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Many busy moms are tired of being tired. And, not knowing where to start to fix the exhaustion and overwhelm. Can you relate? One of the first actions to increase your energy is to pay attention to what and when you eat.
Three simple steps will help eat your way to greater energy:
- Choose energy-boosting foods (hint: not caffeine or high-sugar foods)
- Eat regularly (based on what makes your body feel the best)
- Plan and prep consistently
As a reminder, healthy eating is the 2nd most important strategy to improve your energy. Sleep is the #1 way to boost your wellbeing. Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep causes carb cravings and weight gain (a whole other issue for many working moms). When you don’t sleep well or typically don’t sleep 7-8 hours a night, your body makes more ghrelin, a chemical that causes sugar cravings. If this is the norm and not the exception, your ability to resist those sugar cravings will be impaired. And, ingesting more sugar cause greater fluctuations in energy.
Choose Energy-Boosting Foods
You’re not alone if you rely on caffeine and sugar to boost your energy. What happens to your energy, though, after you’ve consumed an afternoon soda/coffee or a sweet treat? Your energy crashes as the initial spike in blood sugar falls below your energy setpoint. Now you feel worse and wonder how you’ll have the energy to make dinner and put the kids to bed. You can take charge of your food choices to increase your energy. First, minimize the amount of caffeine and sugar you consume, especially in the afternoon and evening.
Next, choose foods chock full of nutrients such as:
- Fruits: avocados, bananas, apples, oranges, and dark berries
- Vegetables: green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, beets, and dark chocolate
- Grains: oatmeal, popcorn, and quinoa
- Beans and legumes: lentils, almonds, pistachios, and peanut butter
- Greek yogurt
Combining protein, high fiber carbs, and quality fat each time you eat stabilizes your blood sugar and energy levels. Try these energy-boosting options for snacks.
Important: drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells which helps increase and regulate your energy.
Recommendations abound for how often to eat. Research reports the ideal is anything from every 2-3 hours to intermittent fasting which limits the hours of the day when you eat (e.g., 10 am to 3 pm). Lots of research shows eating a big breakfast composed of protein, good carbs, and quality fat provides positive results.
One size does not fit all, however. I don’t feel better after eating breakfast. I’ve experimented over the years and found that it only made me feel better when I was pregnant. I naturally feel better when I fast from about 8 p.m. to noon the next day. (I drink plenty of water and some coffee in the morning.) If I extend my intermittent fasting until 2 pm, however, I start to feel shaky, and it takes more food to satiate my hunger.
Which eating schedule makes you feel your best? Experiment with the amount of time between each meal or snack. In addition to the time, document what you ate and how you felt to notice which eating frequency gives you the most energy.
Plan and Prep Consistently
Knowing which foods boost energy and which eating frequency works best for you won’t help fight your exhaustion unless you put the knowledge into action. Each week, shop for energy-boosting foods and prepare them so they are ready to eat on-the-go. You might need to experiment with:
- What you eat for breakfast
- Taking your lunch to work instead of purchasing it
- Preparing snacks that you can easily keep at your desk or in the car
- The amount of time between meals and snacks
- How you feel when you wait too long to eat
- Recipes that include energy-boosting ingredients
- When and how much you prep energy-boosting foods, e.g., once or multiple times per week? Stored in single-size portions?
Low energy results from any number of factors. To start solving the mystery of the important factors impacting your exhaustion, you must start with the foods you put into your body and when. Just like a high performing athlete, your body needs to receive the best fuel you can offer on the schedule that makes you feel your best.