The best way to help boost your energy intake is to stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout the day and eat a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and lean sources of protein. You should include foods from each of the following good groups:
The starting point…….
Begin recording what you’ve eaten and how it’s made you feel, both physically and emotionally. This can be really rough and very brief but it allows you to understand how your body responds to your diet. You may not notice any patterns in the first few weeks but over a few months you will start to understand which foods work for you.
The secret to sustaining your dietary changes is to make gradual adjustments. You do not need to make wholesale changes in one go. It’s far easier to swap and add bits to your diet every few weeks or so than emptying the cupboards and starting again!
Phase 1. Always eat breakfast
This is fundamental if you really want to commit to boosting energy levels, enhancing mood and improving concentration. You should aim to eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking – even if you don’t feel hungry. This is the most important meal of the day. Eat some protein with low-Glycaemic Index carbohydrates (see below) to balance blood sugar levels. Sugary cereals are out of the question!
– Oats with skimmed milk and a handful of almonds
– Greek yoghurt with fruit and seeds
– Seeded /rye / sourdough toast with peanut butter
– Ryvita / oat cakes with smoked salmon or cottage cheese
– Scrambled / poached eggs on rye bread
– Muesli with added nuts (Dorset Cereals, Jordans Natural, Rude Health)
Phase 2. Eat vegetables with every meal
Vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables grown above the ground or fibrous carbohydrates are excellent sources of energy. They release energy slowly and help maintain your blood sugar level. You should be aiming to eat at least 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced to count.
Phase 3. Eat low-Glycaemic Index carbohydrates AND limit sugar intake
This is often one of the hardest changes to make to your daily diet but is one that will have a huge impact. Carbohydrates are categorized by the response they have on blood sugar levels. This scale is called the Glycaemic Index (GI).
Glycemic Index is a measure of your blood glucose response to a particular food. This means that if you eat a high GI or refined carbohydrate food such as white bread, your blood sugar levels rise rapidly. As insulin is released in proportion to the GI of your meal, a high GI meal will release a large amount of insulin into the blood. Insulin works by storing blood glucose in the cells, often in the form of fat. As glucose is removed from the blood for storage, energy levels drop and you start to feel hungry again.
Many sweet tasting, refined and starchy carbohydrates are high GI. Refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, flour and processed cereals have a high GI and often contain few vitamins and minerals.
Phase 4. Eat Iron-rich foods to help prevent fatigue
Being low on iron can make you feel tired and faint and look pale. While red meats, green vegetables and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals are good sources of iron, the important thing is to eat a range of foods to get enough iron. Include as many of the following foods in your diet throughout each week; red meat (beef, lamb, pork), poultry, oily fish, green leafy vegetables, baked beans, boiled or poached egg, wholemeal bread, fortified breakfast cereal and dried figs and apricots.
High GI foods
Low-medium GI, energy dense foods
Low-medium GI, low energy foods
Eat before or after exercise
Eat in moderation
Wholemeal Pita bread
Beans (broad, kidney etc)
Foods and behaviours to avoid