Everyone is familiar with the after-lunch energy drain when you feel demotivated and tired. The days when you sit at your desk and feel your eyes closing. Those times when you find yourself being irritable or even aggressive, for no reason. Well, it’s not just the daily challenges that you face that can affect your mood and energy levels but it can also be your lifestyle. Fortunately, we can make changes to our daily activity at any time.
Diet: What you eat has a direct impact on the available energy that you need to maintain constant throughout a busy working day. The key is in balancing your blood-sugar so that your body receives an even supply of fuel. To ensure this, your body needs to be able to metabolise and breakdown carbohydrate foods such as rice, bread, pasta, figs and dates etc into sugar for useable energy. The body’s ability to regulate levels of sugar in the blood is essential to health, weight control and also your mood. Fluctuations in blood sugar can cause irritability, aggression, confusion and forgetfulness. These fluctuations are a natural response to changes caused by food intake [types of carbohydrate], fluid intake [caffeine, sugary drinks] and lifestyle [stress, smoking]. It is normal for blood glucose to rise and fall, but it is the degree to which it fluctuates that creates these symptoms.
If there is too long a gap between meals, your blood glucose can drop to a level that may leave you feeling the need for a cup of sweetened coffee or a bar of chocolate.
- A good breakfast is essential to setup your energy levels for the day. Make your own porridge – instead of buying packet cereals – using organic oats to which you can add a sliced banana or other fruit or nuts.
- Try to have small but frequent meals, preferably no more than 3-4 hours apart otherwise you are likely to suffer an energy dip in mid-afternoon that indicates your blood sugar level has dropped too far. These dips can be avoided by eating frequent, slow-releasing snacks such as a handful of (unsalted) nuts.
- Try to eat unrefined complex carbohydrates at every meal: whole-wheat pasta or bread, brown rice, oats or rye. Avoid sugar, white rice, white bread and other refined carbohydrate products that give your body an immediate boost followed by tiredness. However, too much fruit can cause problems and you should always dilute fruit juice with water.
- As for stimulants such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate– these are less harmful after a meal, not before.
- If you condition yourself to eat whole-grains which will provide a steady, slow release of fuel, your energy levels should stay constant throughout the day.
- However, proteins must not be ignored! Seeds and nuts should be eaten as snacks together with yogurt or raw fruit or vegetables such as celery or half an avocado. Fish pastes are also good, mackerel or smoked salmon as well as hummus, tahini or almond butter etc.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to boost your energy levels but too much can have the opposite effect and overdoing it can lead to diminished energy and increased stress. And when you are physically stressed, you are more prone to anxiety and irritability. It is a balancing act.
Take a power nap: Research shows that both information overload can zap energy, so a 20 minute ‘power nap’ can reverse the mind-numbing effects of pages of emails and can also help you to retain the necessary information.
Rehydrate: It is easy to confuse signals of hunger with thirst because it can masquerade as fatigue and can leave you lethargic. The solution is easy. Always have a bottle of water on your desk and drink from it during the day.
There are times when you may not feel stimulated by what you are doing and so the boredom factor creeps in and you may feel your eyes closing. When that happens, get up and move around to find stimulus, talking to someone or changing your activity for ten minutes. Then when you come back to your task in hand, you mind will be clearer and you will feel refreshed.
- Available energy depends on regular meals and exercise
- Always maintain optimum blood sugar levels at work
- Lifestyle choices affect body and mind 24/7
Written by Carole Spiers and reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.
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