“Your metabolism tends to be sluggish in the morning, so you need to give it a jumpstart,” says Tristaca Caldwell, a registered dietitian in Halifax. The best way to do that is by eating a power-packed breakfast that includes protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. If you’re not already on the breakfast bandwagon, consider this: Studies show that people who eat breakfast every day have a lower body-mass index than those who don’t. And a recent study in the European Journal of Neuroscience found that skipping breakfast actually increases the appeal of high-calorie foods. “It’s your choice,” says Caldwell. “You can have yogourt, fruit and cereal in the morning, or get hit with cravings for a bag of chips and chocolate cake at night.”
Make it a habit
Energize your day with one of these smart breakfast combos:
• Poached omega-3 eggs with a slice or two of whole-grain toast and fresh berries.
• Oatmeal with apple slices, cinnamon and low-fat milk.
• French toast (made with whole-grain bread), topped with yogourt and fresh fruit.
• High-fibre cereal (at least five grams per serving) with sliced banana, a spoonful of flaxseeds and low-fat milk.
• Whole-grain bagel with light cream cheese and three ounces of smoked salmon.
2. Be a steady sipper
The secret to all-day energy? “Fluid, fluid, fluid!” says Caldwell. “All of our metabolic reactions happen in water, so it’s important to stay hydrated to keep energy levels at their peak.” Two things you may not know about fluids: First, studies show that being even a little dehydrated can hamper your brain’s ability to function. Second, you can’t bank them. “It’s not enough to chug a glass or two a few times a day,” says Caldwell. “Instead, sip fluids in small amounts all day long, so they’re easier for your body to absorb and you don’t end up just peeing them out.”
3. Fuel up every three to four hours
“Your blood-sugar levels begin to drop within four hours of eating,” so the longer you wait to refuel, the more depleted you feel and the more vulnerable to temptation you become, says Caldwell. Need more incentive to munch more often? A recent study in the journal Appetite found that people who eat frequent meals have faster and more accurate reasoning skills than those who don’t. And no need to worry that eating more often will lead to extra pounds: Research shows that women who eat regularly throughout the day don’t consume more calories than those who eat sporadically.
4. Avoid the mid-afternoon slump
We’ve all been there: It’s 2:30 p.m., and you’re still at work, but your energy is long gone. Although research suggests that a post-lunch energy dip may be part of human biology, experts agree it can be made worse by what we choose to eat for lunch: Options like a meagre salad or a big plate of white pasta will leave you lethargic. “Healthy eating has to include [the right balance of] fat, carbohydrates and protein,” says Caldwell. “That’s the only way you’ll have the energy to function at your peak.” Want to prevent an afternoon coma? Here’s how to transform a snooze-inducing salad into a supercharged midday meal:
This salad is all wrong. Two cups of iceberg lettuce, baby carrots and celery don’t offer much nutritional punch, and 2 tbsp bacon bits, croutons, 50 g grated cheese and 3 tbsp ranch dressing load it with calories and fat. As for the wow factor, there isn’t one — in fact, we’re bored just writing about it. So unless your boss is okay with a postlunch siesta, it’s probably best to pass on this one.
Supercharged niçoise: 705 calories, 38 g of protein, 28 g of fat
Check it out: This salad is close to the one above in total calories, but delivers more protein and less empty fat. Colourful veggies (spinach, green beans and cherry tomatoes) are loaded with nutrients, 1/2 a can of tuna and a hard-boiled egg are packed with protein, and the olives provide a solid dose of healthy fat, as does the dressing (1 tbsp each of olive oil and red-wine vinegar, with a dollop of whole-grain mustard). The potatoes provide necessary carbs.
5. Seek out energy superfoods
Unleash all-day energy with these five food boosters:
Bananas: This fruit is high in vitamin B6, which our bodies need to keep our nervous systems working properly, and to help our blood deliver oxygen to tissues. Slice and serve one over cereal, or wrap it in a tortilla with peanut butter for a tasty snack.
Quinoa: As well as being packed with complex carbohydrates, this superfood is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids (which our bodies can’t make on their own). Rinse well before cooking and prepare like rice.
Lentils: This often-neglected member of the legume family is high in protein, folate and fibre — and it is loaded with complex carbs, so you won’t crash an hour after eating. Serve it up as a side dish or add it to salads, soups and stews.
Hemp Seeds: These tasty seeds are full of protein, and they’re also loaded with iron (which we need to transport oxygen to cells), zinc (essential for immune function) and magnesium (which helps us metabolize carbs). Sprinkle them over cereal or add them to a smoothie.
Salmon: An excellent source of omega 3s, which keep our brains buzzing and hearts ticking, salmon is also one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D, which our bodies need for proper immune function. Serve grilled as a main dish or over a bed of fresh greens.