Tips To Boost Your Energy, Avoid The Sugar Crash
If you've ever experienced a tired, groggy, lackluster feeling around two o'clock in the afternoon on a weekday, then you're not alone. Like a dark cloud gathering across the sky, the afternoon "slump" can lower down over you in a matter of minutes, depleting your energy and fogging your mental focus. In other words, it's a daily obstacle you have to contend with…
So, what do you do to clear the fog, boost energy, and get back on track so that the rest of your day isn't sabotaged?
A lot of people combat the afternoon energy slump by reaching for a sugary snack--gummy bears, cookies, or a coffee sweetened with table sugar for an extra kick of caffeine and refined carbohydrates that go straight to the brain.
Hey, no one can really blame them. Refined carbohydrates ranging from regular table sugar to high fructose corn syrup will definitely provide a boost of energy. For decades now, sugar has been regarded as a mood enhancer capable of improving mental focus, motivation, mood, and energy…
...and it does…
Why is that? The answer has everything to do with one of the "happy chemicals" that your brain makes whenever you eat sugar, called serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, really do improve mood. However, while sugar does boost serotonin, the effects of serotonin within your body won't be valuable in the long run when another, larger physiological response to sugar kicks in… namely, hyperactivity followed by the dreaded "sugar crash".
Unfortunately, for those of you that are in the habit of reaching for fast-burning sugar to beat your afternoon slump, all you're really accomplishing in the long run is perpetuating a vicious high-and-crash cycle. The crash can't be avoided. Once sugar is metabolized, the energy you derived from it initially cannot be sustained, and a larger energy drop is destined to follow.
When it comes to avoiding the dreaded sugar crash altogether, the first step you must take is to choose an alternative and leave the sugary snacks alone, period. This includes being mindful that your lunch isn't packed with simple carbs or refined sugars--let's face it, you wouldn't experience a 2pm slump unless your 12pm lunch contained hidden culprits…
But avoiding sugar doesn't entirely solve the problem. You want to boost energy and keep your mental focus and physical stamina strong and steady throughout the day…
Here are the Sweetly Stevia staff favorites of tips to stay energized, beginning with what you can do and ending with what you can eat!
TAKE A BRISK WALK
It might seem counter-intuitive, but getting up and moving when you feel lethargic can actually give you energy, as opposed to draining you even more. The reason for this is that physical movement promotes blood circulation throughout the body. When you stimulate your circulatory system, fresh oxygen is carried through the bloodstream to the brain, which will wake you up and help you to feel alert, alive, and focused. Taking a brisk walk around the block or around the cubicles at your office can do wonders for stimulating your circulatory system, so be sure to give this trick a try the next time the afternoon slump starts settling over your desk.
The reason a brisk walk is effective at boosting energy has everything to do with circulating oxygen to the muscles, organs, and brain. That's why doing deep belly breathing is equally effective, and for this one, you don't have to leave your chair if you don't want to. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm when you begin to feel a slump coming on. If you place your hand over your belly button and inhale deeply in such a way that your stomach pushes out against your hand, you will automatically expand your lower lungs, taking in more oxygen with each breath. The deeper and longer you breathe in this manner, the more oxygen will reach your brain, causing you to feel suddenly alert and menatlly focused.
Nothing drains mental and physical energy like an anxious, racing mind, especially when those worried thoughts keep you up at night. Maintaining balanced mental health is a surefire way to keep your overall energy levels high and steady throughout the day. But for some people, this is far easier said than done. Everyone, no matter what their life circumstances, is managing some degree of stress. By spending as little as ten minutes once a day in a relaxed state of mindfulness meditation, you can improve your mood and inhibit the stress hormone cortisol from elevating in response to stressful triggers. Sit in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed or open, and focus your attention on your breathing. Try to keep your mind open and blank. If a thought comes to mind, simply acknowledge it and let it go, returning once again to a clear-headed state. When you ground yourself in the present moment and release worried thoughts as soon as they arise, you'll lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and also put things into a clearer, more manageable perspective, which will help you tackle stress factors that could crop up later down the road.
If taking a brisk walk around the block and breathing deeply can boost energy, then spending time in full-blown aerobic activity will raise your energy level tenfold. Cardiovascular exercises that get your heart rate up and your blood circulating help your body to release endorphins that can improve your mood, strengthen your heart, and give you a better, more energized outlook on life. Now, we aren't suggesting that you take a jog or a dance class at two in the afternoon. However, if you get in the habit of exercising for 30 minutes roughy four times per week, you will see an overall increase in your energy level throughout the day, no matter how demanding your life, family, and career is.
We know what you're thinking right now and it's something along the lines of, if I can't eat a candy bar to jumpstart my afternoon, what can I eat? Fair enough! We'll get down to business in a moment, right after we cover our nutrition bases…
EAT SMALL MEALS FREQUENTLY
According to Harvard Medical School, taking extra amounts of individual nutrients, such as a multivitamin, won't give you more energy. However, supplying your body with a steady stream of nutrients throughout the day will. You can do this by eating smaller meals frequently. By consuming quality calories, i.e. nutrient-dense whole-food meals every few hours, you will avoid the energy slump that can result from eating a large lunch that requires far too much energy to digest, such as a thousand-calorie burger from your local fast food joint.
