Think back to a time when your mojo cup was full to the brim. You were bursting with energy, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, vivacious, unstoppable, invincible, utterly fabulous. What about now? Has your mojo cup sprung a leak? Are you peering in to find nothing but the dregs?
Chances are you’ve probably had a crisis of confidence at some time inyour life. Are you struggling to remember who you were before you had children? Maybe you’re alarmed at how quickly you’re hurtling towards the menopause (or even watching it disappear in the rear view mirror)? Or did you just miss out on that big work promotion? Suddenly it hits you, like realising you’re out of milk when you open the fridge.
Good nutrition plays a really important role in getting your mojo back. Just as eating the wrong kinds of foods can leave you feeling sluggish and bleugh, the right foods can help you top your mojo cup back up and put a spring in your step once again.
1 THINK: “WHERE’S THE PROTEIN?”
Every time you eat, ask yourself “where’s the protein?” Protein is the single most important thing for stabilising your energy levels. When you eat too many starchy carbs and not enough protein or veg (see below for a guide to what’s what) your blood sugar gets out of balance. You might get a sugar rush followed a few hours later by an energy slump that can practically bring you to your knees. Protein (coupled with the fibre in fruit and veg) stops that see-saw effect.
Just so you know…
Starchy carbs – white potatoes, white pasta, white rice and white bread.
Protein – meat, fish, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds.
Non-starchy veg – any green leafy veg (spinach, chard, kale, salad leaves), broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, peppers, beans, avocados, you get the drift…
2 WATCH THE SUGAR
You’ll want to keep an eye on how much sugar you are eating. Really, it’s doing you no favours. It’s just going to make your blood sugar shoot way high, followed by an inevitable crash later on. No wonder you’re feeling pooped. When I’m talking about sugar, I’m really talking about all those things that cause blood sugar spikes: sugar in ANY form (sprinkled on cereal, stirred into tea, in biscuits, cakes, jams and jellies, soft drinks, etc.), alcohol (see my sanity-saving note below), caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee), tobacco. Ideally, step away from the sweet stuff. Completely.
3 GET REAL
OK, so it’s probably not going to be practical to totally lose the sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Personally, Food Fabulous feels that life completely devoid of these things is a lot less fun but you need to consume in moderation And follow some simple rules…
Sweet stuff: a couple of squares of 70% dark chocolate after a meal. If you really NEED to have a nibble between a meal, balance the effect with a handful of nuts.
Alcohol: A couple of glasses, preferably one or two nights a week and never ever on an empty stomach. Red wine is your best option thanks to the plant chemical it contains called resveratrol. There are various health benefits, including helping to balance blood sugar.
Coffee and tea: Cut back to two cups a day. Drink with breakfast or after a meal.
Spot the pattern? You’re eating these blood sugar-raising foods or drinks ONLY with or after a meal or snack containing protein. Follow this rule and the protein (and fibre from any veg) will prevent your sugar levels shooting up.
4 CHOOSE MAGIC NUTRIENTS
Some vitamins and minerals are particularly useful when you want to boost your energy levels because they help you get a handle on your stress levels.
VITAMIN C – cherries, red peppers, kale, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, strawberries, spinach, oranges, lemons, mangoes, asparagus.
VITAMIN E – nuts (especially almonds and peanuts), seeds, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains (like brown rice and wholemeal bread).
B VITAMINS – wholegrains, cereals, brewer’s yeast, almonds, miso, liver, milk, fish, sprouts, green leafy veg.
MAGNESIUM – brown rice, beans, nuts, seeds, avocado, celery, apple, pineapple.
5 FEAST ON SUPERFOODS
Foods containing the plant chemicals FLAVONOIDS and QUERCETIN have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels (and consequently energy levels). Flavonoids are found in apricots, apples, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, cabbage, onions and tomatoes. Quercetin is in onions and green apples. They can also enhance the effect of vitamin C, one of the most important vitamins in managing stress.
LIGNANS are antioxidants that help neutralise the free radicals produced when you’re under stress. Flax and sesame seeds contain the highest levels, but lignans are also found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, asparagus, apricots and strawberries.
6 DRINK UP
One of the biggest causes of fatigue is dehydration. Makes sense. After all, your body is about 60% water, and we’re constantly losing it through urine, sweat and even breathing. You’ll want to work towards 2 litres per day. Filtered water is best (that way, you’re not picking up nasties like chlorine and fluoride in tap water and play havoc with your body, especially if you have a thyroid problem). Other fluids can also count, like fruit and vegetable juices, and even coffee and tea because the diuretic effect is really very weak. Some foods also have a high water content (orange, cucumber, celery, lettuce, spinach, tomato, melon, broccoli, cauliflower, berries). In real life, a few glasses of water, plus your morning tea or coffee and, provided you’re eating plenty of foods with a high water content, that’s probably you done. Do drink more if you exercise.
7 GET OUTDOORS
Vitamin D – aka the sunshine vitamin– is the most powerful vitamin in your body. One of its many roles is to help your body manage sugar, maintaining insulin balance. This is vital for keeping energy levels high. As a bonus, it also helps reduce inflammation and, consequently pain, which is bound to make you feel a bit better in yourself. How do we get vitamin D? Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight, so get outdoors as often as you can. Walking, gardening, exercising, playing with the kids. Whatever. The downside of getting older is that your body is less efficient at making vitamin D than in your younger years, so you might want to ask your GP about getting your levels tested to see whether you need to supplement.
8 GET MOVING
Exercising makes you tired? Wrong! According to doctors, one of the best ways to beat fatigue and boost your energy is to exercise more. Research shows that, once you start to exercise, you’ll want to move more and, consequently, the more energy you’ll have. A study a handful of years ago found that participants decreased fatigue by 65% just by taking regular low intensity exercise. The best types of exercise for boosting energy are walking, yoga, pilates and Tai Chi. Exercise also stabilises blood sugar levels, so what’s not to like?
Everything feels better after a good night’s sleep. And, while it might not solve everything that’s going on for you right now, not getting enough quality sleep is definitely going to leave you feeling washed out. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible (wear a silk sleeping mask if it’s not pitch black). Aim for a regular bedtime as this can affect your quality of sleep. Ideally it should be before 11pm. How much you need varies from person to person but, for optimum energy, scientists say not less than 6 and not more than 9 hours each night. Prioritise bedtime. You’ll feel fabulous for it.
10 GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
Be nice to yourself. Do something just for you (not you doing something for someone else). You need to squeeze one act of self-niceness into each day – even if it’s just 5 minutes reading a book.
LOW MOJO, OR SOMETHING MORE?
There are countless movies where the main character spends the whole film looking for their lost mojo, their magic spark, even happiness, to find it was inside them all along. They just needed to treat themselves kindly and with respect. But, if you’ve tried these steps to get back into your groove but you’re still feeling down in the dumps after a few months, go to see your GP. There are many conditions that can leave you feeling low, many of which can be fixed with modern medication. If you need some help improving your diet - and I can't tell you the difference it makes to your energy levels if you're eating the right stuff, book in for a free call to see if a nutritional consultation could work for you. Do that by clicking here.