Eat (and Sleep!) For More Energy
August 24 2017
If you’re feeling tired lately, I’ve got some great news. Food can help you fight that fatigue! But before we talk about how to eat for more energy, it’s important to address sleep.
There have been a lot of studies recently showing that sleep is really your best friend when it comes to your brain health and, not surprisingly, your energy levels. If we don’t get enough sleep, an interesting thing happens: we crave simple carbohydrates. It’s a wiring thing. I feel so crappy, I’m so tired, I didn’t sleep, I was up until whatever, my sleep was disturbed… I want a bagel or a pretzel quick!!! If I eat that simple carb it’s going to comfort me and somehow bring me back to life...
Wait, it’s a trick! What actually happens is the body says, I want the sugar, I want the simple carbs, I want the coffee… But it turns out that just makes you feel worse! Now you’re dragging around, trying to metabolize the food. That bagel is sitting in your gut, acting like sugar, spiking your insulin, and you’re on a roller coaster. You’re running on fumes. You need premium gas in the tank! When you don’t get enough sleep, it starts the cycle, and you wander around feeling fatigued.
When you’re feeling fatigue, it’s very important to go against that craving! Instead of reaching for the bagel, eat green: green tea, eggs with greens, salads, things that are lighter, garnished with healthy protein. It’s counter-intuitive, for sure, because your body is CRAVING inappropriate stuff. But really, that’s exactly when we should go with the healthier choice. The right food will start to bring you out of your fatigue and your haze.
In addition, I strongly (and lovingly!) suggest shifting your sleep habits, a little bit. This is not easy to do, I know. For example, if you went to bed 15 minutes earlier — optimally a half hour, but let’s just say you can swing 15 minutes — you’ll be increasing optimal sleep which happens in the earlier hours. Not eating three hours before you’re going to sleep will allow you to digest your food, and is another great habit to cultivate to increase premium sleep and enhanced energy. You’ll then be able to make healthier food choices throughout the day — a virtuous cycle that pays off in wonderful dividends!
The delicious breakfast smoothie recipe below comes from my buddy Drew Ramsey MD and his terrific book Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health. This is a great way to start the day!
You might be skeptical about starting your day with four cups of greens, but that will quickly pass. Mixing greens into your smoothies is an easy way to boost nutrient intake. The fiber in the greens plus the protein in the kefir will keep you full longer, and the live cultures in the yogurt or kefir promote overall gut health. To avoid bitterness, be sure your kiwis are ripe, which means they should be soft to the touch. Leave hard kiwis on the countertop for two to three days to ripen. Enjoy!
Kiwi Green Smoothie
- 2 cups raw fresh spinach
- 2 cups raw kale
- 2 ripe kiwis, peeled and quartered
- 1 cup plain 2 percent yogurt or plain kefir
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4 ice cubes
- 1 cup cold water, plus more as needed
Place the spinach, kale, kiwis, yogurt or kefir, almonds, chia seeds, and honey in a blender along with the ice cubes and cold water. Blend until smooth, adding a few tablespoons more of cold water to adjust the consistency if necessary. Divide evenly between two glasses and serve immediately.