How to eat for optimal energy

FULLY FUNCTIONING: When used correctly, protein and even coffee can improve your energy levels.
FULLY FUNCTIONING: When used correctly, protein and even coffee can improve your energy levels.

Who does not want more energy? An increased sense of vitality and ability to do all the things you want to do without feeling fatigued and constantly running on empty.

It may come as welcome relief to hear that while getting more rest and more downtime may be the ideal solution, simply getting the right balance of nutrients throughout the day can go a long way in regulating your energy levels.

And an added bonus, the feelgood effects are almost instant, leaving you feeling more energised the very same day.

1. Make sure your breakfast contains enough protein

Carbohydrate rich breakfasts of fruit and flake cereal, plain toast with spread or fruit yoghurts are great for an energy hit but they are unlikely to sustain you through the morning.

Simply adding at least 10g of protein to your wholegrain carbohydrate breakfast choice via an egg, ½ cup of baked beans, some natural Greek-style yoghurt or even a teaspoon or two of protein powder will help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and support optimal blood glucose regulation throughout the morning.

2. Count your coffees

A little caffeine to kick start the day is not a bad idea, but loading up on more than 300mg or 3 cups of strong coffee is going to leave you vulnerable to fluctuating blood glucose levels and fatigue.

Ideally aim to enjoy your coffee with a meal or snack and aim for no more than 2-3 strong cups each day and replace with herbal teas or extra water (remember we need at least 1L each day).

3. Prioritise lunch

Modern life and the demands it places means that fatigue is common, particularly mid-afternoon and especially when your lunch choice does not contain the right mix of low GI carbs and protein as well as plenty of salad or vegetables.

A plain tuna salad may seem to be the healthy option, but without the carbs you need you will be left feeling low on energy at about 3pm - try adding some beans, sweet potato or grain bread to your healthy salad to help regulate glucose levels throughout the afternoon.

4. Top up on protein mid afternoon

After a long day it is all too easy to grab some potato chips, muesli bar or chocolate to help you make it through till dinner, but the simple act of planning to include a protein-rich snack of roasted chickpeas, nuts or cottage cheese on wholegrain cracker biscuits around 4pm will help you power on until dinnertime without the post sugar crash late afternoon.

5. Get outside.

For many of us, cramming as much as we can into the working day is crucial to get all of our work done, but sitting indoors all day without any natural light is one of the worst things we can do for our energy systems.

Make it a priority to get out into the natural light for at least 20 minutes every day for a much needed Vitamin D and ultimately energising hit of fresh air and sunlight.

Or even better, team it with your mid-morning or afternoon tea break so you get the nutrient hit you need at the right time along with some light and fresh air.

Sydney Morning Herald