When it comes to daily energy, we've all heard the clichés - eat healthier, exercise more and get more sleep. And while that all sounds enlightening and noble, sometimes life just gets in the way and we don't always find time to do all the things we should.
Fortunately, there are other less drastic changes we can all make in our daily lives to help get more out of every day. By making a few minor adjustments to our daily routines, we can all reap the benefits of more natural energy!
While carbohydrates may be a great source of energy, foods rich in simple carbohydrates can leave you feeling sluggish and tired. The basics of carbs is there are complex carbohydrates (think starchy foods like potatoes, beans and oatmeal) and simple carbs (think white rice, white bread, sugary and processed foods). While they both provide your body with energy, foods heavy in simple carbohydrates can leave you feeling sluggish.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion, which is the body's main source of energy. Some simple carbs, like sucrose or sugar, are added to processed foods. Other types of simple carbs are naturally occurring in foods (like fructose is fruit or lactose in milk).
Foods rich in simple carbohydrates are higher on the glycemic index (GI), which is basically a scale from 1 to 100 that evaluates foods based on how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Foods on the high end of the glycemic index scale cause your blood sugar to rapidly rise and then drop quickly to a lower point than it was before you ate. We all know the feeling of getting a sudden burst of energy after drinking our favourite fruit smoothie, but then feeling sluggish and hungry a short period of time afterward.
If you're already on a healhty diet your main source of simple carbohydrates is most likely high-fructose fruit. You can reduce your sugar intake by choosing low-sugar fruits. Berries are an excellent option, they are still packed with all your nutritional needs but relatively low in carbohydrates and sugar.
If you're like most people, coffee is most likely your go-to solution for those drowsy mornings and afternoon slumps. The problem is that caffeine from coffee is similar to sugar in a way. It gives you a sudden short burst of energy, but then energy levels quickly drop to a lower point than they were before you had it.
If you're highly reliant of coffee, green tea is an excellent substitute. Think of green tea as being like whole fruit and coffee as being like a a smoothie. If you eat the whole fruit, your body slowly absorbs all the nutrition and energy as it digests over time, but the smoothie gives you a whole heap of energy really quickly as it's absorbed straight away. In the world of caffeine, green tea is little bit like that fruit.
The caffeine in green tea is bound to larger catechin molecules, that also act as powerful antioxidants, and is released into the bloodstream slowly over time. The result is a slow release of caffeine that provides sustained energy for up to 6 to 8 hours. This means when you consume green tea you'll get a constant, steady supply of energy without a crash like you would with coffee.
Fats get a bad wrap in today's world, however they're not nearly as bad as they're made out to be. The problem is that the standard diet uses carbohydrates and sugar as a fuel source so any excess fats don't gets burned by the body.
Fats are actually one of nature's cleanest energy sources, particularly certain types of fats. While your fat intake should be low on a carbohydrate based diet, regularly substituting some of those carbs for high-quality fats can work wonders.
Additionally, by substuting some carbohydrates for fats you are training your body to actually burn more fat. By supplying your body with small amounts of fat on a regular basis, your body will start to produce ketones, which burn fat as an energy source (in place of carbohydrates). When you don't have enough of either (e.g skipping breakfast), your body will find some fat to burn.
If you're diet is relatively low in fat, MCTs (Medium chain triglycerides) are the way to go. MCTs are very easy for the body to break down and use as energy, giving you almost instant energy for a medium length of time.
The great thing about MCTs is that they may also help you feel fuller for longer. Meaning you won't need to carb-load at lunch when you have some good fat for breakfast. This study, for example, found that 10-40g of MCT oil alongside a standardized test meal significantly improved fullness and reduced the amount eaten on the next meal. The study included a control group that ate the standardized test meal without any added fat. Compared to this group, the MCT supplemented meals significantly reduced energy intake at a later meal by 40-64%.
You can find MCT oil in most health food stores as a supplement. You can also get it in smaller amounts naturally from foods such as coconut oil, cheese, butter, milk, cream and yogurt.
Energy levels are directly related to the health of your gastrointestinal tract, and if you're frequently tired or feel bloated, you may need to focus on improving your overall gut health. A common problem is a “leaky gut” which occurs when the lining of the intestines weakens so much that its contents escape to the bloodstream, causing fatigue, headaches and food sensitivities.
A good way to counteract this is to help alkalise your body and the best place to start is leafy greens. The humble green smoothie is an excellent source of energy, nutrition and fibre which keeps blood sugar stable (no afternoon sugar crashes!). Check out our Super Green Elixir Smoothie for a good recipe!
The ancient Mayans and Aztecs consumed chia seeds to keep up energy and alertness among warriors during war. These little powerhouse seeds are an outstanding source of protein and omega fatty acids. It’s the “gooeyness” of chia seeds however, after being added to liquid that creates one of its best-known energy benefits. The seed’s outer husk is hydrophilic, meaning it draws in fluid. When mixed in water, chia seeds can absorb 10 times their weight in fluid, making them an excellent way to way to stay hydrated and absorb nutrition.
The essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) found in chia seeds have been shown to enhance sleep quality, boost brain power and combat inflammation, which keeps your body feeling fresh.
Coupled with high levels of protein and fiber, which helps stabilise blood sugar levels, it’s no wonder the humble chia seed is being heralded as a superfood and natural energy booster.
The amazon basin is home to some of the world's most nutritious berries. Small communities of ancient river tribes have been using traditional super berries for thousands of years. Each day, the tribes would make their perilous journey through the rainforests, hand-picking exotic berries, fruits and seeds for sustenance. These gatherings were returned to the village and used to create juices to support the immune system, ward off viral infections, boost vitality and help maintain good health under the harsh conditions of the hunter-gatherer way of life.
Not only are berries loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and key minerals but they're also low in sugar. There's even a number of studies showing that berries may actually improve your blood sugar and insulin levels.
For example, this study found that consuming 150g of mixed berries with white bread significantly improved insulin responses and led to a 24–26% reduction in insulin levels compared to consuming the bread alone.
Moreover, in a six-week study, insulin-resistant people who consumed a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than the group who consumed smoothies without berries.
Some of the more popular native Amazonian berries include Camu Camu, Açaí and Maqui berries. Although you'll be hard pressed to find these berries at your local supermarket, you can include them in powder form with fresh berries. Amazonia is an excellent source of berries and includes Camu Camu, Açaí and Maqui along with a host of amazonian seeds and roots.
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