Leading a physically active lifestyle is a great boost to your health, and a balanced diet is just as important to stay energised. If you lead an active lifestyle but are feeling sluggish and lacking in energy, it can be a sign that you’re not fuelling your body with the right food. Making small changes to your diet and eating patterns can go a long way to increasing your metabolism and energy levels.
AXA PPP physiologist, Georgina Camfield, shares her nutrition tips to help increase your daily energy levels:
- Include complex carbohydrates - eat foods made of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice as they release energy over time. Try to avoid refined carbohydrates, such as sugar-sweetened drinks, pastry and white bread, as they merely provide a temporary energy boost followed by a sharp decline (you’ll feel sluggish again quite soon).
- Incorporate lean meats into your diet – meats such as pork, beef, skinless chicken and turkey provide a variety of nutrients that can help you feel more alert.
- Eat foods rich in fibre – beans, whole fruits and vegetables are all high in fibre, which slows digestion and provides a steady supply of energy.
- Eat nuts – cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are rich sources of magnesium, which plays an important role in energy regulation.
- Include foods that contain iron – For example red meat, green vegetables, whole grain breads, legumes and nuts.
- Eat breakfast every morning – kick start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Swap sugary cereals and white bread for energy-boosting eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, and whole wheat toast.
- Eat small meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours – frequent meals help to stabilise your blood sugar and energy levels. Go for nuts, fruit, yogurt and cereal, vegetable sticks with hummus, or oatcakes.
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of water every day – don’t wait until you’re thirsty to hydrate. All kinds of drinks count towards your fluid intake, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, which are great sources of water (apples, melons, tomatoes and cucumber all have high water content).
Feel good foods
Whether you’re looking for a quick energy boost, or an improvement in your overall health and wellbeing, increasing your intake of these foods can help you feel better than ever!
- Blueberries – the ultimate immune-boosting food, blueberries are rich in antioxidants.
- Broccoli – guards against cancer and is rich in a wide range of antioxidants, vitamins C and E, folate and iron.
- Melons – such as cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. 90% of their weight is water, so they help fight fatigue by keeping you hydrated.
- Carrots – are high in carotenes, known to help maintain the immune system.
- Lettuce and salad greens – bitter varieties such as chicory and endive stimulate the liver, making them great detoxifiers. Most lettuces contain valuable amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Beetroot – bursting with minerals, beetroot has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxifying properties.
- Brazil nuts – you only need to eat two or three a day to benefit from their great combination of nutrients: vitamins E, B and selenium.
- Grapefruit – has immune-boosting, antiseptic, wound healing and anti-bacterial properties.
- Garlic – strengthens the heart and blood and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It’s also thought to help lower blood pressure.
- Honey – a great natural source of carbohydrates, which provides strength and energy to our bodies. It can also help boost your immune and digestive systems.
- Cranberries – best known for helping to prevent and treat urinary tract infections, especially cystitis in women, cranberries have both anti-fungal and antiviral properties.
- Ginger – stimulates the immune system and circulation.
Staying hydrated is important for general health and wellbeing, but staying hydrated during exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your body. If your body is short on fluids, your performance suffers, you get tired faster and, in some circumstances, you can end up with cramps or heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Serious dehydration can lead to cramps, chills and confusion. At its most severe, it can decrease blood flow to the brain and organs, causing disorientation and weakness. Read more here.
Preventing dehydration during exercise
General guidelines for keeping hydrated during exercise include:
- Drink about two glasses of water two hours before your workout.
- Sip water throughout your workout.
- Consider a sports drink if you're exercising for more than an hour in extreme heat. A sports drink can help maintain energy levels and its salt will improve hydration. Be careful to select a sports drink not an energy drink.
- Continue to drink water after your workout to replace any fluids lost.
- If you're exercising for a long period of time, weigh yourself before and after your workout and drink two cups of water for every pound (450 grams) of fluid you've lost.
Sources and further reading
- Dehydration – are you at risk? - AXA PPP healthcare