How to improve your energy levels with food – part 2: best foods for the body

How to improve your energy levels with food – part 2: best foods for the body
25 January 2020 Serena Sabala

One of the most common complaints we hear in our work as health coaches is that of energy. If only I made a pound for every time someone tells me that they’d like to have more energy…Most people wake up feeling already tired, they struggle to get going and barely push through enough to make it to the coffee maker for the first of many shots which will be needed to keep them going through the day. We hear daily complaints about the struggles of busy professionals to keep the energy levels up and in particular to keep their focus and concentration sharp consistently so that they can feel like they’re giving their best at work and in life.

This constant sense of depletion can be really frustrating and demotivating, adding an extra layer of stress and tension to their already “heavy” lives, which surely don’t help matters.

Most people think this simply has to do with their very busy lifestyle: “I just have too much on”, they say; or “If only I could add some hours to the day”, we hear; “It’s my job: maybe I should find a new one?” or also “my children take all my energy from me”. The truth is: we are all busy (some more than others, of course). We also all have the same amount of hours in one day. I can assure you that if you had more hours in the day, you will simply spend more hours feeling tired, overwhelmed and burnt out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not underestimating the challenges of modern living but we have witnessed enough transformations to know for a fact that your energy levels are WAY more in your control than you realize, regardless of your circumstances.

One of the single most impactful things you can improve to see almost immediate improvements in your nutrition. In my own experience and through my work as a certified nutrition consultant, I’ve been able to make a powerful and very useful distinction. Energetically speaking, there are two kinds of food: there’s food that gives you more energy than it takes to process. Then there’s food that takes more energy to process than it gives.

In the next few blogs, I’ll share my top tips to boost your energy through nutrition and other means.

Let me continue the conversation now by delving deeper into the best way to feed your body for health, longevity and optimal performance.

Here’s the first, important principle I’d like to clarify: when feeding your body, not all calories are created equal. This is because your body doesn’t only need calories as fuel to function optimally, but also and most importantly it needs nutrients. Have you ever wondered why some meals, especially processed food items and take-aways, leave you feeling dissatisfied and lead to cravings even though they contain more than the calories you need? This is because they lack in many of the essential nutrients the body needs to be healthy and thrive.

The optimal diet for humans is one that is very nutrient-dense but not very calorie-dense: this allows us to get all the nutrients we need to function best, whilst also keeping any excess weight off.

We all know about the essential macronutrients we need to survive.

The first one is water: Our bodies use water in all the cells, organs, and tissues, to help regulate body temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because our bodies lose water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s crucial to rehydrate and replace water. Water also helps to deliver nutrients to the cells, it helps to flush away toxins by aiding digestion and elimination and last but not least, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. 

We also need to eat carbohydrates rich foods in order to be healthy and thrive. The body uses these to make glucose: A simple sugar which is our main source of energy and the ONLY source of energy for our brain. Not all carbs are created equal, however: it is important to consume predominantly whole, unprocessed foods rich in carbohydrates such as fruit, root vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as those also contain tons of fiber and micronutrients. they are also naturally lower in calories than their processed counterparts. 

Protein is needed as it is an essential component of every cell in the body. our body uses protein to build and repair tissues, to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to consume animal products in order to get the ten essential amino acids the body needs to build protein. All of them are found abundantly in the plant-based world and because the body is able to store and recycle amino acids, we don’t have to get all of them at every single meal in order to be healthy.

Dietary fats are also an essential nutrient. they give your body energy and support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Healthy Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. It is important to consume the healthy kind of fats (these are unsaturated fats found in avocados, olives, nuts, and olive oil), avoid saturated and especially trans fat and remain mindful of the fact that these foods are very calorie-dense. 

Another very important essential nutrient is Fiber. The body doesn’t produce it so we must get it from the food we eat and it can only be found in plant-based foods. Fiber is important for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. It slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Daily consumption of fiber can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and bowel cancer.

We also need to consume foods that are rich in micro-nutrients; these include vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B, C, E, magnesium, and zinc. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance, and several other processes. Leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruits are some of the most micro-nutrient dense foods available.

So just to summarize, the healthiest diet for human consumption is one that consists of mainly unprocessed plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables (in all colors of the rainbows), Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, root vegetables, but also whole grain pasta, bread, and crackers), Plant proteins (such as legumes, tofu, tempeh and occasionally also veggie burgers, vegan replacements meats, and cheeses). Healthy fats such as avocados, olives, nuts and extra virgin olive oil (in moderation). Plus of course, plenty of water to flush it all down!

P.S. In my book “Make The Shift – a proven method for busy professionals to transform their health, wellbeing, and confidence”, I share even more useful information, tips, and exercises to improve your energy and the quality of your life as a whole. Check it out now on Amazon! #maketheshift