You’re tired at work, but it’s only 2:00 p.m. and you have a meeting at 5:00 p.m. and paperwork to complete after that. You have read that you should get up and go for a walk to put some pep back in your step, but there’s no time for that. So, your walk ends up at the break room for a quick Keurig-pick-me-up. Hold that caffeinated thought!
Your body is running out of steam because it needs fuel. You control the energy boost with the quality of the fuel you feed the engine, and all energy sources are not created equal. Grabbing meals and snacks that contain essential fiber, protein, Omega-3s and other nutrients will give your body a boost without the crash of a quick caffeine or sugar rush. Next time you’re lagging a bit, try one of these super energy fuels instead, or better yet, eat them proactively to supply sustainable energy to get you through your high-pressured day.
1. Water – If you didn’t begin your day with a glass of water, your body is probably already behind. You slept all night without drinking (and yes, women, those night sweats do deplete your stores even more) and you crave this major lifesource. Dehydration will lead to fatigue.
2. Grains – If you love your carbs for the afternoon sugar boost they provide, toss the Twinkies! Instead, select smarter carbs. Carbohydrates raise seratonin levels in the brain (the chemicals that make you feel good) and they give your body an easy boost. Try some brown rice with veggies, some quinoa, or a multi-grain roll for your sandwich at lunch. If you select your bread from the local bakery on the corner, you are supporting your good health and a local, small business.
3. Nuts – Cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are packed with protein and magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral essential to the production of energy. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which is a natural mood booster. Studies have linked lack of selenium with poor moods.
4. Legumes –Lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas are all excellent sources of fiber. They stabilize blood glucose levels to reduce the risk of the afternoon “crash.”
5. Eggs – Despite their bad for their potential contribution to higher cholesterol, eggs are a superior food for several reasons. Eggs contain B vitamins such as folic acid, choline and biotin. The protein in eggs is 97% absorbable by the body, making them an excellent source for long-term energy. The body more easily absorbs the vitamin A in eggs because vitamin A requires fat for absorption, a healthy version of which is already in the egg itself.
6. Veggies – Red or Green Peppers, celery, carrots make great options if you crave crunch. Try them with hummus to get the benefits of the vegetables plus the chickpeas in the hummus. Sweet potatoes provide carbs for energy, are high in fiber, and are loaded with vitamins A and C. Bake them at home and bring to work to warm in the microwave for lunch or an afternoon snack.
7. Fruits – Bananas offer potassium and B vitamins while they help keep your blood sugar stable. Apples, peaches, apricots are loaded with vitamins and fiber and are naturally hydrating as well. Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits provide vitamin C to boost your immune system.
8. Fish – You may have heard of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, herring and tuna, but do you know how they benefit your body? Omega-3s are unsaturated fatty acids that are thought to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation damages the body, including blood vessels, and may lead to heart disease. Additionally, they also reduce triglycerides in the blood and may lower blood pressure. Many fish also provide selenium and vitamin D. You get the excellent energy of protein without the saturated fats found in meats. Try tuna with lemon for your afternoon snack.
9. Lean Meats – Skinless chicken or turkey and lean beef and pork all provide the amino acid, tyrosine, which triggers brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine to enhance your mood. Their protein is a sustained energy source to keep you going all afternoon.
10. Tea – If you must have that caffeine boost, choose the one with the greater health benefits, tea. Before you brew, make sure you select “real” tea, as in Camellia sinensis, the plant that produces black, green, white and oolong teas. Everything else is an herbal imposter. Antioxidants in tea may protect against some cancers, and those same antioxidants help the body burn fat as fuel. (Although you probably shouldn’t rely on only tea for that!) Polyphenols in green tea are thought to assist the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory, and who wouldn’t like to remember more?
If you really must have a quick boost, I promise you’ll love this recommendation…Chocolate…Dark Chocolate. Choose a dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao, the bean from which cocoa powder, and thus chocolate, is made. The flavanoids and theobromine in dark chocolate are chemicals that are good for you. (Yeah, we didn’t care how either, but it makes us feel better about problem solving through chocolate.) If you still need incentive to consume dark chocolate for your snack, it contains vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium and copper that are good for your physical health as well as your emotional health.10