The Best and Worst Foods for More Energy
Are you struggling with chronic fatigue?
Even if not, I'm sure it happened to you more than once, that you felt like you want to fall asleep... mid-day!
There are an overwhelming number of variables that affect our energy levels.
For the majority of people, the biggest variable is nutrition.
Obviously, there are many exceptions like people with illnesses.
However, if you are illness-free and coping with chronic fatigue then nutrition is the best place to start experimenting.In some cases the issue is simple nutrient deficiencies and can be rectified with smoothies, nutrition shakes and supplements.
In other cases, poor dietary habits may be reacting to the body in a counter-productive way by causing inflammation, chronic hangovers, etc.
What is “Energy?”
Let’s first get the technical definition out of the way - energy in the cell is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
This is created by metabolizing either glucose or fats. This does play a part in the overall conversation, however for the purpose of this discussion a more subjective definition of energy is more appropriate.
We'll refer to energy as the absence of chronic fatigue in this article. Fatigue is not necessarily caused by a lack of ATP, although it can play a role.
Causes of chronic fatigue can range from psychological issues, to inflammation, to drug and alcohol use, to nutrient deficiencies, to countless other explanations.However, the most common solution that people find success with is adjustments to their diet.
Why Do I Crash After a Meal?
One of the most common issues related to energy and fatigue is post-meal crashing. This is typically caused by a high amount of carbohydrates spiking blood sugar.
This is not necessarily a simple sugar issue, more complex carbohydrates can have the same effect. This can be a major point of misunderstanding for many people.
It is extremely normal for people to eat large amounts of bread, potato, or other starchy carbs assuming it's healthy.
Fruit juice and high-sugar fruits fall into the same category. These foods tend to cause massive spikes in blood sugar that are quickly metabolized and followed by a crash.
This is often a sticking point for newcomers to nutrition shakes. It's common to add juice, sweetened yogurt, and fruit to shakes that are extremely high in sugar. This can be extremely detrimental to energy levels.
Using low-sugar fruits, vegetables, unsweetened protein powders, avocado, unsweetened yogurt, etc. are much better alternatives.
To sweeten the shake, healthy alternatives like stevia or xylitol should be considered.This will deliver the nutrients you need for stable energy levels without the blood sugar spike.
Swerving the Crash: What Foods to Avoid
The obvious culprits of blood sugar spikes are easy to avoid. Junk food, fast food, candy, etc. It's the less obvious culprits that are worth pointing out.
Below is a list of food to avoid that may cause energy crashes:
Clean Energy: Healthy Fats
Another major point of misunderstanding is the controversy around fat. Recent revelations have shed light on how bad science shifted the blame of health issues to fat.
These issues were actually more likely linked to processed carbohydrates.
Modern science has now demonstrated how superior healthy fats are as a fuel source compared to processed carbohydrates.
The adjustment to fat as fuel takes some time, but once your body acclimates there are many benefits to enjoy.
These benefits include stable energy levels with no crashes, reduced inflammation, increases in cognitive function, and reduced precursors to issues like Alzheimer's.
Applying this thinking to shakes can seem counterintuitive, however it is pretty easy to achieve. Below is a list of ingredients that work well in shakes:
*Raw eggs carry the risk of salmonella. Salmonella exists on the shell off the egg, nothing about raw egg itself is unhealthy.
Washing the shell beforehand can dramatically reduce your risk.
Weight watchers recently upgraded eggs to being a zero-point food (eat as much as you want) in light of new research showing the false assumption that they can lead to heart disease.
Keeping the Body Balanced: Vitamins and Minerals
An imbalanced vitamin/mineral profile can negatively affect energy in an extremely significant way.
The balancing process tends to include a lot of guesswork. One way around that guesswork is to go get your blood tested.
A blood test will give you a snapshot of what your vitamin/mineral levels are and provide insight on what should be supplemented.
That being said, there are some safe assumptions that can be made without blood work. For example, around 75% of people are below the ideal level of Vitamin D. So Vitamin D supplementation is a pretty safe bet.
Typically, a healthy diet keeps the body relatively well balanced.
However, a good quality multivitamin is typically a great idea. Supplementation past that is guesswork unless blood-work is involved.
There are acute causes of vitamin/mineral imbalance that are extremely common. For example, a very large percent of the population regularly drinks to the point of a hangover the next day.
That hangover is caused by the body being knocked out of balance through an influx of acetaldehyde.
In order to return to stasis, the body needs to metabolize the acetaldehyde present in the body.
For cases like this, products like Intelligent Drinking are extremely convenient solutions. Not only is it healthy, but it can reduce the effect and duration of your hangover significantly.
Intermittent Fasting for Sustained Energy
Aside from blood sugar spikes and nutrient issues, another cause of energy depletion is inflammation.
Believe it or not, research has shown that intermittent fasting can help to resolve all of these issues.
When no calories move through your stomach for 16 hours or so, you give your body time to enter a "cleaning mode" of sorts.
During this time anti-inflammatory markers are produced, as are ketone bodies. This makes your body much more effective at burning fat for fuel as opposed to glucose.
Once settled into this process, hunger cravings are significantly reduced as your body feeds on stores of fat instead of what's in your stomach.
This is yet another point of misunderstanding that has a mountain of new evidence supporting its efficacy.
The Ideal Approach
The quick and dirty of increasing energy is pretty simple. Reduce processed carbohydrates, junk food and alcohol consumption.
To keep a new regimen convenient, as well as ensuring you're getting the calories you need, incorporating shakes into your daily routine is extremely effective.
Going 16 hours per day without consuming calories is also a great way to kick start your body into burning fat instead of glucose.
The great thing about making your energy levels increase is that you are embarking on the process of improving your overall health in general.
The positive side-effects of this process include better mood, longer life, greater cognitive function, and a reduced likelihood of disease.
Now it's your turn - try changing a little bit of your diet, every other day, and let us know in the comments below, how's your energy levels improving!