This blog is in response to a recent query by a client who felt they were struggling with energy levels on their calories restricted nutrition plans. So, here are some ideas for those of you trying to lose weight and still exercise well.
When you wake up in the morning, you’ve gone 6 to 8 hours without taking in any calories. That is the time to wake up your body by providing it with the right kind of calories to burn for energy.
So if you skimp on breakfast, you run the risk of a lackluster morning, since your blood sugar will probably be low and stay low, depriving your brain of the glucose it needs. Here’s how to eat a true power breakfast.
If you’re looking for more energy on your low-calorie diet, don’t skip breakfast. Eating breakfast not only provides your body with the energy it needs to get up and go, but it also helps control hunger. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, so be sure to eat a high-carb breakfast meal. A high-energy, low-cal breakfast might include 1 cup of cooked oatmeal topped with 2 tablespoons of raisins and four to eight chopped pecan halves and served with one container of nonfat yogurt. This meal contains 355 to 400 calories.
Hold the pancake syrup. Sweet breakfasts are an energy disaster, since nothing plummets your blood sugar faster (after an initial boost) than concentrated forms of simple carbohydrates like corn or maple syrup. Pouring one of them over refined carbohydrates like white flour pancakes or waffles exaggerates the effect. Whittle warns that any sweet topping with corn syrup in it—like the typical maple-flavored syrup or a lot of jellies—is an especially good bet to spike-and-dip your blood sugar to lethargic levels. So try some healthier and more energizing alternatives, she suggests. Go for French toast made with whole grain bread and egg substitute, or use a whole grain flour like buckwheat in your pancake or waffle mix. Top them off with your favorite fruit instead of syrup.
Reach for some protein. While fruit and whole grain cereal are fine morning choices, your breakfast carbohydrates still need to be balanced with some protein foods for more enduring energy, Whittle says. The fat-free milk or low-fat yogurt you add to the cereal will work. Or go for eggs or egg substitutes with an English muffin or a slice of whole grain toast.
Shoot for 3 g of fiber per serving. Whole grains, unlike refined flour products, deliver energy laced with fibre, which slows down the digestion so that the energy is released over a longer period of time. That’s why whole grain, high-fibre cereals are an excellent breakfast selection for all-morning energy. “Look for one with at least 3 g of fiber per serving,” Wein says. “Some have 8 g or more. Eat it with fat-free milk, and you have a perfect balance.”
Stock up on oatmeal. A fiber-packed whole grain cereal, oatmeal is your best breakfast choice for long-lasting energy, says William Evans, PhD, director of the nutrition, metabolism, and exercise laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Little Rock. Evans credits oatmeal’s energy-boosting ability with its soluble fiber content. Much more than the insoluble fiber in, say, wheat bran, the soluble fiber in oatmeal slows down carbohydrate absorption, thus keeping your blood sugar levels more constant. Both oat bran and rolled oats are high in soluble fiber, so on mornings when you don’t feel like eating oatmeal, try oat bran muffins.
Mid morning meeting ace
Faced with an interminable meeting, it’s all too easy to rely on the doughnut-Danish-bagel axis: low-fiber, protein-free, high-refined-carb foods that yo-yo your glucose levels. Instead, reach for steady-energy allies. Here are some suggestions:
A peanut butter sandwich. Make it with whole wheat bread, and it will have the macronutrient mix that will keep your eyes open and your brain humming. That’s because the fibre in the whole wheat and the protein (and fat) in the peanut butter will ration out the energy over time. Even if you’d like to add a little jelly, it’s going to be absorbed slowly because of the peanuts, which have fat and fibre so your blood sugar won’t plummet. Another good option is peanut butter on apple slices. An apple is almost pure carbohydrate, with simple sugars, but the energy it provides will be metered over time by its own fibre and by the peanut butter.
Fruit and cheese. Chop up half an apple (for carbohydrates) and mix it with 1% cottage cheese (for its protein and some fat), and bring it to work for balanced midmorning fortification. Equally healthy variations are low-fat cheese on whole grain bread or a small salad with tuna and chopped apples
Lunch should leave you invigorated, not asleep at your workstation. Make these adjustments to come back strong for the day’s second act:
Take it easy. Hefty lunches of 1,000 calories or more are proven energy sappers. “Portion size is key,” says Whittle. “Most people overeat at lunch.”
Pass on pure pasta. Unless you’re planning to run a marathon after lunch, it’s probably not a good idea to overemphasize pasta or any other refined carbohydrate at lunchtime. “Susceptibility to grogginess after a high-carbohydrate lunch is more common in women than men, and in people over 40,” Grandjean says. Better carb choices are fiber-rich whole grain bread, brown rice, and beans or lentils instead of white bread, white rice, or white pasta.
Push the protein. Along with choosing fiber-rich unrefined complex carbohydrates, the next best thing you can do to ramp up your afternoon energy levels is to offset your lunch carbohydrates with a high-protein food, Whittle says. Excellent midday protein choices are soy burgers, seafood, tuna, turkey, or cottage cheese.
Build a high-energy salad. “Just a salad” is a common lunch request by weight-watching women, but a plateful of not much more than lettuce hardly qualifies as energy food even for rabbits. A typical lunch should be 400 to 500 calories, so salads usually just aren’t enough. Instead, make your own lunch salads with energy in mind. Choose dark leafy greens, which are higher in nutrients and fibre. Add a variety of colorful vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and broccoli. And always include a low-fat source of protein such as chickpeas or grilled chicken to round it out.
For lasting energy, include mostly complex carbs — whole grains, whole-wheat bread and pasta, beans and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes — on your low-calorie, high-energy diet. A healthy lunch meal on your high-energy diet plan might include 1 to 2 tablespoons of hummus stuffed into a small whole-wheat pita and served with 1/2 to 1 cup of cut veggies such as cucumbers, red peppers and carrots, a small apple and 1 ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese. The lunch will yield 345 to 395 calories.
Mid afternoon Energizer
As anone knows, the workday doesn’t end when you leave the office. After-hours errands, or what have you, put extended demands on your stamina. A midafternoon snack can help see you through. Plus, you won’t get home so hungry that you inhale the first thing that you get your hands on, or overeat at dinner.
The ideal midafternoon snack consists of the same mix of components as a good breakfast or midmorning snack: a mini-meal that includes protein and some fat as well as carbohydrates—say, the other half of a turkey sandwich, or a couple more peanut butter crackers.
A snack between lunch and dinner makes a good midday energy booster. Limit your snack to 100 calories to help you stay within your low-calorie budget. High-energy snack options include five whole-grain nonfat crackers with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, one container of nonfat, sugar-free yogurt, a small orange with 1 ounce of nonfat cheese, 1 cup of mixed greens topped with 1 tablespoon of nonfat salad dressing and 1 tablespoon of raisins or 1 ounce of turkey on a slice of whole-wheat bread.
While the day might be ending, it’s important to eat a healthy dinner to replenish energy stores for the next day. A low-calorie dinner for high energy might include 3 ounces of broiled salmon with 1 cup of cooked sweet potato and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of steamed broccoli for 375 to 400 calories. Healthy fats from foods such as salmon, oils, nuts and seeds also provide your body with energy. But as a concentrated source of calories, healthy fats should be eaten in small amounts.