Whether it’s a teacher pressing to finish a long school year, a nurse just a few hours away from completing their shift, or a driller just starting his day in the oilfields of west Texas; all have one thing in common, to muster enough drive to perform their best. While the tendency may be to reach for a caffeinated drink or sugary snack, these choices only lead to short lived bursts of energy or even crashes of fatigue a short time later. A better way to combat fatigue is in the food we eat and there’s five particular foods to help push us through our days.
While coffee is among the initial choices to start the day, water should be our first option to reach for. Ahead of brewing that pot of coffee, make sure to down 8 to 16 ounces of water beforehand. Eight or more hours of sleep is a long time our bodies go without fluids. However, even while your body sleeps, it still requires fluids to operate properly. Drinking a glass or two of water, straight out of bed, begins the process of rehydration and literally getting the juices flowing to fuel muscles, joints, and bones. And, because our brains are composed of over 70% water, continuing to hydrate improves mental performance and cognition as well. Aside from making it part of your morning ritual, continue to drink water throughout the day to enjoy a sustained energy boost.
Packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber…nuts are a dense fuel source that tend to stay with you for longer periods throughout the day. They’re also a great source of potassium, magnesium, and sodium to help maintain proper electrolyte balances within the body. However, because nuts are dense in calories, a handful per day is usually all you need. Your best choices are nuts that are “naked”, meaning no added salt, flavorings, or additives. The more unadulterated your nuts are, the better they’ll be for you. So, when those 3:00 pm candy cravings hit, grab a handful of nuts instead of that Snickers bar.
3. Complex Carbohydrates
Unfortunately carbohydrates get a bad rap. With everyone so fixated on protein, protein, and more protein…our bodies need balance, including their share of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the first thing that conjures up in our mind when thinking carbohydrates is pizza dough, potato chips, or hot loaf of French bread. Each of these examples are not complex by any stretch, nor are they best choices in fueling your body’s carb needs. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and are absorbed slower within the body, resulting in a more controlled and sustained energy release. Examples of complex carbohydrates include quinoa, brown rice, oats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is if you can actually see the ingredients listed (the less the better) among the food you’re choosing, there’s a better chance it’s a complex versus simple carbohydrate source.
4. Lean Proteins
The key word here is “lean.” Yes, bacon and sausage are delicious but they are typically loaded with saturated fats and far too much sodium…each of which can make you feel heavy, bloated, and sluggish. Eating them too often will actually make those temporary effects more permanent in nature. When thinking lean proteins, go for the likes of eggs, fish, chicken breast, and turkey. Excellent sources of lean proteins also come from several plant-based options too including lentils (9 grams per ½ cup), quinoa (8 grams per cup), chia seeds (2 grams per tablespoon), and even baked potatoes (8 grams per serving). I personally rotate servings of lean proteins to incorporate variety and also reap the unique benefits each offers. With protein being the building block of tissue growth and maintenance, it’s a must have among the foods needed to curb fatigue.
Popeye was strong to the finish because he ate his spinach. And, you know, he was certainly on to something. Loaded with iron, magnesium, and potassium, this vegetable powerhouse fights fatigue with the best of them. All of these vitamins and minerals support nerve and muscle function, but also help red blood cells carry oxygen to every organ in the body. All of which work in unison to maximize both physical and mental performance. Before you frown on eating spinach. It doesn’t mean cracking open a can of the wet, wilted stuff in the canned food isle. Instead, add fresh baby spinach leaves into your smoothies or wilt and add to some egg whites. Point is, there’s a variety of ways to add this must have veggie into your foods to reap the positive gains it brings.
Being healthier starts with making simple changes. If you’re tired of being tired, don’t let your next grocery list go without adding these five foods.