Diet Mistakes That Steal Your Energy
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
For years that's been the common wisdom. When you wake you've probably not eaten for 11 hours or so, so it makes sense that you need to refill your tank right away, right? That depends on what you're trying to accomplish. The Harvard Health Letter points out that the studies suggesting that eating breakfast revs up the metabolism are flawed and in fact there's some evidence that fasting for 16 hours or so and depriving your body of fuel first thing in the morning actually causes your cells to burn fat for energy and leads to weight loss.
Several randomized controlled trials have found that subjects lost weight because they skipped breakfast. The authors of one of those studies in Melbourne, Australia, came to this conclusion: "While breakfast has been advocated as the most important meal of the day in the media since 1917, there is a paucity of evidence to support breakfast consumption as a strategy to achieve weight loss, including in adults with overweight or obesity."
On the other hand, if you're trying to lose weight and you're the kind of person who will snack because you skipped a meal, maybe missing breakfast isn't the best idea. And if weight loss isn't your goal, there's no reason to skip breakfast.
Why do I feel sleepy after a big lunch?
Large meals force your body to use precious energy stores for the huge task of digestion. Blood rushes to your gut, robbing the rest of your body of oxygen and nutrients. Afterwards, you may not feel like eating again for several hours. If you wait too long for dinner, you're more likely to overeat again. Soon you're stuck in a cycle of feast or famine in which your cells, like your body, are always either overloaded or starving, leaving you constantly fatigued. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can keep your digestive system humming along steadily and your energy level consistent.
What kind of snack is best for a quick boost?
Eat snacks that contain members of different food groups. Pretzels and crackers may be convenient, low-fat snacks, but they won't get you very far when you're feeling poky. These processed carbohydrates are broken down almost instantly, giving you the same brief blood sugar spike that candy does. Fiber, protein, and fat take longer to digest, evening out your metabolism and protecting you from those energy highs and lows. Nuts have all three; they're the perfect mini-meal. Fruit and yogurt are other good choices. Also try adding a slice of cheese to a whole-wheat cracker or dipping a carrot stick in peanut butter.
Try to stay away from coffee and candy, though. Neither one will give you sustained energy. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, but it doesn't contain calories, which are your body's fuel. And sugar breaks down quickly in your system, giving you only a brief pick-me-up.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Eating Breakfast Won't Help You Lose Weight But Skipping It Might Not Either
Jakobsen MU, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;91(6):1541-2.
Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing.