Most Americans skip breakfast, grab a cup of coffee and a muffin at the local chain store, and hit the office vending machines for an extra boost of “energy” (code word for sugar) in the late morning.
The long-term result of these morning habits is blood sugar levels that fluctuate wildly throughout the day. Insulin levels spike and drop in tandem with blood sugar levels, and over time many people develop “insulin resistance”. The next likely stage is developing type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease with many potentially severe consequences.
Blood sugar and insulin highs and lows leave a person’s body worn out. Much energy is wasted in compensating for these metabolic swings, and people wonder why they “have no energy”. Without knowing the real cause, people actually make things worse by loading up on candy and nutrient-depleted carbohydrates as they attempt to gain sufficient energy to get done the work they need to do.
The good news is healthful energy sources are available. One important energy source is making the time to eat a real breakfast. That probably means getting up 15 minutes earlier. But the benefits of those 15 minutes are huge. A half-cup of real oatmeal combined with a pear or quarter-cup of blueberries provides servings of valuable protein and complex carbohydrates. Your body uses this nutrition to provide you with energy for the next two to three hours.
That’s all it takes to have an energy-filled morning. If you eat similarly smart meals at lunch and in the late afternoon you’ll have as much energy as you need for a highly productive day.
Excess stress causes the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline on an ongoing basis. This “fight or flight” hormone is designed to be released for short bursts of energy. Continuous release of adrenaline begins to wear down key body systems, resulting in even more levels of internal stress. Precious energy resources are wasted by excessive adrenaline, and cells and tissues begin to fail in critical functions. Breakdown in the form of actual disease is not far behind. Also, high stress levels may cause a person to lose sleep or have less-than-restful sleep. This only adds to the burden of stress.
New energy sources are needed to combat the losses of energy and restore health to the body.
One main source of energy, of course, is food. “But I eat enough,” you say. “In fact, I’m trying to cut down and lose weight.” It’s not the quantity of food you eat. Eating the right kinds of food in the right combinations provides the energy we need. Otherwise, food calories are just packed on as additional fat cells, rather than being used for energy.
The right kinds of food are nutrient-dense, rather than being calorie-dense. Whole grains, lean meat, fish, high-quality dairy products, and fruits and vegetables are all nutrient-dense foods. Double cheeseburgers with french fries are calorie-dense and low in nutrition. Sprouted grain breads are nutrient-dense. White bread is calorie-dense.
It takes a little work to figure out which foods are healthy and which are not. But once you’ve done your homework and gotten used to reading labels, it becomes easy to choose the foods that will provide valuable energy and nutrients to you and your family.
Exercising regularly provides a person with lots of energy.1 People who exercise regularly fall asleep right away, need less sleep, and usually wake up rested and refreshed. They have energy throughout the day to do what they need to do and rarely “crash” in the middle of the day.
How does all this happen? Regular exercise resets your metabolic clock. Training your muscles also trains your metabolism to work efficiently. You spend less energy to make more energy. It’s a remarkable system.
Another key part of the energy puzzle is finding some quiet time during the day to recharge your batteries.2 Most of us are not aware of the importance of this “alone time”. Our lives are very hectic and we really do need some quiet time to allow us to decompress. “But I’ll never find time in the day to do that,” you say. That’s right. People need to proactively create the time, even though it seems impossible. Once you begin setting aside ten or fifteen minutes each day to just sit and center yourself, you’ll find you actually want to make the time to engage in this highly restorative and energizing activity.
The bottom line? More energy is available to each of us – we just need to plan and make sure we’re taking the time to do things that support us. Eating the right foods, making time for regular exercise, and making room for quiet time will bring you a new sense of peace, well-being, and true, meaningful accomplishment.
Dr. Jose Delgado is an expert in creating lifestyle programs that will assist you in improving your well-being and quality of life. We will be glad to help you develop exercise and nutritional plans that will work for you.
1Marshall DA, et al: Achievement of heart health characteristics through participation in an intensive lifestyle change program (coronary artery disease reversal study). J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev 29(2):84-94, 2009
2Orme-Johnson DW: Commentary on the AHRQ report on research on meditation practices in health. J Altern Complement Med 14(10):1215-1221, 2008