Fueling Your Body
Find the Best Way to Power Up
Fueling your body seems to be the quest of this millennium. Living in an era of abundance for both food choices and sheer quantity, we (as a society) are getting heavier and heavier while complaining of lethargy and lack of energy. Increasing energy is a complex concept. Energy is a result of multiple factors including lifestyle choices, supplements and foods.
A living machine, your body needs fuel to function properly. The calories in our food are our fuel. Not all food (or calories) however are created equally. The best energy foods are those that release their energy slowly, enabling you to get long sustained energy without the dreaded surge and crash of unbalanced high-calorie (and low nutrient) foods.
Many high calorie foods do not energize you. Conversely there are foods low in calories that can send you off to the races. The hard part is finding out which have the optimal balance of calories and energizing potential for you. It seems that the nutrient mix (beyond calories) is far better at determining how energized foods make you feel. The fibre, fat (and fat types), vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and how they interact tell the rest of the story.
Try to load your diet with foods that have a high ratio of nutrients to calories. These include fruits, vegetables and whole grains, foods your body digests slowly to receive energy slowly and consistently without any crashing. Ensure you are getting a wide variety of healthy protein sources such as legumes (beans & lentils), meats (lean beef, lamb), poultry (chicken, turkey), fish (salmon, tuna) , dairy and eggs. A wide variety of protein sources is ideal. Vegans & vegetarians can find a wide variety within the plant kingdom, without resorting to animal products.
Hydrate! Throughout the past 20 years the trend has been to more boutique or exotic drinks for hydration. Stores are filled with enhanced waters, sports drinks, workout drinks, sodas and calorie reduced drinks. Then there are the thousands of 'cute sounding' drinks ordered daily at every corner and delivered by baristas. Have we gone mad?
What happened to just plain water? Water is the ideal drink. It is calorie-free, very inexpensive, 100% natural and your body needs it for energy (and about a thousand other things). I know, some of you are complaining that you don't like the "plain" taste and that's why you go for the "other" drinks. For you I have a solution - Tea! Like water, tea is calorie-free, very inexpensive, and can be 100% natural (depending on which you choose). Additionally you have a virtually endless supply of flavours to liven up your drink. There really is no excuse.
Sleep is the number one casualty of the information age. By living in a world where nothing stops, we have trained ourselves not to stop. Sub optimal sleep is linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity, just to name a few. So how much sleep should we be getting? According to experts 7-8 hr. a night for adults is best. Getting the right amount of sleep each night lets your body recharge, relax and reset so that when you wake up you are physically and mentally refreshed and you have the energy to take on the challenges of each new day.
We don't exercise. North Americans sit far too much (commuting, in front of computer screens, and in front of televisions). This sedentary lifestyle robs us of our health and takes years off our lives. As a result we get heavier, are more susceptible to disease (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, flu, etc) and are always tired.
Exercise reduces your risk of multiple diseases and increases your lifespan. Exercise makes us feel happier. It stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood, relaxation and emotional outlook. All this and energizing benefits too. Exercising regularly improves muscle strength and increases endurance. Regular exercise increases your cardiovascular system efficiency to bring more oxygen and nutrients to your cells thereby increasing energy throughout your body. The question is how much? Start simple. Talk to your doctor about getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Try something you enjoy as you'll be more likely to stick with it.
Supplements are a great way to top up your diet with additional nutrients to improve energy. Start with a good multivitamin. No matter how hard you try it is virtually impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals you need each day from your food. A good multivitamin will ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need, especially B vitamins and iron for women. A good greens product will help boost your energy (without calories). Greens work by opening up your airways so you take in more oxygen which your body uses for energy. I prefer liquid concentrates as they are grit-free, don't need mixing and taste better. A good healthy energy boost can be found in Ontario ginseng (panax quinquefolius); this homegrown herb (look specifically for the Ontario variety) is very safe and gives a nice energy boost without crashing.
When it comes to properly fueling your body for maximum energy the simplest rules are the best. Eat a well balanced healthy diet, drink lots of clean water, get adequate sleep, supplement wisely and avoid stimulants (caffeine & sugar), artificial ingredients and unhealthy foods. Power up!
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.