ENERGY MENU by Cheryl Stevens

Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Do you crash every night onto the sofa exhausted and brain dead? If all day energy is wishful thinking, your eating habits and food choices may need a review.

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Choose Clever Carbs (Complex over Simple)

A well balanced diet is still the best practice. Crash diets and cutting out whole food groups is no way to lose weight or prolong long term health. Complex carbohydrates are good carbohydrates. They have not been heavily refined and provide a slow steady supply of energy. Complex carbs are generally darker and heavier than simple carbohydrates and can be found in wholegrain breads and pasta, brown and wild rice, oats, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Simple carbohydrates are generally refined – that is heavily processed foods like white bread, cakes, biscuits and white sugar. These carbs are quickly digested, releasing sugar rapidly into the bloodstream and causing insulin spikes that lead to energy highs and crashing lows.

Natural carbohydrates are found in fruit and vegetables and can provide a natural boost of energy when needed.

Start your day on complex carbs, raw muesli with nuts and seeds, raw oat porridge, or rye toast with poached eggs. This will give you a long sustained flow of energy through the morning. At lunch try a quinoa salad or brown rice and vegetables (leftovers!). Oat cakes with humus is a well balanced complex carb meal.

Always eat breakfast

People miss breakfast for various reasons, but it is still the most important meal of the day. Recent research has proven again that eating breakfast is the best start to the day. Why? Breakfast provides the body and brain with energy to function through the day. As its name explains, it ‘breaks the fast’ of the night before. If you find a solid breakfast difficult to get down first thing, try a smoothie filled with complex carbs – banana, oats, avo, nuts, seeds – and energy foods like cacao, dates or honey. If you have the time and can eat a solid meal; spinach and creamed mushrooms on potato bread, almond butter, banana and maple syrup on wholewheat toast or a bowl of raw unrefined oats with dark berries, banana and nuts.

Eat less more often

We’ve all been caught on the couch after a big Sunday lunch – heavy, lethargic and no energy to move. Big meals like Sunday lunch are usually high in carbs, fats and sugars. The brain signals the body to slow down to be able to digest the food. If you eat big portions, the digestive system has to work harder and the more lethargic you will feel, and the less energy you will have.

Try eating smaller meals more often, with more veg and salads. Smaller meals help regulate the blood glucose levels and gradually release energy instead of one big hit. Buy smaller plates. Watch what mix of food is on your plate – all simple carbs, or a good mix of complex carbs, protein, veg and salad. Fill your plate with raw salad or if you have to have seconds go for just the veg.

Eat food that suits your body type

Nourishing your body with the right food will give you the energy you need to tackle the day. Taking time to understand your body type and nutritional requirements is beneficial in choosing the right foods to eat. If you are a stressed or anxious person instead of drinking coffee try a calming drink like chamomile tea. If you battle to concentrate and your mind is restless, focus on high protein foods that give the brain energy like omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. If you are not a morning person – start with a glass of hot water, lemon and ginger. The lemon adds electrolytes to water and becomes a natural energy drink. The ginger will kick start your metabolism and research has shown it may lower blood sugar levels.

When you need a quick boost

Hit that 3’oclock slump? If you run out of energy half way through the afternoon, don’t reach for the black coffee but rather work out what you had for lunch that got you into the energy slump.

It could be that white bread sandwich at lunch time (simple carbs) or even the last cup of coffee. Simple carbs have the bad habit of dropping you quickly after a big sugar energy hit. Remember what goes up must come down. Rather choose a small lunch with slow energy release and at 3’oclock try an apple with almond butter. Or a simple handful of nuts – good carbs. A Wheatgrass or lemon and ginger shot will clear the mind and re-energise you. Make your own energy bars with nuts, seeds, oats, dried fruit and goji berries to keep in your fridge at work. Try an oat bran muffin, but beware of the sugar content and size.

An energy slump can be a bad habit. Check you are not dehydrated and are drinking enough water. If you sit at a desk all day, a walk around the block is a good energy boost, fresh air and movement can also re-energise you.

After a Race

Eating the right food after a race or event is paramount to recovery. The sooner you can replenish lost energy after a race the better. 30 minutes is the ideal timing but what is the best food to eat? Protein and carbohydrates are both important. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source and replace the lost glycogen. The body stores a certain amount of carbohydrates, but when this source has been used up through exercise, it needs to be replaced before you start exercising again. Protein is essential for the repair and growth of muscle and as hard training can deplete the protein levels in the body, it is important to top up these levels as soon after a race as possible. Be organized with your food. After a workout or race, have the right foods on hand so you don’t grab sugary foods and fizzy drinks. Pack a protein bar, a meal replacement shake, banana or berry smoothies or nuts. Make your own date bars

Hydration is as important after a race as nutrition. Fluid and weight is lost through sweat, so start sipping water straight after your race and let your thirst dictate how much your drink. If you are still thirsty 3 – 4 hours later, keep drinking. Avoid drinking sports energy drinks through a race or after, the excess sugar and caffeine in these drinks will make you thirstier.

A spoonful of honey is nature’s equivalent of an energy drink. With a fairly low glycaemic index, this natural sweetener acts as a time-released muscle fuel during exercise and helps replenish muscles post-workout.

Not only will an apple a day keep the doctor away, but apples also give you an energy boost. Apples are high in fibre and take longer to digest and so give you energy for longer. The fibre will also make you feel fuller for longer.

DID YOU KNOW? Bananas give you zing. Because they are composed mostly of sugars and fibre, bananas are a fool proof energy food.

Recipe by Wellness Warehouse

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