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Eating for Optimal Energy

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Sarah Manktelow, Nutritionist, Dog Watch Nutrition

On a scale from 1 to 10 where would you rate your energy level right now? 1 being flat on your back can’t get out of bed, and 10 being the energy of a 2 year old?

Wherever you are on that scale you should know that it’s ok for those numbers to rise and fall throughout the day. In fact it’s normal. But if you feel, day after day, like you have lost your spark or that certain gusto, then perhaps it is time to take a closer look at the foods you are fueling your body with.

The food we eat provides us with energy for our body’s essential functions like breathing, cellular growth and repair, and blood transportation to all our muscles and organs.

Every cell in our body contains the “powerhouse” for our energy production which is called the mitochondria. The mitochondria help turn the energy we eat from food into energy that the cell can use to create DNA, control muscle contractions, fire nerve impulses and activate metabolic pathways. All of these biochemical processes aren’t possible without the nutrients we consume from different foods. Energy intake is a lot more in depth than just calorie counting.

Optimising energy production can be as simple as 1 or 2 little dietary modifications.

When we feel fatigued, we crave quick energy boosting foods like caffeine, sugar and simple carbohydrates. These are foods that will spike energy production in our cells and then leave you crashing down soon after and then looking for your next energy hit.

For optimal energy levels that are sustained throughout the day we need to start with breakfast. High protein for your first meal of the day is key. 20-35 grams can help sustain hunger, reduce daily cravings and reduce your desire for late-night snacking. Data suggests that the addition of breakfast, particularly one rich in protein, is a useful strategy for improving satiety, reducing food motivation and reward, and improving diet quality.

The “powerhouse” mitochondria is also a hub for amino acid synthesis, which makes protein for breakfast the ideal choice for kickstarting your cellular energy. 20 grams of protein can look like 2 large eggs, 1 cup Greek yoghurt, 3 scoops of protein powder, ½ a can of red kidney beans or a palm-sized portion of meat.

Next step for boosting your energy is to try ditching the wheat. Whilst wheat is a wholegrain that contains a variety of different nutrients, by ditching wheat it opens up your plate to a new world of other wholegrain carbohydrates. Ones that are not highly refined, highly inflammatory and over-farmed. Complex carbohydrates like amaranth, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, millet, and quinoa breakdown slowly into the sugars that mitochondria love. Simple wheat-based carbohydrates like white breads, pastries and processed cereals give us short energy spikes, this is from them quickly breaking down into sugars that our cells use rapidly. Wheat in particular is closely linked to non-celiac gluten sensitivity which presents symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and headaches.

Lastly, everyone knows to eat their greens and boosting your energy levels is the reason why everyone tells you to do it. Remember Popeye always ate his spinach! Dark green leafy vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals like B complex vitamins, iron, iodine, and magnesium. These nutrients can be found in foods such as spinach, seaweed, broccoli, bok choy, rocket, brussel sprouts and kale.

These wonderful foods contain the perfect levels of micronutrients and enzymes to support the mitochondria and keep the cell biochemically healthy and processing optimally. If you aren’t eating these foods regularly that’s when nutritional deficiencies show up and symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and poor cognition.

For more information on energy support and fatigue management, or for individualised sleep and nutritional support contact Dog Watch Nutrition.

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