Whether you have insomnia or you just rented the addictive fifth season of The Wire, you’re flat out exhausted. A steady stream of non-fat lattes and mini Kit Kats can offer a temporary buzz but only put off the inevitable crash. “A lack of sleep causes stress on the body and lowers the immune system, making it prone to infection,” says Dr. Elena Krasnov, a naturopathic doctor and co-founder of the Toronto Naturopathic Clinic.
Balance what you take in with what you expend. “When you overeat, you feel sluggish because your body’s energy is used up trying to digest too much food,” explains Krasnov, who recommends eating three healthy, balanced meals and two snacks a day.
Krasnov says an energy-boosting diet should consist of 60 to 75 percent fruits and veggies – especially those packed with vitamin B (such as avocados, corn, green beans and peas), which helps keep the nervous system running smoothly. Foods that are rich in vitamin C – like tomatoes, cherries, oranges and strawberries – provide energy and help protect cells because they support our adrenal glands, which encourage boosts of energy. Complex carbs (such as buckwheat, quinoa, beans, legumes, oats and barley) and lean protein (such as skinless chicken) make up the balance.
Feeling lethargic may mean that you’re not getting enough complex carbs. “Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source,” explains Krasnov, who recommends skipping the bacon-and-home-fries breakfast. “Don’t mix carbs and protein in the morning,” she says. “The combo is hard to digest and will make you feel tired.” Instead, have a single serving of complex carbs (such as half a bowl of oatmeal). At lunch, keep your blood sugar levels up with a blend of protein (six ounces of tuna) and veggies (like kale or red peppers). For dinner, opt for brown rice, dark-green veggies and salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and helps lower blood pressure.
If you want to be as peppy as Rachel Bilson, stock up on ginseng. “Ginseng helps your body adapt to stress,” explains Krasnov. Look for ginseng in capsule or liquid form at your health-food store, or buy the root at a Chinese grocery store.
Image courtesy of Norbert Mayer
What to avoid
Processed convenience foods. “A lack of proper nutrients leads to metabolic imbalances,” explains Krasnov, “and the excess toxins in processed foods lead to degenerative changes – which can lead to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.”
Invest in a juicer. “Because juice is broken down into a highly absorbable form, the body can use the nutrients easily,” says Cherie Calbom, author of Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life. “Many people say that they feel energized half an hour after drinking juice. Fresh juice is loaded with vitamins, minerals and enzymes, which are essential for the chemical reactions that produce energy.”
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