How To Eat for Energy - Step 1: Balance Your blood sugar
You know that 3pm crash? The one where you want to put your head down on your keyboard and mainline coffee and fiend for peanut butter cups? It’s not necessarily normal, and it doesn’t have to happen every day although it might be right now. I know because that used to be me.
Before I started health coaching I was working nursing shifts in the intensive care unit (ICU) and felt drained and exhausted all the time. I felt like I was just getting by, and needed 2-3 coffees per day to keep going. And I had to keep going. I couldn’t just quit, or sleep for days, or take off on vacation anytime I wanted.
It felt like a vicious cycle, too. The more exhausted I would get, the worse food choices I would make and the more caffeine and sugar I would consume in attempts to boost my energy (spoiler alert: this never worked out in the end). This would affect my energy levels and my sleep, trigger flare ups of my autoimmune disease (Adult-Onset Still’s Disease) and create more stress and anxiety.
Honestly, I felt awful and didn’t see a way out.
I knew that what food I put into my body had an impact on how I felt in general, but I mostly focused on how to eat to maintain or lose weight rather than fuel my body. I had never known any other way.
It wasn’t until I learned how to eat for energy and fuel that I finally turned things around.
I want to share 5 simple ways to boost your energy through diet and get rid of the 3pm crash. If this stressed out ICU nurse can do it, you can too!
Step 1: Balance Your Blood Sugar
You might only think of blood sugar being an issue if you are a diagnosed diabetic, but blood sugar is something that's important for all of us to consider. Blood sugar is a measure of the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is a simple sugar that is one of the primary fuel sources in our body and we require it to function.
When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates, they get broken down and release glucose into the bloodstream to raise our blood sugar. Carbohydrates take the form of either sugars or starches (also known as complex carbohydrates). A starch is simply a long chain of sugar molecules strung together which has to be broken down by enzymes into sugars that our body can absorb .
When we eat carbohydrates and glucose is released into the bloodstream, it stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that escorts the sugars out of the bloodstream and into the cells to utilize for energy.
When we eat sugary, processed carbohydrates like pastas, bread, cookies, or chips, it causes a big blood sugar surge in the bloodstream.This is the classic “sugar high” you might get after a can of soda!
When this happens, a cascade of hormones are stimulated so that the body can deal with the excess glucose. High blood sugar can cause damage to the brain and vascular system so the body wants to get excess sugar out of the bloodstream as quickly as possible.
When the body signals the pancreas to produce insulin which helps transport glucose into our cells, our bodies then go from having a “sugar rush” to very low amounts of glucose circulating in the blood steam. This ”crash” is a state of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can bring on various negative symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling “hangry”
This crash is also often accompanied by cravings for more carbs and sweets or caffeine as a “pick-me-up.” Talk about a blood sugar roller coaster! Watch the video below or read on to learn the first step in balancing blood sugar.
If you are stuck on a blood sugar roller coaster it’s a good idea to plan out regular meals and snacks so you don’t go a really long time without food. Have you ever had that feeling when you are too busy for lunch and don’t have time to grab anything and you get to the end of the day and you’d pretty much eat your entire fridge or a whole platter of stale cookies leftover from your office meeting?
That’s when we get into trouble and end up eating whatever the heck is put in front of us! By intentionally planning out meals and snacks we can ensure that our blood sugar levels aren’t dropping dramatically during the day so we can make better food choices when we aren’t feeling desperate and “hangry.”
It's important to note that this is different to grazing all day long which is not recommended as it constantly stimulates the production of insulin which can lead to insulin resistance .
Initially, plan to have three meals and two snacks during the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels and avoid getting caught for hours without any good quality food. Note how this works for you individually. Not everyone needs to eat in this way and some people do better going for longer periods without food, we are all different [3, 4]. This step is more about bringing mindful attention to our meals and food in general rather than reactivity eating what comes across our paths. Try this initially to get out of the energy zapping cycle.
The best way to be prepared is to put some mindful attention to meal planning and preparation. I usually roast up a bunch of veggies and cook some protein on a Sunday or Monday, so that during the week when I'm busy and rushed I can easily grab food without a second thought. I also plan to have snacks with me throughout the day such as avocado and sweet potato chips, trail mix, or good quality deli meat and veggies so if I do get hungry in between meals I have something that's good quality rather than a processed, high-sugar alternative. Get my 7-Day Batch Cooking Meal Plan below for some inspiration!
Focus on Step 1 this week and notice how mindfully preparing food and snacks makes a difference in how you feel. Next week I'll be sharing the types of food to include to help balance blood sugar. Head to my Facebook page by clicking here and "like" to get notifications for the next live training!
GET MY SIMPLE BATCH COOKING MEAL PLAN FOR FREE!
+ 7 day meal plan
+ Step by step instructions for how to cook an entire week’s worth of food in just two 2-hour sessions (life changing!)
+ Grocery lists
+ Twelve of my favorite, easy recipes
Enjoy making delicious and nutritious meals in way less time!