A car requires gasoline to run, and you have a choice of gasoline grades to use depending on the performance you want out of your car. Likewise, your body requires fuel for energy, and just as there are different grades of gasoline, there are different types of foods to fuel your body. The timing, type, combination, and consistency of foods you eat can influence your energy levels.
To maintain your energy level, strive to fuel your body consistently throughout the day. If you currently skip a meal, experiment by eating or drinking a nutritious snack and monitor how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are you able to think more clearly? Are you less irritable or tired?
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Eating three meals each day in addition to two or three between-meal snacks provides your body with adequate energy necessary for health. This eating style also reduces your tendency to overeat since you know that you will be fueling your body again in a few hours.
If you tend to skip meals or wait longer than four hours to fuel your body, there is an increased likelihood that you will reach that uncomfortable point when you feel ravenous. If you reach this stage, you are more likely to grab the most convenient food available, which is usually a candy bar, chips or other high calorie, less nutritious food.
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You will probably also wolf down the food, not allowing enough time for your stomach to signal your brain that you are pleasantly full or satisfied. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you have had enough to eat.
Eating to the point of feeling stuffed is uncomfortable and will make you feel tired and sluggish. To keep your energy levels stable and reduce the likelihood of overeating, take a few extra minutes each night to prepare healthy snacks for yourself to enjoy between meals. Try low-fat yogurt with berries, part-skim mozzarella cheese with whole grain crackers, or cut-up vegetables with hummus or bean dip.
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If you are not currently eating a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, experiment by eating one for a few days and monitor your energy. By fueling your body with a combination of high-quality carbohydrate- and protein-rich foods, you will notice an improvement in how you feel.
If you already enjoy a snack in the afternoon but usually do not combine a high-quality carbohydrate (an apple or whole grain crackers) with a lean protein source (low-fat cheese or peanut butter), try combining these two food groups and see if it leaves you feeling more energized.
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