Eat For Energy

you just can’t get through the mid-afternoon without a visit to the office vending machine?

Many of us suffer from less then optimal energy levels during the day and it is not always due to inadequate sleep patterns either.

The timing, amounts and types of foods or lifestyle choices you make can greatly impact your daily energy levels. The difference between being sleepy and staying alert for most of the day may be as simple as making some smarter food choices.

Check out these 13 best tips to energise you daily:

Don’t skip breakfast– Start the day the right day with an antioxidant and wholegrain carbohydrate rich breakfast, low fat dairy or calcium rich soy products and fruit. Not only will this provide you with slowly absorbed carbs for maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels after your overnight fast but will also provide you with a shot of essential B vitamins crucial for energy release, concentration and red blood cell production to name a few. Wholegrain cereals are also one of the best sources of dietary fibre too reducing your likelihood to succumb to those sweet muffins that call from the cafe down the street. Why not try a bowl of porridge or natural wholegrain muesli or if you are really pushed for time try a slice of heavy wholegrain fruit bread with a skinny latte or cappuccino or low fat yoghurt and a piece of fruit –a perfectly balanced meal in a portable form.

energise you daily

Eat consistently throughout the day. Try 5-6 smaller meals (3 smaller mains boulstered with 2-3 healthy snacks) rather than 3 large main meals. Again this will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and your energy levels optimised and avoid the midafternoon slump. Try not to go longer then 3-4 hours between top ups.

Be prepared. Don’t rely on what snacks may be available. Be sure to always have a stash of healthy snack options in the office draw or ready in the fridge. Vegetable sticks and low fat hommous or tzatziki, quality low fat fibre rich low sugar muesli bars, chopped fruit salad, low fat low sugar yoghurt, wholegrain crackers with low fat cheese and tomato, small tub of baked beans with reduced salt tomato sauce, low fat vegetable rich soup, slice wholegrain fruit toast with spread of low fat ricotta and low sugar jam, small bowl of cereal and low fat milk, small handful or raw walnuts or almonds, skinny cappuccino or latte.

Iron it out. Make sure you get 2-3 haem iron rich meals a week. Oysters, mussels, clams, lean red meat such as kangaroo, venison and lean beef are the richest and most easily absorbed (what we call haem iron)sources. Be sure to also include plenty of non haem sources each day such as spinach, lentils, iron fortified cereals e.g. Weet-bix , tempeh, and eggs to optimise iron uptake it whenever you can. Iron is crucial for healthy oxygen levels and delivery to all your muscles and vital organs. Inadequate amounts will leave you lethargic, irritable, make it difficult to concentrate and when levels get really depleted may result in depression.

Meet your 2 & 5. Be sure to reach the recommended minimum of 5 serves of vegetables and 2 fruits daily to ensure adequate vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake.

Quality unrefined carbs. Be sure to choose wholegrain cereals and breads, pasta and slower digested carbohydrates such as low fat dairy or soy products, fruits such as berries, apples, pears, oranges etc and starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, sweet corn, Carisma potatoes and peas and legumes such as chick peas and lentils. The longer it takes your body to digest carbohydrates, the longer your body receives a gradual sugar uptake and thus the longer you feel energised.

 vegetables and 2 fruits daily

Add some lean protein. Adding a small amount of lean protein to each meal or snack will help to sustain the uptake of carbohydrate and keep you feeling fuller for longer periods. Large amounts of carbohydrate (e.g. large bowl of tomato based pasta, pizza or large white bread roll) at lunch can result in mid-afternoon drowsiness and lethargy , so keeping carbs to moderate amounts and adding some lean protein such as low fat tasty, ricotta or cottage cheese, low fat milk or yoghurt, 4 bean mix, tofu, lean fish, or chicken breast or a boiled egg will prevent you from hitting the wall.

Use caffeine wisely. Small amounts of caffeine cane certainly help assist energy levels and have been shown to improve alertness, concentration and energy levels. However too much has the opposite effect leaving you irritable, anxious and is likely to disrupt your sleep cycle for the next night –reducing your energy levels for the next day. Keep it to no more than 4 instant or 2-3 espresso style shots daily or up to 6 cups moderate strength tea daily. Coffee, tea both black and green are rich sources of antioxidants but be sure to consume in moderation. Minimise caffeine rich energy drinks and soft drinks as they contribute negligible nutrition, excess sugar and also food acids that are detrimental to bone and teeth health.

Avoid too much alcohol. Like caffeine, alcohol acts as a diuretic when consumed in larger then recommended amounts and furthermore greatly depletes B vitamins crucial for carbohydrate breakdown, healthy red blood cells and energy release. No more than one alcoholic drink for women and two for men per day is recommended with at least 4 alcohol free days each week. Alcohol and energy are an inverse relationship-the less alcohol you have the more energised you will be.


Hydrate well. Leading on from the last two points – drink plenty of water based fluids, water based foods such as fruits and vegetables and to not over do the potential liquid energy zappers previously discussed. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, light headed, dizzy and is often confused for hunger too resulting in you eating more. Be sure to keep a water bottle on your desk or with you at all time so you can remember to drink in particular during warmer months and with additional exercise.

Keep regular. Plenty of fruit, vegetable and wholegrain cereal fibre, regular exercise and a good bacteria containing yoghurt e.g Vaalia will help to keep your bowel functioning and at it’s best which is crucial to prevent feeling bloated, and sluggish each day.

Avoid the sugar rush. Processed refined sugars found in confectionery, soft drinks, cakes, doughnuts, biscuits and muffins, chocolate bars, white flours or puffed cereals are best minimised. Not only are they nutrient poor and often easy to over consume, they are also quickly digested resulting in the all too familiar sugar rush -insulin spike associated with the sudden rise in sugar –followed by a slump as sugar levels fall. Ironically for many these are the first things we reach for-but would be the best to avoid.

sugar rush

Healthy fats. Like lean protein small amounts of good fats help to stabilise blood sugar levels for longer periods and therefore energy levels. So be sure to include small amounts of raw nuts and seeds, olives, avocado, extra virgin olive, macadamia, rice bran and grapeseed oils, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna.

Don’t forget that starting the day with some form of exercise is perfect way to kick-start your metabolism, and keeping you alert for the remainder of the day. If you are just not a morning person then why not optimise your time by cycling or walking part or all of the way to work or adding in a brisk walk during your lunch break.

Peita Cedaro

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