USE CAFFEINE STRATEGICALLY
If you've been following our blog, then you know that the staff here on Team Sweetly are the last people on earth who would ever denounce coffee. We love coffee--swoon!--and even more than the taste, we love the concentration boost that caffeine delivers with every cup of dark roast! That being said, when it comes to caffeine, it isn't hard to overdo it. The natural stimulant, caffeine, can increase your energy level and alertness, but too much can cause jitters, anxiety, and poor sleep, which will only lead to a loss of energy in the long run. To sustain the energy boost and mental sharpness, avoid coffee and caffeine after 3pm and be sure to eat a balanced diet of small, nutritious meals throughout the day. Does this mean we recommend you pour a cup of joe to get through the afternoon slump at work? Yes, but only if you refrain from adding sugar!
The theme here, if you've noticed it, is moderation. And just as we wouldn't recommend too many caffeine drinks throughout the day, we hold the same attitude towards alcohol. If you want to maintain your energy levels, you have to limit your consumption of alcohol. Why is that? Alcohol has a sedative effect and can cause drowsiness. Metabolizing alcohol is a complicated process that can drain energy and prevent you from reaching the deepest level of REM sleep, even if you drink a glass as early as four hours before bedtime. For these reasons, it's best to stick to drinking in moderation, avoid afternoon cocktails, and only treat yourself to an adult beverage when you can afford to have a slower morning the next day. No more than two drinks daily for men and one for women is the general guideline and it's a good one unless you're at a wedding reception and just caught the bouquet…
DRINK MORE WATER
Did you know that fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Water is an essential element of the human body and it's needed to carry dietary nutrients to your cells for energy. Drinking water throughout the day will also help you to eliminate waste via having regular bowel movements. During endurance workouts where you're sweating, you'll need to sip water throughout to maintain solid energy. It's recommended you drink a full 8-ounce glass of water before and after a rigorous workout, and if you expect to complete more than 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, you'll also need to drink water as you go. Don't forget, everything you do from breathing to sneezing to showering causes you to deplete your bodily water, so keep drinking to stay hydrated!
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for! Team Sweetly's favorite energizing foods! You'll never feel the urge to grab a Snickers again once you get a taste for these all-natural whole food snacks!
COCONUT provides an energy boost thanks to its MCTs, that's short for "medium chain triglyceride fatty acids". Coconut oil is extremely versatile and has a very high smoke-point, which means that you can use it to pan fry at a high temperature without compromising the integrity of the oil. At room temperature, coconut oil remains solid, similar to butter, making it ideal to spread on crackers, bread, cooked vegetables, and even as a hearty addition to your morning coffee.
EGGS have one of the best nutritional profiles of any food and are almost 100% bioavailable. This means that nearly all of the nutrition within the egg can be absorbed by your body and used efficiently. Packed with 7 grams of high-quality protein, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, eggs offer a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. The omega-3s they provide are excellent for cognition and brain health. However, for some people eggs are an allergen and must be avoided altogether. If you can tolerate eggs, go for organic, pasture-raised, cage-free whole eggs which offer a better balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
AVOCADOS are an excellent choice for providing sustained, reliable energy thanks to their B-vitamin profile and fiber, which helps to stabilize blood sugar. Because avocados come loaded with monounsaturated fats, eating as little as half of one can fill you up and keep you satiated for hours. The fatty acids of avocados also have anti-inflammatory properties, which aids in reducing inflammation, a major cause of fatigue for some people.
FATTY FISH like salmon and tuna are among the healthiest fish to eat due to their omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and high iodine content. In addition to supplying a great deal of protein, fish oil has long been regarded as excellent for overall brain health, and specifically stimulates stronger cognition, memory, and mental focus. If you want to energize your mind as well as your body, go for a fatty fish with lunch, such as a salmon salad or tuna melt sandwich.
DARK LEAFY GREENS including swiss chard, spinach, kale, bok choy, collard greens, and even broccoli rabe are teeming with minerals and phytonutrients that your body can use as fuel. The best part about incorporating dark leafy greens into your daily diet is that you can eat as much as you want without compromising your calorie goals. In other words, these veggies don't contain enough calories to negatively impact a strict, low-calorie diet. High in iron and vitamin C, dark leafy greens increase the production of red blood cells, which improves the oxygen transfer to your cells, resulting in better energy levels throughout the day.
All this is to say, avoid those sugary snacks! But if you experience a sugar craving, reach for Sweetly Stevia instead to add to your coffee. Team Sweetly has also created delicious desserts and meals that won't cause a blood sugar spike or dreaded "sugar crash" because our recipes never call for added sugar. Be sure to check out the Recipes on our website, subscribe to our blog, and keep your kitchen stocked with the fine products from Sweetly Stevia.