The alarm has just gone off and it feels like you literally just dropped off after a night tossing and turning, unable to sleep. So now you have to get through the day even though you have no energy.
For most of us our first thoughts go to an infusion of caffeine followed by something sweet or bready. How else are you going to be able to take on all the challenges that the day will throw at you? But actually, those very foods we crave when we are tired are the ones most likely to contribute to fatigue, low mood and poor attention. Glucose (sugar) is the only fuel the brain can use. It can make glucose from proteins and stored fats, but that takes time. Your brain wants SUGAR – and it wants it NOW!
You might feel great for a few minutes, but it does last. When we eat sugar and refined carbohydrates the pancreas releases insulin to take the glucose out of the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used. But often more insulin is released than is actually needed, meaning that all the blood sugar is removed and there is none left to keep your brain fuelled. This leaves you feeling more tired than ever and craving more sugar and more caffeine. So you might have a biscuit and a cup of coffee and the cycle of yoyo-ing blood-sugar levels continues.
So what should we eat that will make us feel better and keep up fuelled up for the day?
The most important thing you can do is have a good breakfast that will set you up to make better food choices throughout the day. I recommend that you always try to start the day with some protein, some fat and something green – think poached eggs and asparagus, spinach omelette, smoked salmon and avocado.
Protein and fat will slow down the release sugar into the blood stream and will not cause the surge of insulin so you won’t get the sudden drop in blood sugar levels that leave you feeling totally depleted. They will also leave you feeling fuller so you are less likely to reach for a jammy dodger mid-morning. Green vegetables will contain some carbohydrates to give your brain the fuel it needs, but they come packaged with lots of lovely essential nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium that can really help boost energy. Green vegetables generally have a slightly bitter taste. As we eat more and more of them our taste subtly changes until we start to find sweet things, just too sweet. Eating more green vegetables is a really good way of weaning yourself off sweets things.
For the rest of the day, try avoid snacking as much as possible and see if you can construct meals around foods that have been shown to increase energy. These include:
- Whole grains and pulses such as brown rice, pearl barley, rye, buckwheat, lentils, chick peas, butter beans, kidney beans which contain the whole range of energy-boosting B vitamins.
- Energy-packed vegetables, fruits and herbs. These include sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, spinach, asparagus, apricots, blackberries, parsley, watercress, beetroot which are rich in iron, but unlike iron-supplements, won’t make you constipated.
- Lentils, chick peas, butter beans, kidney beans are rich in iron, B vitamins and phyto-oestrogens
- Other helpful herbs and spices for energy include ginger, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin and coriander seeds. Curry anyone?
About Sara Jubb:
Sara Jubb is a Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist who works in private practice at Terapia Consultancy in Farringdon, London. She also acts as a nutritional consultant for a number of different businesses. Her naturopathic approach to nutrition is to support the body’s own healing processes and her goal is for her clients to become the best possible version of themselves they can be with enduring good health and abundant energy.
For more information visit Sara at sarajubbnaturopathy.co.uk