When it comes to feeling your best one of the requests I hear from people the most is “I would love to have more energy!” Wouldn’t we all?! As a working parent I’m constantly striving to find the right balance of work and daily activity vs. rest and recovery. Let’s just say there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything on my to-do list done, but I do have some strategic food tactics to help me increase my energy levels throughout the day.
Before we dive in it might be helpful to fully understand what makes us “tired” in the first place.
What Zaps Our Energy?
“Slow Cells” – Let’s take a quick field trip back to 8th grade biology for a minute. Our body is the sum of an intricate bionetwork, trillions of cells all working together to keep us alive and thriving. If the cells in the various organ systems within your body are struggling to function at their highest level, you will in turn have less energy. If your cells are struggling to perform essential tasks, such as shuttling sodium and potassium in and out of the cell (sorry I’m such a nerd), then you indeed will see your energy suffer. Micronutrient deficiency (think vitamins & minerals), electrolyte imbalances and hydration, among others, are common culprits of cellular energy dysfunction.
Too Little Sleep – If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a thousand times: we need 7-8 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. Not only are you setting yourself up for less energy in the day ahead when you short-change yourself, you’ll likely find yourself struggling with sugar cravings and a short attention span as well.
Too Much Caffeine – Yes! Sadly your favorite caffeinated beverages can backfire, as over time its effect will decline and may even have negative impacts on your adrenal health and cortisol levels (your body’s natural stress hormone).
So what can you do each day to ensure you are safeguarding your energy levels? Let’s take a look.
Eat High-Energy Foods
A Protein-packed Breakfast – Many of us are guilty of skipping breakfast sometimes, but if that skip has become your norm, let’s get you set up for lasting energy with a protein-rich start to your day. Here are a few of my faves:
- “Proatmeal” – protein packed oatmeal! I love the fiber that a quarter cup of oats can provide, but it doesn’t have enough protein on its own – enter my “Proatmeal” recipe: ¼ cup quick-cook oats, ½ scoop Life Time Vanilla Grass-fed Whey, ½ scoop Life Time Vanilla Collagen Peptides, 1 scoop glutamine (helps with gut health & reducing post-exercise soreness that can zap energy), 1 Tbsp ground flax meal, and 2 Tbsp dried fruit of your choice. Add water & microwave for 30-45 seconds for 20+ grams of energy-packed protein to start your day.
- Eggs – No need to get fancy here, but eggs pack a big punch if you include them in your breakfast. Ensure you are getting 2-3 eggs either cooked to order, hard boiled, or made ahead of time in Portable Egg Cups.
- Protein Shake – Looking to keep it simple? Go for a protein shake! Use your favorite protein powder to shake up 20-30 grams of protein to kick-start your energy.
Fiber-rich Veggies & Fruits – I’m a big fan of a colorful plate and getting fiber from real-food sources all day long for satisfaction and consistent energy. Fiber will help keep you satisfied longer, especially when paired with protein-rich foods. I love apple slices with Greek yogurt, berries with cottage cheese, carrots with organic deli meat, and celery sticks with almond butter, just to name a few.
Red Meat – Getting protein in consistently throughout the day can be crucial for your energy. And when it comes to increasing your energy, red meat takes top honors because it contains heme iron which helps improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Eating your iron-rich dark colored meats, like red meat, dark-meat poultry, and wild caught salmon, can help increase oxygen delivery to your cells, helping to promote better overall energy levels! Bonus tip: be sure to pair your red meat with vitamin C rich foods to increase your iron absorption (think steak fajitas with bell peppers and onions).
Nuts & Seeds – These energy dense plant foods are full of protein, healthy fats, and fiber to help keep you energized throughout your day. Whether you are eating nuts & seeds as a topping on your salad or on their own as a snack your portion size is key. A serving of nuts is roughly ¼ cup, so if you are buying in bulk be sure to portion out into grab-and-go snack sizes to avoid overeating.
How to Develop Energy-Boosting Habits
In addition to ensuring I eat high-energy foods, I am also focused on three key non-food actions each and every day: drinking at least ½ my body weight in ounces of water, consistently taking my high-quality multivitamin and fish oil supplements, and prioritizing my sleep. While often considered so simple, I see so many people struggle with these critical energy-promoting habits. Here is a peek into how I keep myself on point:
- I always keep water within reach and I aim for a bit of variety by tossing 12 ounces of sparkling water each afternoon.
- I limit water at meal times (which helps improve digestion), instead favoring sipping on water between meals and snacks.
- I also don’t count the water I drink during my workouts in my water total for the day; doing so may lead to mild dehydration.
- I package up my weekly supplements on Sundays and keep my AM round at my desk at work – makes it easy to make sure I don’t forget them each morning!
- At night I take my PM round just after washing my dinner plate. A simple routine that works!
Sleep Routine Tips
- Each night after putting my daughter to bed I get myself ready for bed as well, following the same simple steps each and every time – put on PJs, wash my face, brush my teeth. This conditions my body and my mind to know the day is almost at an end.
- I start winding down by turning down all the lights in my house and limiting screen time. I wear blue-light blocking glasses when I do indulge in my DVR library or scroll through social media.
- I go to bed at roughly the same time each night of the week and keep my bedroom at a comfortable, but cool temperature (68 degrees is recommended).
Julie Brown — MS, RD, CSSD, PN2 Life Time National Nutrition Program Coordinator
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.