As a driven thirty-something year old woman (I do actually have to think quite hard to remember my exact age now) I thrive on being on the go. I am happiest when up against a deadline, I like to achieve each and every day and the definition of productivity has been drummed into me as ticking off everything from my extensive ‘to do’ list. I get it, we are powerful, we can hold our own in a board meeting, we can create amazing businesses, we can juggle workouts, socialising and a perfectly co-ordinated wardrobe all at the same time. But to do these things, and do them without burning ourselves out - we really do need to pay attention to our energy levels.
I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that the ultimate sign of health and wellbeing is having endless amounts of energy to ‘get stuff done’ in an enthusiastic way. However, it is also the magical ingredient that many of the women I work with seem to be lacking.
We are all individual in what energises us, and you will very often find that different people find their energy levels at a peak at varying times of the day. I also think there are different kinds of energy. Mentally I am most energised in the mornings and will often plough through my daily tasks in a matter of hours first thing. However physically I am at my most energised late morning and early evening. This differs greatly to my friends who can’t even think about doing anything brain stimulating until mid morning, yet can go through a strength workout at 6am!
Want to know the trick to working this formulation out?
Listen carefully to your body. It may sound super simple but we often plough on regardless because of a schedule we have implemented ourselves and in doing so we actually don’t take the time to notice how our body and mind feels. Or worse, we go on someone else’s schedule, because it works for them, without taking into consideration our own unique lifestyle.
From a nutritional point of view, there are some simple things that I go by to help maintain my energy levels and avoid mindless mid morning snacking and the mid afternoon slump! If you look at these times carefully, you will notice that they usually occur a few hours after a meal – which I believe is down to under-nourishment or less than satiating food choices.
We have been told that sugar equals energy – and that is true – however when we want sustainable energy to last us through the day, through an exercise class or a bike ride, choosing food that gives us slow release energy will prevent the highs and lows of sugar. Protein and fats slow down energy release, as do whole grains and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, quinoa, oats and brown rice. The problems arise when we reach for processed packaged food, or simple sugars that require very little digestive processes before they are absorbed.
I believe if your breakfast is balanced and doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels, then you are starting the day on the right foot! However, the majority of us grab something ‘light’ for breakfast – a bowl of cereal, slice of toast or piece of fruit – very often the healthy alternatives to these items – but light in terms of nutrients nonetheless. The problem with these ‘light’ breakfasts is that they contain very little in the way of protein and fats to fill us up and stabilise our blood sugars. This is why we often get hungry or shaky just a few hours after eating. Cue the mid-morning snack attack and caffeine pick up. I am all for a coffee when you want it – but differentiating from ‘needing’ it to survive the next couple of hours, or ‘enjoying’ it for the flavour is an important thing to consider.
For those of you that are packing protein and fats into your breakfast in a substantial way I am pretty sure that you will agree with me when I say – a mid morning snack is very rarely required. And I don’t mean meat and eggs everyday, seeds, nuts, avocados, yoghurt and quinoa are just a handful of healthy protein and fat based ingredients you could look at including in your breakfast.
You can also apply this approach to your other meals. Balancing each meal with protein and fats will fill you up for longer and leave you less likely to dip in energy within a few hours of eating them, and if you do need to snack, choose options that contain these macronutrients in them – such as Greek yoghurt with some berries, a handful of nuts and seeds or a slice of deliciously dense rye bread with half an avocado smashed on it. The trick is to find sustainable sources of energy that will release into your body slowly.