avoid eating white breads and nutritionless crackers
Low Fat Isn’T Always Healthier!
Eating sugar is not necessarily a problem, provided the sugar you eat is natural and not to excess. Many low-fat products contain a lot more sugar than regular foods.
If you are on the run and too busy to prepare your own healthy snacks, check the labels and don’t be misled by clever marketing, for example, ‘Health Bars’ are often packed full of sugar and fats.
Make Sure You Know What You’Re Putting In Your Mouth!
Checking the amount of sugar, sodium or salt and fat in products, per 100 grams is a good way of comparing products. Go for the one with the lowest total energy. If you are comparing products you want to look for the ones with the lowest fat, sugar and salt. You really do need to check for yourself as manufacturers may not tell you the full story clearly on the front of the packet.
For example, if the kilo joules per 100 grams is the same in the low fat and the full fat yoghurt, you are not going to be much better off if you are trying to lose weight. Another example is if the label says there is 10 grams of fat per 100 grams, it means there is 10 percent of fat in the food. The same rule applies for sugar.
Where Salt, Sugar And Fat Are Hiding…
· Processed meats such as ham and turkey, sausages, salami, savoury biscuits, roasted and salted nuts are all high in fat and salt.
· Bread, pretzels and popcorn are high in salt.
· Commercially baked biscuits and cakes are generally high in fat and sugar.
· Tinned fish or vegetables cooked in brine are high in salt.
· Low fat foods are often high in sugar and salt.
· Breakfast bars are high in fat and sugar.
· Breakfast drinks are high in sugar and salt.
You Can Avoid These By:
· Looking out for those sneaky ingredients like fructose, dextrose and corn syrup, which are not listed as sugars but are just as potent.
· Remove visible fats from meats.
· Choose foods labeled no added salt or low salt
· Make your own breakfast cereals of rolled oats, fresh and dried fruits, plain nuts, bran, low fat yoghurt and low fat milk (if low in sugar).
· Create delicious snacks.
Watching out for hidden ingredients is a way to conserve our energy.
So pre-plan the fuel you offer your body. Cook or purchase foods before you are starving hungry.
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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