5 tips to improve energy for your working day!
We all have days where our energy is on the floor and we are not as productive as others. Though for some, this can be more than a day and can stretch out into weeks or more. Rushing through meals, eating less nutrient-dense food and snacking late into the night, combined with increased stress levels, have all become typical habits of how we now live. All of which contribute to low energy levels!
As humans, we need food to provide energy and the type of food we eat, can have a significant impact on our energy levels, concentration and productivity levels at work. Consuming a diet low in nutrients and high in energy can lead to spikes and crashes in energy levels, fatigue and overall reduced productivity levels.
Signs that your diet is not meeting your energy needs are lack of concentration, fatigue, disturbed sleep and irregular bowel movements!
The energy we gain from food is complex. It can vary depending on the type of food we eat, to how we metabolise it and how much we expend. The aim is for dietary choices that minimise swings and crashes in our blood sugar levels, that leave us feeling low in energy concentration and craving more energy-dense food. The right combinations of food, may help achieve more stable energy levels. So here we have compiled five tips to help maximize your energy:
1. Ensuring you refuel consistently!
Having a regular eating pattern has been shown to be more beneficial to us. This translates into 2-3 meals/day, with snacks if needed. Refueling every three to four hours can help maintain energy levels, consistent blood sugar levels and decrease tiredness and irritability. It will also prevent between-meal hunger, that can lead to unhealthy snacking or overeating at meals. Eating at consistent times between a 12-hour window, can support robust circadian rhythms, energy levels, sleep, and indeed appetite (1). We don’t expect our car to run without adequate fuel and our body is no different.
2. Get the right energy foods in!
Carbohydrates are an important energy source, and our requirements can vary depending on our age, gender, level of activity etc. Our brain is only 2% of our body weight but consumes 20% of our energy intake! Therefore, we need to ensure that we have enough energy to sustain it and the rest of our body through the day. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and confectionary are often referred to as ‘simple sugars’ because they are released quickly into the bloodstream and can lead to energy highs that are followed by energy lows often called the “blood sugar rollercoaster”.
Conversely complex carbohydrates, release energy slowly. These higher fibre foods take longer to breakdown and slowly release sugar into the bloodstream. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains like oats, brown rice, barley, rye, millet and quinoa, buckwheat. So, choose a higher fibre option in cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta to help maintain more constant energy levels.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of adequate hydration!
If your body is short on fluids, one of the first signs is a feeling of fatigue. Even mild dehydration of 1% to 2% can impair physical and mental performance (2,3). We know that drinking enough water is crucial for our body to function properly and as adults, we are recommended to drink between 6 to 8 cups daily. However, keep in mind that you may need more if you exercise, depending on the intensity, time, and conditions.
Staying hydrated is key and water is always best, though teas, coffees and other beverages do count towards your daily intake. While a moderate intake of coffee (3-4 cups) can enhance concentration, too much can cause anxiety and raise blood pressure (3).
Some tips to help increase your water include:
· Keep a large glass or litre bottle of water at your desk as a gentle reminder to drink.
· Set a reminder alarm on your phone!
· Add flavour with berries, citrus fruits, cucumber or herbs like mint.
As adults approx. 55-60% of our body is water!
4. You may need snacks too and that’s ok!
Snacking is often demonised. However, we all have different nutritional needs and while some may not need snacks, for others it can be a vital way of increasing their energy intake. They can also be a great way to help maintain energy levels and prevent overeating later, especially on those busy days.
Two things become important when we consider snacks. Firstly, am I hungry or just bored/eating out of habit? Check in and ask if you are hungry. Secondly, it’s important to choose a snack that will support and nourish you. Always choose a higher fibre food and a protein. This way our blood sugar levels will be maintained, and we will stay fuller for longer!
Having some healthy snacks to hand can help avoid reaching for the high sugar biscuits, cakes etc. Some ideas include having these at work:
• A bag of mixed fruit (apples, oranges, pears, bananas) with a jar of nut butter
• Bags of unsalted nuts – almonds, walnuts, brazilin etc
• Stock up on oatcakes, multigrain rice cakes that you can add cheese to
• Natural live yoghurts are also useful and have with a piece of fruit.
5. Get enough micronutrients for energy production!
Although our main energy sources are macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Micronutrients also play a vital role in energy metabolism. B vitamins are responsible for energy production and help convert food to the energy our body needs. When we don’t get enough or are deficient, it can lead to fatigue. Vitamin B1 plays an important role in converting carbohydrates to energy, vitamins B2, B3, and B6 support the release of energy from foods, and vitamins B7 and B12 help in the metabolism macronutrients. B vitamins are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meat, fish, leafy greens. B12 is only found in animal products or in fortified plant foods like nutritional yeast.
Deficiency in the mineral Iron can lead to feelings of fatigue, both physically and mentally. Ensuring an adequate intake from red meat, shellfish or plant sources like beans, lentils, tofu, leafy greens and sesame seeds is key. It is also important to remember that having vitamin C in your meal also helps the absorption of iron. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli and spinach. So think of the rainbow of colour when looking at your plate.
While we have focused on food here, other factors like taking adequate time to eat, getting enough sleep and plenty of exercise are also important in ensuring our energy levels are maintained. Checking in with ourselves and asking how we feel? Is our energy waning, are we hungry? Gives us the best indication of what our body might need to get us through the day.
Finally, it’s important to remember that there is no one nutrient that’s responsible for ill health, and there is no one nutrient that will make us healthy. It really is about our overall dietary pattern. To maintain adequate energy to support our working day, its about a balance in what we eat and drink to give us the best chance of staying off that rollercoaster!
- Manoogian, E.N., Chaix, A. and Panda, S. (2019) “When to eat: The importance of eating patterns in health and disease,” Journal of Biological Rhythms, 34(6), pp. 579–581.
- Benelam, B. and Wyness, L. (2010) “Hydration and health: A Review,” Nutrition Bulletin, 35(1), pp. 3–25.
- Benton, D. (2011) “Dehydration influences mood and cognition: A plausible hypothesis?,” Nutrients, 3(5), pp. 555–573.
Leave A Comment