The Secrets to a High Energy Day

Ray Lewis, especially after reading a recent article in USA Today entitled, “Hungry for Another Title, Ravens’ Lewis Watches Diet.”

This article disclosed a few things Lewis consumes before noon, including a protein shake, egg whites, an apple, two gallons of water and a bag of “A.M.” supplements. He eats only fish and vegetables, hasn’t eaten pork in 12 years and has eaten beef twice during the same time span. He doesn’t drink soda or eat bread or sugar — except for small exceptions, according to the article.

No cheeseburgers or chips– he professes to treat his body like a temple. And why? So he has the necessary fuel to outlast men who are younger and faster than he. And though my hunger for competition is pretty much relegated to finishing another Boston marathon without getting injured, I have witnessed this effect of fueling up to feel good, for running and living. In my heftier post-college days, I worked out regularly but ate poorly (not to mention all the beer I drank). No matter how much sleep I got at night, I rarely had enough energy to avoid the afternoon sleepies deluging my day. Twenty five years later, I’m convinced I have enough energy to keep up with someone half my age. Unless, of course, I was afflicted the prior night by loud snores, dog bathroom breaks, night sweats and Luke visits, which sadly happens more than I would like to admit.

Whether you’re eating to fuel a good workout or to keep your head up at your desk, keeping blood glucose levels close to normal are helpful. Here are a few tricks to keep your energy level up, all day long. Eat a balanced diet. If you eat crap, you’ll feel that way – all day. More balance means more macronutrients to break down and give you long-lasting energy. The USDA provides an interactive calculation to determine your needs, but a loose guideline is:

  • 45% to 65% of calories eaten should come from carbohydrates
  • 20% to 35% of calories eaten should come from fat
  • 10% to 35% of calories eaten should come from protein

Don’t skip meals. There is nothing worse than having no fuel to sustain your energy level throughout the day. Skipping meals throws off your metabolism and is simply not good for you. And for all of you who say, “Breakfast only makes me hungrier,” my recommendation is to eat it anyway. In the long run, you’ll feel better!

Don’t over-caffeinate. There’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee to get you moving in the morning, but drinking too much causes energy surges and lulls. Avoid the addiction and drink lots of water instead!

Avoid an all-carb diet. This predicament is particularly problematic in the morning, because many breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates, e.g., cereal, oatmeal. Muffins, scones and sweet rolls are even worse offenders because they contain lots of sugar. Many of these foods have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause an immediate spike in blood glucose levels. You’ll feel satisfied for an hour or so, then tired and hungry soon afterwards (and maybe irritable, too).

Think protein! Add some protein, and healthy fats, to the carboyhydate mix – or as I like to say, food that “sticks” to the bones.  Protein takes longer to digest and has a lower glycemic index, thus supplying a steadier stream of energy. In the morning, add some peanut butter to your toast or walnuts to your oatmeal. Drink protein shakes for snacks. Beans and many vegetables high in protein are good additions to your lunch.

Don’t over-indulge at lunch. Too much of a good thing leads to a bad thing – the afternoon sleepies. Not only does quality of food affect your blood glucose level, but so does quantity. Play it safe on both fronts.

Watch the sugar. Though many complex carbohydrates (e.g., a baked potato) have a high glycemic index, soda, candy and cookies are more obvious culprits. They may taste good going down and give you a quick energy burst. But just wait! The energy lull is soon to follow.

Eat dinner earlier. Not only will this give you more time to digest what you ate, but you’ll sleep better, too. The last thing you want is an energy buzz – right before bedtime!

Melinda Hinson