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Nutrition on the Go: How to Keep Your Engine Running!

Leading a busy and hectic life definitely takes its toll on your body. Now, most of us do know the reasons behind our lack of energy where our bodies are almost at a state of breaking down. Fatigue and lack of energy can definitely be traced back to one or more of your habits. These habits can include anything from poor eating and food choices, lack of sleep, emotional stress to extreme physical exertion. Therefore, it is important to reassess your lifestyle and eating habits in order to keep yourself up to speed and to bring back the vitality in your life.

Let us start by looking at the foods you will need to include. When we talk about energising foods, think of the following: Carbohydrates, B vitamins, Iron, Protein & Water. Each nutrient plays a major role in fuelling your body in order for it to function at full gear.

 Step 1: Think about how much Carbohydrates is in your diet.

Carbohydrates are the first line of fuel your body uses for energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down to glucose (a type of sugar). This glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and acts as fuel for our body. When we miss out on our carbohydrate foods, we are cutting out a major source of energy. Hence, symptoms such as extreme exhaustion, headaches, fatigue are very common. Another important thing to consider is the type of carbohydrate. For energy that lasts over a long period of time throughout the day, choose LOW GI (Glycaemic Index) foods. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed more gradually, causing a slower, longer lasting rise in blood sugar levels. This improves your body’s ability to use glucose for energy and improves your feeling of fullness which can also help with weight management. So to ensure long lasting energy, make sure you include foods such as: wholegrain breads and cereals, wholemeal rice and pasta, low fat yoghurts and milks, starchy vegetables such as sweet potato & beans and fruits such as strawberries, berries, apples and peaches.

 Step 2: Are you getting enough B vitamins?

The B vitamins are a group of 8 vitamins and they are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9) and cyanocobalamin (B12). These vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means that they are excreted in the urine. For this reason, it is important to ensure that you have a good intake of B vitamins as they can be quickly depleted. The B vitamins are involved in essential processes in our body all related to converting nutrients into energy. For example, thiamine (B1) helps the body convert carbohydrates to energy and metabolise proteins & fats. Vitamins B12 & Folic acid are involved in the formation of red blood cells and are important for a healthy nervous system. If you are unable to keep up your intake of B vitamins, you could always consider a B vitamin complex (e.g. Berocca or equivalent) that can be bought from any pharmacy. The following table lists the B vitamins and their food sources for you to choose from:

Vitamin Food Source
Thiamine (B1) Asparagus, spinach, sunflower seeds, peas, tomatoes, mustard greens, eggplant
Riboflavin (B2) Mushrooms, liver, spinach, low fat yoghurt & milk, soybeans, lean beef
Niacin (B3) Mushrooms, tuna, chicken breast, salmon, halibut, turkey breast, beef tenderloin
Pantothenic Acid (B5) Sunflower seeds, mushrooms, broccoli, squash, corn
Pyridoxine (B6) Capsicum, spinach, tuna, salmon, cod, halibut, snapper, poultry, turnip greens
Biotin (B7) Swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, onions, almonds, eggs
Folic Acid (B9) Lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, lentils, beans, beets
Cyanocobalamin (B12) Lean beef, salmon, liver, shrimp, halibut, low fat yoghurt & milk

Step 3: Are you eating enough Iron rich foods?

Iron is a vital mineral that is used by our body’s red blood cells to form haemoglobin, a compound which carries oxygen to all body tissues and takes carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Common signs of iron deficiency include tiredness, lack of energy, decreased ability to exercise and poor concentration. Iron is best absorbed from animal foods such as red meat, chicken and fish. Vegetable based foods such as legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and green leafy vegetables also contain iron, although it is not as well absorbed in the body. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, so it is useful to include Vitamin C containing foods with a meal. Best food sources of vitamin C include: citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, berries, strawberries, parsley, tomatoes, capsicum, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, radish & potato. You will need an iron supplement if your levels in the blood are too low. Check with your doctor if you are concerned and they will prescribe a supplement if necessary.

 Step 4: Water – an essential drink that you need plenty of!

Making sure that your body is getting enough water is important in order to prevent dehydration. Water is a cheap, healthy, readily available drink that is vital for many functions in our body. Bare in mind that your body looses water and salts through sweat, urine and breathing. Also, water loss depends on how physically active you are throughout the day. A dehydrated body functions less efficiently. So in order to prevent common symptoms of dehydration: dizziness, fatigue, headaches,  muscle cramps and disorientation, make sure you aim for at least 1.5L of water per day ( = 7-8 glasses of water).

Apart from the dietary changes that can improve your energy levels, activity plays a big role in boosting your energy levels. A sedentary lifestyle is known to increase exhaustion and fatigue so get moving! Physical activity has a good effect on both your body and mind and can also help you sleep better. Start planning your activity by setting goals for yourself. Aim for 45 minutes of activity 5 times per week. Different activities to incorporate include: jogging, walking, cycling, swimming, pilates, light weight training and yoga.

Other lifestyle changes that can help you say Good Bye to low energy levels and fatigue include the following:

  • Limit caffeine and energy drinks that only provide you with short lived energy boosts.
  • Avoid crash dieting and detoxing.
  • Get enough sleep: Make sure you get at least 6 – 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking is known to reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood. Now, your body needs to combine glucose with oxygen to make energy and when that is affected, your energy levels are bound to become lower than non-smokers.

By changing both your dietary and lifestyle habits, you are bound to give your body a long lived energy boost. You will be less prone to breakdown when your body is well rested, well nourished and protected from preservatives and chemicals that cause more harm than good.

5 Comments
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