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The All-Day Energy Guide
Good start — you managed to peel away from your comforter with only minor separation anxiety. Now it's time to snap to it. First order of business? Eat! Or risk going into energy debt later in the day. "A balanced breakfast raises blood sugar, which perks you up, and it also stokes your metabolism — your body's chemical 'on' switch, which helps you burn calories throughout the morning," says Molly Kimball, RD., sports dietitian at Oschner's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. To get the biggest bang, build your breakfast from these foods and drinks.
Peanut or Almond Butter on Whole-Grain Toast
Protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fat are digested more slowly than carbs, releasing a steady stream of energy.
Smoked Salmon with a Scrambled Egg
The fat fills you up and prevents an energy crash before your next meal; omega-3 fatty acids minimize minor inflammation in muscles after exercise (sore calves can certainly slow your roll!).
Oatmeal or Oat-Bran Cereal with Nonfat Milk
Soluble fiber keeps blood-sugar levels even so your energy output stays constant.
Whole-Grain Bagel and a Glass of O.J.
B vitamins help your body convert protein and carbs into energy.
Cup of Coffee
Women who drank 12 ounces of joe (about 140 milligrams of caffeine) showed improved mental alertness in one study.
Bust a Move!
The right exercise stimulates your metabolism — and the more active yours is, the more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you'll feel. "Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body. Research shows that about 30 minutes of interval strength training keeps your metabolism raised for up to 38 hours after you've worked out," says Jim Karas, weight-loss expert and author of The 7-Day Energy Surge. Why churn away on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes? Use this circuit to get stoked.
- Do 10 push-ups (count "one one-thousand, two one-thousand," etc., as you press down and up).
- Using heavy weights (12 to 15 pounds), hold dumbbells at your sides and perform 10 forward lunges and 10 backward lunges.
- Starting on elbows, hold the plank position for 1 minute. Straighten arms into full push-up position; hold 1 minute. Lift right leg 6 inches off floor for 30 seconds. Repeat with left leg. Rest 30 seconds.
- Repeat the circuit 3 times.
Bonus Tip: The Other A.M. Secret
If you really want to top out on energy, have sex. It releases the stimulatory brain chemicals dopamine and PEA (short for phenylethylamine), which make you feel alert and playful.
Mid-Morning Snack Attack
Release your vise grip on the Twizzlers. The 10 foods here will insta-jolt you into the fast lane. Munch on one to three of these daily, says Kimball.
- 1 ounce low-fat cheese 50-90 calories
- 8 ounces Greek yogurt (0% or 2% fat) 120-150 calories
- 1 ounce any nuts approx. 175 calories
- 1/2 cup wasabi peas 120 calories
- 1 small banana with 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter 188 calories
- 1 cup strawberries, sliced 53 calories
- 15 Triscuit Thin Crisps 130 calories
- 17 Genisoy Soy Crisps, real cheddar cheese flavor 110 calories
- 1 South Beach Living High-Protein Cereal bar, peanut butter flavor 140 calories
- 16-ounce Berry Filling smoothie from Jamba Juice 160 calories
Bonus Tip: Mid-Morning Refresher
Wet your whistle! Water is an oomph-inducing essential. "Because the human body is made up of 60 to 75 percent water, when you're dehydrated you also become fatigued," says Jim Karas. How much H2O do you need? Many experts recommend 64 ounces daily. Both Karas and Kimball suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces, because water intake should be relative to your body mass (e.g., a 140-pound woman requires 70 ounces of water daily).
The Real Power Lunch
Dig in to these fueling fast feasts from Nicole Quartuccio, RD, director of nutrition for HealthyDiningFinder.com, a Web site that features healthy menu options at about 60,000 restaurants nationwide.
Burger King: BK Veggie Burger
"The patty is made up of a blend of garden vegetables and whole grains, which are great for energy."
Nutrition info (with the fixings): 420 calories, 16 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated)
Lighten it up: Don't add mayo; it tacks 80 more calories onto your sandwich.
Quiznos: Tuscan Turkey Sub
"Pile on the tomatoes and red onions — both are full of cell-repairing antioxidants."
Nutrition info (with the fixings): 410 calories, 17 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated)
Lighten it up: Hold the cheese and dressing and you'll subtract 120 calories.
Qdoba: Naked Chicken Taco Salad
"The protein and beans keep you feeling full, and that offsets the dreaded late-in-the-day energy crash." Also, you're less likely to book it for the vending machine an hour after you've eaten. That's money, calories, and a Doritos binge — saved!
Nutrition info: 310 calories, 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated)
Lighten it up: No need; it's already skinny!
Bonus Tip: Freshen Up
Sniffing peppermint improves alertness. Snag a body lotion, lipgloss, or body spray in a minty scent for a cool pick-me-up.
What Afternoon Slump?
People who go for a brisk 10-minute stroll feel more awake and experience a surge in energy that lasts up to two hours after they walk, says a study in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology. Need an excuse to stray from your cubicle? Three FITNESS staffers share how they break free:
"I tell my boss I'm picking up a prescription. It's just shy of being TMI, so she doesn't ask questions. But the real Rx is for a little exercise. (Oops! I guess she knows now!)" — Bethany Gumper, Senior Editor
"Once a week, I make it a point not to bring my lunch to work, so I have an excuse to go outside and meander, searching for the perfect low-budget meal." — Lindsey Emery, Senior Fitness Editor
"I usually have books I need to return to the library a few blocks away, just far enough for a nice little walk." — Ayren Jackson-Cannady, Associate Beauty Editor
Bonus Tip: Eyes Wide Shut
Scheduled naps aren't just for kindergartners. Air-traffic controllers who took a 20-minute snooze during their break showed improved alertness on job-performance tasks compared with workers who didn't sleep. If a nooner isn't in the cards (we can hear the boss now...), try grabbing some zzz's after work to stay sharp during your dinner date.
Another successful workday is in the books (go, you!). Now it's time to tackle the home front.
"Vinyasa yoga, commonly known as power yoga, focuses on constantly flowing from one pose to the next; it's like swimming on land," says certified yoga and Pilates instructor Kristin McGee. "By synchronizing your breath with each movement, you bring blood flow and oxygen to the lungs and muscles, making you feel refreshed and invigorated." No time to take a class? "Whenever you get the blood rushing toward your head, it definitely wakes you up!" says McGee.
Try this move: Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Place your forearms on the floor, keeping your elbows below your shoulders. Interlace fingers. Put the top of your head on the floor between your arms. Shift your weight onto your head and straighten your legs behind you, pressing heels into the floor and lifting your butt toward the ceiling (as in downward dog). Make it easier: Keep one knee on the floor.
Bonus Tip: Tune Up
Rock On! People who listen to fast songs (about 140 beats per minute) as they exercise may work out more intensely, research shows. Need to make a deadline? Download rousing grooves at motiontraxx.com, a free (legal) music Web site.
What's for dinner? Black beans, baby! "They're a perfect blend of protein, good carbs, and fiber, as well as iron, which helps ward off anemia, a condition that can make you feel sluggish," says Kimball. Whip up this tasty, easy meal in a flash.
Black Bean Chili
Makes 1 serving
3 ounces extra-lean ground beef
1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
2 diced bell peppers (red or yellow)
2 diced tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded 2 percent cheddar cheese
1. Brown the beef in a skillet.
2. Add the beans, peppers, and tomatoes and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
3. Sprinkle cheese on top. Serve immediately.