Eating for Energy

One of the most common questions I get asked is what to eat for sustained energy. The below tips will help you fly through your work day without the dreaded afternoon slump.

Eating for energy

Foods for Alertness

Include complex low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates in your meals throughout the day.

  • Why? The blood glucose response is slower and flatter, meaning you will avoid sugar peaks and lows.
  • What? Oats, whole wheat bread, soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread and lentils are classified as low GI (less than 55). If you have an energy dip at work, reach for fresh fruits, natural yoghurt or unsalted nuts for a sustained energy lift. Eating regularly throughout the day will also help to banish sugar highs and lows.
  • Did you know? Eating low GI foods and high GI foods at the same time has the effect of ‘averaging’ the GI. This is important, as most foods are eaten as part of a meal and this affects the GI value of foods. For example, combining white bread (a higher GI food) with beans (a lower GI food) will reduce the meals impact on blood sugar levels.

Avoid Heavy High-fat Meals

Fats stay in the stomach longer, diverting blood away from the rest of your body. Instead opt for small lower-fat meals throughout the day that won’t leave you feeling sluggish.

Eat Enough Iron

Iron is an important mineral that is involved in various bodily functions including the formation of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to your tissues.

  • Why? Iron is essential for providing energy for daily life. If you don’t get enough iron you will feel tired and lethargic.
  • What? To make sure you get enough iron reach for the following good sources – red meat, offal, iron-fortified breakfast cereals and leafy vegetables.
  • Did you know? The average person needs to absorb only a small amount of iron each day to stay healthy (around 1 mg for adult males and 1.5 mg for menstruating females). To achieve this, however, we need to consume many times that amount (8 mg for adult men and 18mg for women aged 19-50 years). This is because our bodies absorb only a fraction of the iron from the foods we eat.

Eating for Energetic Exercise:

Eating low GI foods (see above) two hours before endurance events, such as long-distance running, may improve exercise capacity. It is thought that the meal will have left your stomach before you start the event, but remains in your small intestine releasing energy for a few hours afterwards. On the other hand, high GI foods (potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice) are recommended during the first 24 hours of recovery after an event to rapidly replenish muscle fuel stores with glycogen.

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