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7 Ways to Eat for Energy

If you’re not running as efficiently as you’d like, you might be surprised at how effective just a few small dietary tweaks can be.

| November/December 2013

  • When you need an energy boost, a little bit of caffeine should do the trick. Most teas contain less caffeine than coffee, but it may be all you need.
    Photo By iStock

As the days get shorter and the nights get chillier, many of us find ourselves feeling more sluggish throughout the day. Although we may simply need more sleep during this time of year—when our ancestors would have spent more time at rest—modern lifestyles generally demand that we maintain busy schedules throughout the winter. When hibernation simply isn’t an option, what’s a tired person to do? Try these seven dietary tips for a natural boost that might help keep you from running on empty.

1. Sustain Nutrition.

Eating well throughout the day is the best way to supply sustained energy to all the hard-working parts of our bodies, including the brain. A lack of energy is usually a sign that something is out of balance, and diet is often the culprit. When we choose appropriate foods throughout the day, they can keep our energy stores steady and our minds sharp, helping us feel good.

People who eat healthy breakfasts have better moods throughout the day, plus improved concentration. Choose a breakfast packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats such as oatmeal, whole-grain toast with peanut butter or scrambled eggs. Eat similarly at lunch, dinner and for snacks, combining whole grains, vegetables, fruits, proteins and healthy fats. (For healthy snack ideas, see our Healthy Snacking collection page.)

Although food supplies us with energy, eating too late at night could actually prevent us from getting high-quality rest. Terry Walters, author of Clean Food, suggests aiming to eat your last meal a few hours before bedtime so you’ll enjoy restorative sleep through the night, rather than stalled digestion.

2. Sustain Hydration.

Studies show that even very mild levels of dehydration can slow us down. Recent studies conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that mild dehydration altered mood, energy levels and the ability to think clearly. When dehydrated, our bodies draw upon their resources to adjust internal water balances instead of using those resources to provide energy, says David Grotto, a registered dietitian and author of The Best Things You Can Eat.

When it’s not hot outside it can be easy to let water consumption slip. While there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for the amount of water you should drink, common recommendations range from 64 to 100 ounces a day. One method is to divide your weight in half and drink that many ounces of water daily. The Institute of Medicine recommends using thirst as your guide. It is possible, though rare, to overhydrate, so always pay attention to thirst cues. Want something more flavorful than water? Coconut water hydrates while delivering electrolytes to keep the body balanced. Many fruits and vegetables can be hydrating, too.

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