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Maximizing Energy: The Complete Guide to Building an Energy-Boosting Meal

Woman in a white sweater cutting vegetables in a kitchen
NWE Coach Emily K cutting vegetables

It's 2 pm, you can barely keep your eyes open and you're about to head into a meeting at work. You want nothing more than to take a nap or maybe an extra-large coffee to see if you can power through your afternoon. This happens every day, you feel like you can barely make it through the afternoon without dozing off. Why is this happening? What is my energy in the tank? How can I boost my energy throughout the day?

This week's Nourished with Emily blog is about just that! Let's dive into how to keep your energy up through what you're putting on your plate by incorporating energy-boosting foods!

Unlock All-Day Energy: The Role of Nutrition

First, let's put our energy and our bodies into perspective. Your body is like a battery. Every day you have to charge up that battery, then try to make sure it can stay as full as it can, as long as possible. Sleep is what will recharge that physical battery but what you're eating, when you eat and how much will determine how well you stay energized throughout the day.

If we put sugary, less protein and fiber-dense foods into our tank, our batteries will start to drain fast. With more nutrient-dense and balanced meals, you can expect to stay awake and energized throughout the day. One of our Signature Nutrition Coaching Clients, Jeff from Syracuse NY, came to us complaining of low energy, lack of focus in the afternoon, and difficulty staying awake. After looking at his food log, we saw that breakfast was very small, he wasn't getting enough food in to recover from exercise, and his lunches didn't have the right balance to keep his energy levels up. Since working with us for the last 3 months, he no longer reaches for that afternoon caffeine, doesn't have that afternoon energy crash, and he's able to keep his productivity high throughout the afternoon. No more exhaustion, but focus and energy!

Carbohydrates: Your Body's Primary Fuel Source

Having the right nutrients on your plate is important to keep you energized. When we are building our plates with protein, carbohydrates, and color, we are building an energy-boosting and lasting energy plate. The key ingredient for energy is the carbohydrates on your plate. By adding whole grains, potatoes, legumes, whole wheat breads, and more on your plate, you're giving your brain and body its primary fuel source for energy. Your brain and spinal cord need a minimum of 130g of carbohydrates a day to run optimally. Without these, your body has to work harder to make energy from alternative sources, which require even more energy to make. Having carbohydrates on the plate is one easy way to help with energy levels.

What can make your energy last longer is by pairing the carbohydrates with protein sources. Protein slows down carbohydrate digestion, which means there is a slower and more consistent energy release into your bloodstream over time. If we have carbohydrates on their own, they can get digested very fast as they start to digest as soon as they enter your mouth. Pairing them with protein is an easy way to help you have more consistent energy as the blood sugar will slowly rise and fall rather than big spikes and drops which can feel like a sugar high then energy crash.

Quantity and Quality: Filling Your Plate for Energy

Choosing whole foods like whole grains and minimally processed foods like fresh fruit and vegetables are also great ways to ensure you're getting more energy and nutrients out of your meals. Highly processed foods, foods that have gone through processing to change it into something that is vastly different from its grown form, will have fewer nutrients as the processing can strip them of vitamins, minerals, and fibers which help our overall health.

Timing Matters: Consistency Is Key

The secret to lasting energy is not just eating balanced meals; it's also having the timing of your meals be consistent. Ever notice that you get hungry the same time every day for lunch? That's because part of our appetites are influenced by our circadian rhythms. Hunger and fullness cues are regulated by hormones and when we make our meal times consistent and predictable, our bodies become more consistent with hormone release and digestion behaviors. One easy hack to help you increase your energy is by eating at consistent times every day. Skipping meals or changing around mealtime is one sure way to cause energy levels to drop.

The Importance of Balanced Meals

Putting some gas in the tank is one way to increase your energy, but making sure you're filling up your tank is another way you know you're getting in enough energy. Think about when you go and fill your car up with gas. You don't just put a couple of drops in, just like if you were grabbing a meal, you wouldn't have only almonds, and then expect your car to run efficiently and at its best or your body to have energy. You have to fill the tank with the right fuel to have lasting energy. Skipping meals, only having part of meals, or only having small meals will affect how much energy you have and how well you feel. Making your meals as small as possible is not the goal for energy or long-term satiety. Your goal should be building healthy, balanced, filling meals that make hitting your goals easy.

Figuring out exactly how much should be on your plate and what your calorie goals are is something we can help you with inside our Signature Nutrition Coaching program. After one call, 100% of our clients report better energy through using the Nourished with Emily plate method! If you've been feeling sluggish and need an energy kick because you want to have the energy to play with your kids or hit a good workout at the end of the day, join our Signature Nutrition Coaching Program today!


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