The most prevalent health concern for most of my clients is a lack of energy for that get-up-and-go attitude. Poor energy is a modern phenomenon that, to our detriment, is increasing every year. Let this be music to your ears – it doesn’t have to be this way.
Through my practice I have identified four key areas that lead to poor energy.
Too many of us are primarily fueling our bodies with carbohydrates and are not getting enough fuel from dietary fat, which can leave us fatigued.
Carbohydrate and fat are the two major sources of fuel for the body, and because of the misunderstanding around fat over the last 20 to 30 years, people have become increasingly cautious about consuming adequate quantities of fat.
The benefits of fat are numerous; fat fuels the body at all times of rest, it makes up the majority of our cell membranes, and the liver is only able to use fat for fuel. The world’s most nutrient dense foods are dietary sources of fat; grass-fed butter, containing vitamins A, D, K and E, as well as minerals selenium, zinc, and copper. Also, egg yolks and animal saturated fats from meat provide adequate fat. Fat is crucial in the development of Vitamin D, which is necessary for not only our bone density but also our normal everyday functioning. Fat is used to create bile, which is crucial for optimum digestion. Most importantly, cholesterol from dietary fat is the precursor to all sex hormones; oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
The implications of relying on more carbohydrate for fuel instead of fat is that we will likely have unbalanced blood sugar, may experience weight gain or an inability to lose weight, and will have poor energy.
Unstable Blood Sugar
Unstable blood sugar leads to an array of unwanted symptoms; loss of concentration, sleep deprivation, and of course, fatigue.
When our blood sugar levels are unstable it means that they are constantly rising and falling, instead of forming a steady consistent stream of energy. The most common reason for unstable blood sugar levels is a diet that largely consists of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. Why is this? When we eat these foods our blood sugar levels spike unusually high. After about two hours they naturally plummet back into a safe and healthy blood sugar range. This extreme drop in blood sugar causes impaired cognition and exhaustion; that need for an afternoon nap, or the oh-so-common ‘pick me up’ of caffeine and sugar.
How do we avoid unstable blood sugar? By consuming a real food diet void of sugar, and refined and processed foods. For some people, even excess potato or rice can have a similar effect on blood sugar levels. Everyone responds to these blood-sugar inducing foods differently, which is why I work one-on-one with my clients to find out what their sugar and carbohydrate threshold is.
At the end of the day, consume a real food diet for balanced blood sugar.
If we do not consume a diet that supports our health, we will experience poor energy and frequent fatigue throughout the day.
What should my diet look like? The answer I always give my clients is to consume a diet full of ample real food; vegetables, quality meat, some legumes, quality fats (i.e. nuts and seeds, avocado, grass-fed butter, olive oil), and some whole grains. These foods will provide your body with adequate nutrients for energy creation.
A healthful plate should consist primarily of vegetables, a handful-sized portion of protein, and another handful of quality fats, with some whole grains here and there. For ideas of nutrient-dense meals, check out some recipes here: http://www.danielleheyhoe.com/recipes/
Lastly, our stress levels have a significant impact on our energy levels. This is because when we experience stress our adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes our proteins and fats to be converted into blood sugar, meaning that our blood sugar levels spike. This looks exactly the same as when our blood sugar levels are spiked by sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods.
How do we support our adrenal health? The first place to start is to manage our stress more effectively. This is something I work on with my clients as everyone responds differently to stress. Exercise and rest are two every important components of stress management that have the direct opposite response to stress on the body. Secondly, and similarly to raised blood sugar levels, we need to follow a real food diet to stablise our blood sugar levels.
In conclusion, if we want to increase our energy levels and attain consistent energy throughout the day without needing a nap or a ‘pick me up,’ we need to enjoy quality fats as an important part of our diet, stablise our blood sugar levels, eat a real food diet, and manage our stress effectively.
Good luck with your journey towards increased energy (and health!). Some people need a little extra support in this journey, which is where I come in. Don’t hesitate to be in touch.
Danielle Heyhoe @ The Well Garden
Nutritional Health Coach