Fatigue and low energy are common complaints in our clinic. It’s really no surprise as the pace of modern life feels overwhelming. How can we possibly have enough energy to work a full time job, care for children or pets, exercise, eat well, engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones AND get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Just reading that list makes me feel tired.
If the nature of life these days has you constantly feeling fatigued or reaching for coffee or energy drinks to get through the day, this blog is for you.
The reality is, although we associate caffeine, coffee and energy drinks with an energy boost, these things will often make us feel worse and contribute to an energy deficit in the long term. This is because caffeine does not produce energy. All it does is stimulate our nervous system so that we are more on edge. This doesn't mean you shouldn't or can't have caffeine. I would be a hypocrite if I suggested that since my morning cup of coffee is basically a religious ritual for me.
Consuming caffeine is fine is moderation as long as you know that caffeine does not create energy.
Your body gets energy from food!
And while we do care (a lot!) about what you are eating, we care equally about how you are eating.
How you are eating will determine how much energy you get from your food, how well your body digests and ultimately the quality of your metabolism, tissue repair, immune system and reproductive system.
After all, you could be eating the best diet in the world for you and if your body is not digesting and absorbing nutrients your diet doesn't matter!
So here are some tips on how to get the most energy your of your diet for improved digestion, mental clarity, sustainable energy and enjoyment:
1. Maintain a regular meal schedule. Please do not skip meals and avoid eating at irregular times such as late at night. Your digestive system and body like predictability. Some people will benefit from eating smaller meals more frequently (every 2-3 hours) and others will do better with larger meals every 4-6 hours. Ask your acupuncturist what may be right for you.
2. Eat in a relaxed state. Your digestive organs are controlled by what’s called your “rest and digest” nervous system. You might be able to tell from the name that it functions best when you are in a restful, relaxed state! Obviously it’s not always possible to eat when you are fully relaxed but it’s best to take your time eating so you don’t feel rushed (20 minutes is fine!) and more importantly, take a few moments before your meal to take some deep breaths, unplug from whatever you were doing previously and maybe express appreciation for your food. The more relaxed your brain and body are, the better you will be able to digest and absorb nutrients.
3. Chew your food completely and thoroughly; it should be mushy or near liquid when you swallow. Digestion begins in your mouth with an enzyme called amylase which begins the process of breaking down food. This is an important step that ew often skip because of waiting too long to eat and eating quickly. Chewing your food completely is a habit that takes practice so start practicing at your next meal.
4. Avoid cold and raw foods. This means smoothies and most salads. Raw veggies as well. This is especially true if you tend to experience bloating, gas or diarrhea. It takes extra energy to break down cold and raw food so if optimal digestion is your goal, give your stomach some help and eat foods that are fully cooked and mostly warm. Raw vegetables in particular have complex cell structures that are hard for humans to break down. Eating a lot of raw veggies, even salads, can cause gas, bloating, loose stool and even abdominal pain. Steaming, sautéing or roasting your veggies will begin to break down the call, making it much easier to digest and absorb the nutrition from these foods.
5. Eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods. Ok, I know we said this is about how you are eating, not what, but your body can only work with what you give it. whole foods tend to have more nutrition than processed foods which will help improve energy. Whole foods include any fruit or vegetable, grains, animal proteins, eggs, etc. Your body can
The purpose of these eating principles is to regulate digestion, balance your blood sugar and maximize your body’s natural energy production.
Focus on implementing 1-2 at a time, consistently for 2 weeks and then move onto another 1-2. These principles, while simple, will make a huge difference when used together, consistently over time!