When you’re facing the afternoon doldrums and all you really want is a nap, you’re likely looking for a quick fix of fats and sweets to wake you up. But stay your hand and turn away from the vending machine, young Skywalker. The force is with you…that is, the force of healthy food choices. You know that gobbling down a candy bar is going to get you hyped up for about an hour (in which you may get a lot of work done, albeit in a scatterbrained manner) and then you’ll suffer the inevitable crash that takes you even lower than before (necessitating more sugar…it’s a vicious cycle, folks). But there is a better way. By knowing which healthy and natural food sources can give you not only a boost of energy, but also sustained energy and a satisfied feeling that lasts longer, you can say sayonara to sugar and embrace a more balanced form of eating. Here are a few suggestions.
- Caffeine. Okay, you might be shaking your head, thinking that this energy-booster belongs on the “bad” list. And you’d be right if your idea of consuming caffeine includes a 1,200-calorie Venti Mocha-frappa-whatsit full of sugar and fat. This is the wrong type of caffeine! Sorry to say, taking it black isn’t much better (although you’ll skip all the calories). The problem is coffee. It has too much caffeine and much like sugar, it hits your body and burns fast, fading all too soon. If you can’t give up the caffeinated beverages, turn to tea instead. Green or black, it really doesn’t matter – you’re going to get a slighter pick-me-up that lasts longer and doesn’t leave you with a caffeine hangover. Just make sure you add plenty of water to your diet throughout the day since caffeine can leave you dehydrated.
- Protein. Generally speaking, protein is not considered an “energy” food. Its role in your body is to help sustain and repair muscles. However, it is part of a balanced diet that helps you to stave off fatigue and face the day with stamina. There are two types of protein, complete (which comes from meat and animal products) and incomplete (from nuts, grains, legumes, and leafy greens). You can go for either, but incompletes will have to be mixed to get all the protein you need.
- Veggies. Did you know that a lack of nutrients can leave you feeling awful? You need all kinds of vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning properly and that’s where vegetables come in. A variety of colorful options is best, since they’ll give you different nutrients. But dark green veggies in particular will give you a power-packed punch of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that will make you feel fantastic.
- Fruits. If you simply can’t give up sugar, at least skip the processed kind. Go for fruits or smoothies instead for a gentle wave of extra energy that will fade gradually instead of burning you out.
- Carbs. The absolute best energy additive for your day is complex carbohydrates like those found in whole grains. These will stick with you the longest since they are slowly digested, and they deliver huge amounts of energy to every part of your body. The best part is, you digest these items slowly so that you feel full longer and you enjoy steady, sustained energy. Plus, when you consume enough carbs for fuel, the other foods you eat can better do their jobs instead of being used for raw energy.
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