We don’t know what day it is. We don’t know what time it is. We don’t know when we last ate a vegetable that hasn’t been roasted in honey.
We do know one thing: we are tired.
There’s something about the extreme lethargy, lack of routine and excessive alcohol consumption of the Christmas period that always causes a huge slump in energy.
It makes sense – it’s been a tough and exhausting 12 months. Around about this time every year, like clockwork, we all start crashing hard – and the thought of jumping into January with any kind of enthusiasm can seem impossible.
But there are some proactive ways you can tackle your energy levels and give yourself a healthy boost of get-up-and-go.
We asked Helen Bond, a registered and consultant dietitian to Pharmaton Advance for her top tips on how to improve your energy and feel less exhausted all the time.
‘Poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep are some of the culprits of energy slumps,’ says Helen.
‘So too are not drinking enough water and non-alcoholic fluids, skipping meals or eating the wrong types of food and at the wrong times.
‘The good news is that these are all things you can change, and new healthy habits can support your energy levels and make a world of difference to how you feel.’
Get a health check
Check with your GP that you don’t have any underlying health issues that cause extreme tiredness and fatigue.
Look out for coeliac disease, iron deficiency anaemia, an underactive thyroid, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes or sleep apnoea.
Keep a food and energy diary
Note down everything that you’re eating and drinking over the course of a week, along with the energy levels you have during the day.
You’ll get a clear picture of exactly what, when and how much you’re actually eating and drinking, and whether your food and drink choices are linked to the times you’re feeling most tired.
You can then consider how you could adjust your eating habits to help avoid energy slumps.
Balance your plate
To help maintain energy levels throughout the day, try to make sure your diet contains the five food groups in the right amounts, as shown in Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide.
Fruits and vegetables; starchy wholegrain carbohydrates; beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein sources; dairy products and alternatives; and oils and spreads.
Eating most of your meals this way will give you a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, and it’s this nutrient combination that helps control energy release, and can help keep you feeling fuller and powered for longer.
Start the day with breakfast
Having a nutritious breakfast will provide energy after the overnight fast, and will help stabilise your blood sugar levels through the morning.
This can also help avoid the temptation to overindulge at lunchtime, which in turn helps avoid the feeling of needing a post-lunch nap.
Good options are a bowl of wholegrain cereal or porridge, with semi-skimmed milk and some sliced banana, or a boiled egg with wholegrain soldiers.
Take a break from alcohol
While it can be tempting to have a drink after a long day, it’s important to stick to the recommended limits of 14 units a week.
Too much alcohol can rob your body of essential micronutrients, impact on the quality of your sleep and have a profound effect on how you feel and your overall energy levels.
Boost your B vitamins
Eating foods containing B vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B6, biotin and B12, as these vitamins are known to help your body release energy from food as they contribute to energy-yielding metabolism.
Avoid shortfalls by eating a diet rich in wholegrains and green leafy vegetables, and include a variety of lean meats, fish, poultry and eggs throughout the week.
Making sure you get your daily quota of these foods will ensure your body has a reliable source of energy to call upon.
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Be carb conscious
Carbs are an important source of fuel for your brain and body, but it’s important to choose the right types.
For starchy foods, choose wholegrain options that have a higher fibre content and a lower glycaemic index than their counterparts. Examples include wholegrain muesli, whole meal bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
Foods such as porridge oats and ancient grains like quinoa and buckwheat are also high in fibre with low glycaemic indexes.
Foods with a low glycaemic index release energy slowly and keep your gut microbes healthy, too.
It’s also a good idea to consider what time of day you eat carb-heavy foods as they can make you feel sleepy.