Get More Energy!
Step 2: Avoid the Quick Fix
It's no surprise that the food on your plate can be the deciding factor between a sluggish and a supercharged day. But more often than not, you don't need a total diet overhaul; small adjustments can go a long way toward optimizing your energy intake, says Ashley Koff, RD, a nutritionist in Los Angeles and FITNESS advisory board member. For starters, don't ditch caffeine. "A small cappuccino, tea with honey, and dark chocolate, all of which contain caffeine and sugar, are perfectly legitimate 'energy Band-Aids' when you need a lift in a hurry," Koff says. "The trouble comes when people rely on them daily. Spiking and plunging blood-glucose levels create an unhealthy cycle of energy highs and lows." What's more, the fluctuating glucose leads to murky decision making, according to a recent study from the University of South Dakota: When participants were asked whether they'd rather receive a small amount of money immediately or get a much larger amount later, those with lower glucose levels were more likely to seize the smaller sum. Clear thinking, scientists conclude, is helped by a constant glucose supply.
Another mistake: too much of a good thing. "Women think they're making a smart choice by having a healthy turkey, lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch," Koff says. "But three hours later they're at their desks in an energy slump, and they can't figure out why." You have to spread the health wealth, Koff says, because your body can use only so many nutrients for energy at one time, meaning a portion of that healthy lunch was used to fuel your body; the rest of the protein and carbs went to energy wasteland. Instead, "have your fruit with some nuts midmorning, then eat half your sandwich at noon and the other half at 3 p.m., when you start to feel sluggish." You'll keep a steady stream of nutrients flowing into your blood, holding the snack attack at bay.
And finally, when it comes to boosting energy, a carb is not a carb is not a carb. When people with type 2 diabetes ate white bread for breakfast in a University of Toronto study, they fared worse on verbal-memory and other cognitive tests than those who consumed low-glycemic foods, like pasta. To give your morning a lift, try toasting a whole-grain muffin and spreading a tablespoon of filling peanut butter on it or eat it with a scrambled egg.
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