If you feel run-down and exhausted, you may be tempted to turn to sugar and/or caffeine to bolster flagging energy reserves.
Bad idea, says Dina Aronson, RD: “Fatigue breaks us down physically and emotionally and wreaks havoc on the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness, depression and even chronic conditions like heart disease.” Moreover, proper nutrition and the timing of what you eat can do wonders to make you feel alert and powerful, says Cynthia Sass, RD, a nutritionist and weight-loss blogger. Here are the new rules for eating for energy.
1. Eat more iron from plants.
Nearly 30% of the global population is iron deficient, with women and children being impacted the most. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue and impair physical and mental endurance. Iron is needed to deliver oxygen to cells. Great plant sources of iron include beans, lentils, spinach and sesame seeds; eating them with vitamin C-rich foods can boost iron absorption.
2. Eat the right food combos.
Sass says the right formula for maximum energy is: fruit or veggie + a whole grain + lean protein + plant-based fat + herb/spice. She calls it the “5-piece puzzle” and it’s the premise of her book “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim.”
“Balance is key; your body loves to be in balance,” says Sass.
3. Skip caffeine.
Despite the health benefits of tea and coffee, if you’re feeling run-down, cut it out: “Caffeine gives a ‘false’ energy essentially, because it’s a stimulant,” Sass says. “And after it peaks, you can start to feel tired or even more tired.”
4. Eat more real food.