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How to manage your daily energy from morning to bedtime

chocolate-food-groupOk folks, I know it’s post-holidays and everyone is on the healthy bandwagon. But…if you’re like most people I talk to, this is how your typical day goes.

You wake up with an alarm, and then hit snooze. You drag yourself out of bed because you know you’ve only got 10 minutes to make coffee before you’ve got to get out of the house.

You also grab something on the way out the door like:

A. a nutrigrain bar or other “healthy” bar
B.  a biscuit sandwich
C. donut at the drive through
D. nothing but the coffee

Between 10 and 11 am, you notice that you’re starving and can’t focus at all, so you:

A. willpower your way through it- eating nothing extra
B. head for the vending machine or your coworker’s secret junk food stash
C. eat a piece of fruit

By lunch, you are ravenous, no thanks to your sugary snack. So you choose a filling meal like:

A. a whole grain sandwich with baked chips, pretzels or fruit salad (if you’re feeling healthy).
B. a meal that sticks with you like a burger and a handful of fries
C. something well balanced (insert any Applebee’s-type salad & also include dessert because you were so healthy)

It’s now mid-afternoon and you feel unstoppable sleepiness come over you. If you ‘re at home, you can sneak a quick nap, but otherwise, what do you reach for to keep going?

A. coffee
B. a sugar boost- chocolate or candy
C. something a bit more sustaining like some cookies, chips or soft drink

You’re now headed home for the day and so ready for dinner but you can’t bear the task of putting together something, nevermind the clean up involved after. You opt instead for some convenient take out at the local chinese restaurant. Hey, at least there’s broccoli, right?

After dinner, you’re ready for a little something something. Something to help you unwind and relax from a hectic day. This is where a nice little night cap of hot cocoa and thin mints (yep, that time of year again) work like a charm to lull you towards sleep.

After reading this scenario, it may seem like your daily energy needed a boost at a few points (notably in the morning and late afternoon.) But did you notice that your energy level was also dipping mid morning and at lunch time? You can notice this by the way your hunger follows the blood sugar dips.

Interestingly, at every instance where energy dipped during the day in this scenario, the most common reaction was to choose to eat something to help bring your energy back up. Most of the time, these choices are sugary, and only provide a temporary boost, followed by a nasty, depleting crash.

So what’s the best way to manage your energy if you can’t use food?

Well the surprise here is that you DO use food to manage your energy, but it needs to be more stabilizing to your blood sugar. And there other ways to get a “boost” in your day instead of choosing candy. Ready for a new scenario? Read on:

You wake up 5 minutes before your alarm because you went to bed early last night and didn’t fill up on sugary snacks that mess up your blood sugar overnight.

When you’re out of bed, you’ve been sticking to a smaller, single cup of coffee (or tea) in the morning so you’re not so dependent on caffeine to wake you up. You’re breakfast is a veggie frittata that you warm up from the fridge. You have a few slices of an orange to go with it. You’ve got time to eat breakfast at home now that you aren’t snoozing your alarm.

When you are out of the house, you feel more alert because of the high protein and high fiber breakfast. Your blood sugar is more stable and you aren’t craving any snacks until close to noon. You grab a few almonds out of your tin in your pocket and you’re good until lunch.

20 Minutes before lunch, you take a quick walk to get your circulation up and clear your mind for the afternoon. You’ve taken the edge off your daily stress and you’re able to choose a balanced meal for lunch. In fact, you find that a cup of chili with carrot sticks and hummus sounds like way to warm up on a chilly day, but also enjoy some crunch without grabbing chips, crackers or cookies. You grab a banana for later, just in case.

Later that afternoon, you’re still pretty full from lunch, but realize if you’re going to make your 5:30 pm gym class, you need to eat that banana to power through. You get home before 7 and feel like you can relax, since you let out all of your daily stress at the gym class. The crockpot has been your friend today and some slow cooked irish stew sounds just perfect.

Your meal is so satisfying, that after dinner you decide to have a cup of herbal tea, instead of hot chocolate, but you do find a piece of 75% cocoa in the cupboard that is a nice ending to a productive day. You turn off the TV and computer at 9pm and decide to get ready for bed and curl up with a book before lights out.

Notice the difference between the 2 scenarios? In the first scenario, the person is chasing their energy with behaviors that aggravate it. Each choice that follows is just a temporary fix for the underlying lack of energy. In the second scenario, the person does just a few things different, but because of these choices, the decisions are no longer counterproductive, but proactive to having better managed energy.

The take home lessons for creating the energy you need all day long:

It all starts with a good night of sleep. Make this a priority. Need help? Check out this tip sheet: Promoting Better Sleep During The Day pdf

  1. Eat a high protein/high fiber breakfast to keep your blood sugar steady. Eggs are great and very versatile. If you prefer whole grains, make sure there is plenty of fiber & healthy fat to keep you full. Most people do the worst on low fat cereals or fat free yogurt & fruit. On the other hand, avoid the grease bombs, like fast food breakfasts.
  2. Incorporate some middle of the day stretching or walking break or some other way to unwind from stress. Some of our choices for lunch are affected by how much stress we are experiencing. Suddenly our “healthy meal” gets replaced by comfort foods.
  3. Similar to breakfast, choose a high fiber (lots of veggies) and high protein lunch. Avoid the sleepy carbs like bread, crackers, pasta and sweets. These make you tired right when you need your focus mid-afternoon. Save the carbs for dinner.
  4. If you didn’t have time earlier in the day, grab 30 minutes of exercise before dinner. Why before? No magic reason, other than you didn’t get to this yet and you won’t feel like it after dinner. Plus, if you head to the gym before you head home, you’ll skip the guilt magnet that “home” produces. You can always deal with home stuff later. One hour is nothing and you won’t regret the way you feel after.
  5. In fact, you’ll feel so much better after your exercise, that you’ll have more portion control and be more interested in eating a well balanced meal. It’s a nice feeling not to be “stuffed” after dinner.
  6. You may even feel justified in indulging in a small treat like hot cocoa or square of chocolate or a 100 calorie ice cream, but knowing you’ve got your exercise squeezed in helps you avoid the guilt of eating treats. And you’re noticing that a small serving is completely satisfying.
  7. You’re dedication to getting good sleep has you in the bedroom at a reasonable hour. As you reflect on your day, you are pleased with how much you were able to get done and write down a few “to-do’s” for tomorrow. You fall asleep with a clear mind and sleep like a baby.

Got More Energy?

Tell me below how these tips work for you or if you’ve found other (healthy) ways to keep your energy supply up & steady throughout the entire day.

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