High energy foods help you eat for energy.
You don’t need a PhD in biochemistry to know that food is fuel. What we choose as our fuel is going to impact our overall health, and the performance of our bodies. So how do we fill up our personal tanks, and how do they make our engine run?
Ironically, the very food we so often rely on for quick energy–concentrated sources of sugar, like candy bars or soda–are the very foods that you should avoid if you want enduring energy, say experts. Here’s why. Your body uses food for energy by turning it into blood sugar, or glucose. Carbohydrates convert most easily into this ready-to-burn fuel making them your first choice for energy. The problem is that some simple carbohydrates, like sugar break down quickly after providing a short-lived burst of energy, then leave your blood sugar levels low, your energy inadequate, and your plans for the day unaccomplished.
* Complex carbohydrates, replace this spike-and-dip act with a steady energy supply that keeps you going at full throttle. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that your body needs in high doses on a daily basis for proper functioning. When you eat complex carbohydrates, they get converted to glycogen and either used immediately for energy, providing a steady dose of blood sugar, or they are stored in the muscles and liver for energy at a later time.
It’s simply a matter of eating them at the right time, in the right amounts, and in the right combinations. Distribute your calories equally among breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A skimpy breakfast, a hurried lunch, and a huge evening feast are about the least energy-efficient eating schedule possible. What do you need all those calories for if you’re going to bed?
Never, ever skip a meal. Many people skip breakfast, and some may even skip lunch because they think it will help them lose weight. By doing this not only are you depriving your body of calories just when it needs them the most, you’re also likely to compensate with pig-out when you do eat, and then feel like napping. So much for weight loss!
Eat five meals a day. The experts favor adding a midmorning and mid afternoon snack to your daily meal schedule, and downgrading your other three meals accordingly to keep your total calories where you want them. This mini-meal plan is a great because you’re getting energy into your body right when you need it, and you are not hunry between meals. If you watch your portion size and take time for that midmorning and mid afternoon snack, you’ll be surprised at how positively your energy levels are affected.
Examples of complex carbohydrates:
- Whole grains are high in fiber, have moderate protein levels, are low in fat and are a good source of complex carbs. Specific examples include millet, oats, wheat germ, barley, wild rice, brown rice, buckwheat, oat bran, cornmeal and amaranth. Any product that is made from these grains is also complex as well. Whole grain bread, bagels, buns and rolls are examples of these. Pasta, macaroni and breakfast cereals that are made from whole grains are complex carbohydrates.
- Fruits are high in water content, fiber, and important vitamins as well as having virtually no fat. Fruits packed with complex carbohydrates include apricots, oranges, plums, pears, grapefruits and prunes. Vegetables are high in water, low in fat, have multiple vitamins and minerals, and most varieties are complex carbs. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, potatoes, yams, corn, carrots, onions, all types of lettuce, celery, cucumbers, cabbage, artichokes and asparagus are all examples of these.
- Beans are a type of legume that is loaded with complex carbohydrates. Specific examples include lentils, kidney beans, black beans, peas, garbanzo beans, soy beans and pinto beans.
Some complex carbohydrate snacks include:
- Bread–Toast bread and slice into quarters for dipping into hummus, low-fat cheese dips or extra-chunky salsa. For a sweet treat, top with cinnamon/sugar, jelly, honey or applesauce. Or, use toasted whole wheat bread as a casing for vegetable and low-fat cream cheese sandwiches. Also, try topping bread with peanut butter and sliced apples.
- Cereal–Munch on dry cereal, or use it to top yogurt or ice cream. Combine cereal with dried fruit, pretzels and a few dark chocolate M & M’s for a tasty trail mix.
- Crackers-Team crackers with low-fat cheese and luncheon meats. Or, use wheat crackers as a dipper for vegetable and yogurt dips.
- Tortillas–Spread a wheat tortilla with low-fat peanut butter and a banana, drizzled with a little honey; roll up and enjoy a healthy snack. Or, make a quick quesadilla by placing slices of cheese on a tortilla, microwaving until the cheese melts and folding the tortilla in half.
Some of the best diets recommend eliminating some, or all simple carbohydrates. Most importantly these diets recommend eating carbohydrates with a low glycemic load. There are ongoing studies that are researching the effects of different carbohydrates on diseases like hypertension heart disease, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. The glycemic index, and glycemic load are important in deciding which carbohydrates are good, and which are bad.
As always, check with your physician or a registered dietician if you have medical problems.