Fiona Kirk November 07, 2014

Staying focused, feeling in control, and having plenty of energy when every day is full-on is a big ask. Getting your diet right to keep you from firing all cylinders can also be tricky. And if you're trying to lose weight, it can be even harder.

However, having a few secrets up your sleeve can help you maintain those all-important energy levels and keep you at the top of your game

Satisfy your brain

Did you know eating regularly - and well – doesn’t just provide your body with the energy it needs, but your brain too?

The brain represents just two percent of total body mass but it consumes around 20% of the oxygen and 25% of the glucose we consume.

We get glucose through dietary carbohydrates as well from other bodily processes such as gluconeogenesis, which is effectively the liver aiding the creation of glucose. Unfortunately, though, the production of glucose is a lengthy process and this is why we are driven to a quick fix of starchy, sugary or salty snacks when we experience an energy meltdown.

To avoid these energy roller coasters, try incorporating these dietary tips into your lifestyle.

Top tips for sustained energy

1. Graze on fabulous fats

Foods rich in essential fatty acids (particularly Omega 3s), such as oily fish, walnuts, seeds and seed oils, omega 3-rich eggs and avocadoes, keep you feeling fuller for longer, enhance communication between brain and body cells, plump up your skin cells delaying wrinkles, keep hair shiny and nails strong, accelerate fat loss, and provide excellent levels of energy (i). If you find it difficult to include these foods in your diet, try an omega 3 supplement.

2. Make protein a priority

Adding a little lean, quality protein to every meal and snack throughout the day, ensures the sugars derived from the carbohydrates you eat, are delivered more slowly into the bloodstream, thus avoiding energy dips and cravings. The best sources are lean meats and poultry, game, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas and hard cheeses.

3. Pack a snack

With a little pre-planning you can keep hunger at bay. A bag of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit, a couple of mini oatcakes with cottage cheese, a few carrot sticks with hummus, a small pack of fishy sushi, or a pot of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit are easy to find and light on the pocket.

4. Watch out for white foods

White foods are mostly refined foods. The nutritious outer coating of the grain has been removed leaving little more than sugar and starch, which are broken down and released into the blood stream at record speed. White foods don’t satisfy you for long and prompt the need for another ‘top up’. White bread, white pasta, crisps, biscuits, cakes, pastries, fries, buns and sugary, fizzy drinks are the worst culprits.

5. Hike up the happy foods

Some foods encourage the production of the reward chemical, dopamine, which makes us feel happy. So try adding these foods into your diet: fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, venison, eggs, oats, bananas and peanuts.

6. Become a bean lover

Beans, lentils and other legumes are rich sources of non-digestible carbohydrates which help slow down the pace at which other carbohydrates get broken down. They also keep us feeling fuller for longer, increase the absorption of important minerals and promote a phenomenon known as the ‘second meal effect’. This is where we’re not only satisfied for longer but we also tend to eat less at our next meal or snack.

7. Exercise outdoors

A deficiency of vitamin D often causes us to eat more (ii). Exercising outdoors for half an hour a day, preferably with bare arms and legs, increases vitamin D synthesis and helps to ensure we don’t become deficient. Mackerel, herring, tinned salmon, tinned sardines and eggs also provide small to reasonable levels of vitamin D.

8. Have a bedtime snack

Sleep deprivation upsets the balance of the hunger and fullness hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which prompts disordered eating patterns (iii). One of the major reasons we find it difficult to get to sleep, or wake up too early, is because blood sugar levels have plummeted. A small bedtime snack, taken at least half an hour before bed, that contains foods rich in the sleep-inducing chemical, serotonin, can be a life-saver. So before you turn in for the night, have a mug of hot chocolate made with soya milk and 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate granules, a small plate of porridge with a drizzle of honey, or a small tub of natural cottage cheese with a handful of mixed seeds.

(i)(ii)(iii)

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