You are what you eat, and if you're not fueling your body correctly you might feel run-down. After all, your body is a machine. Food is fuel. Although, there is certainly room within the engine for a treat from time to time. There's a reason luxury car owners only put premium in their vehicles. They know it helps the car run better and can extend its life. It can also help reduce the need for some maintenance tasks down the road.
Your body works in the same way. It needs the right food in order to convert it into the kind of energy you can use. This is challenging considering there are a lot of elements in modern-day food that are highly addictive. However, if you focus on thinking of your body as a machine that deserves quality fuel, you’ll get on the fast track to feeling more energetic.
How Food Effects Performance
1. Sugar is arguably the world’s worst drug. There’s nothing wrong with natural sugar in very small quantities. However, most of the sugar we consume today is highly processed, and we consume it in great quantities. Eating sugar influences your sleep, your fatigue level, your mood, and your overall health. Processed sugar can be linked to type 2 diabetes, is highly addictive, and contains empty calories. Plus, we build up a tolerance for sweetness. A person who has never had processed sugar would likely gag at a slice of birthday cake. Re-train your tongue to natural sweetness, such as berries and fruits, and you'll find an energy boost.
2. Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Caffeine is genuinely a drug, but one that is socially acceptable. It affects every part of the body, including the brain and our energy levels. Like sugar, it is also very addictive. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if you have a coffee habit, and many people think they depend on it to keep their energy levels high. It can work in the short-term, but it also comes with a crash. Weaning yourself off of coffee and replacing it with decaf tea over a long period of time can help stabilize your energy levels.
3. The starve and binge cycle is doing a number on your energy. There are various approaches to eating for fat loss and muscle gain. Many work in the short-term, but at the risk of our sanity and energy levels. One diet in recent years that has leaked over from the bodybuilding world to mainstream society is intermittent fasting. There are many types of this fasting, but a common one is to have an eight-hour “feeding” window every day followed by 16 hours of fasting. During those 16 hours, only water, coffee, and small items less than 50 calories are allowed. It can help bodybuilders cut weight for competitions, but was not meant for non-professionals or for use long-term. As you can imagine, your energy levels will be all over the place. However, it can be addictive to see those pounds (aka water weight) drop so quickly. Remember that diets should be a healthy choice for life with wiggle room, not a prison that dictates your daily life.
4. Let your instincts drive your breakfast decisions. Should you skip breakfast? Only eat all-protein at breakfast? Keep it light? There’s no one answer for everyone. Breakfast is the time when you “break fast," and your body will tell you what it needs in the morning. As long as you’re not regularly heaping piles of pancakes or other desserts playing dress up as breakfast, you'll be on point. Some people need a generous breakfast while others require a little more time to wake up before their body starts asking for fuel.
5. You’re not feeding your muscles or re-fueling after cardio. When you work out, you depend on stored energy (fat and glycogen) to get through it. With weight-bearing exercises, your muscles demand protein immediately afterward to repair and heal. After a cardio session, your body needs a little BCAA boost. Failing to eat, or making poor food choices, after a workout isn’t just draining your energy. It’s also minimizing your workout.
Feed Your Body What It Needs
When it comes to food as energy, it sounds so simple, but it can be very difficult to choose the right things. There’s a lot tied to food, including emotions and addictions. However, it’s a good idea to simply remind yourself that you’re fueling your body. What do you need, what do you want, and what are you trying to do with food that might be better addressed in another manner?
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take hundreds of dollars per month and three hours every day to get into shape. It is possible to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle, even if your budget is bare and you barely have time to breathe. These activities will fit into your schedule without purging your pocket.
Park entrance fees aside, hiking is an activity you can enjoy with friends and family for free. And even more than simply getting in shape, hiking will help you get in touch with nature, which studies have shown can have a positive impact on your mood. The Healthy Living section of Huff Post reports that hikers are among the fittest people out there and enjoy lower blood pressure and longer attention spans than the rest of us. Hiking on dirt trails is also easier on the joints than pounding the pavement.
There’s no denying that running is good for the heart. Even a short five or 10 minutes jog each day can drastically lower your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease. Fitness further reports that running triggers a chemical in the brain that produces euphoria and burns an astounding 12.2 cal per minute. Another significant benefit of running is that you don’t have to have any special equipment, just a pair of practical running shoes and a desire to strengthen your core, legs, heart, and lungs.
Like hiking, yoga provides a boost for both mind and body. It’s also one of the easiest ways to put yourself in a relaxed mindful state. Yoga and guided focus are used nationwide as alternative therapy in addiction recovery to help people overcome both physical, mental, and emotional burdens. DrugRehab.org explains, “This is because these activities allow you to focus your mind and can relieve stress and anxiety, both of which are triggers for relapse in many individuals who are in recovery.
Trampolines aren’t just for kids, although bouncing for half an hour with your children is an excellent way to burn calories while toning and tightening every muscle in the body. If you don’t have kids or the room in your yard for a recreational trampoline, a small fitness trampoline will get the job done. Not only is jumping on a trampoline fun, but this specific motion encourages your lymphatic system to rid itself of waste. Jumping also improves coordination and balance and is a relatively low impact form of cardiovascular exercise.
Take extra steps
How many steps in a 24 hour day does it take to meet general fitness guidelines? According to Fitbit: 10,000. That’s just enough strides to equal five miles…When you think of it that way, it’s an impressive feat for your feet. While it can be hard to figure out exactly how to get that many steps in on an average day, it’s possible if you look for opportunities. Here are a few ideas: park as far away as possible at the grocery store. Make two trips instead of one to the laundry room for each load. Walk to the mailbox instead of stopping on your way into the driveway,
Whether you’re hiking, jogging, jumping or sneaking in a little yoga under the stars, keeping your body in motion is paramount to a healthy body and mind. Dr. Edward R. Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic says just 30 minutes of physical activity each day will go a long way toward improving your health. And, when you break it up into short burst of activity, there’s no excuses for not getting off the couch or away from your computer.