Ask a Dietitian

Ask a Dietitian

"Diana, just a quick heads up to let you know we are still using your cookbook and the guys will often be heard saying what would Diana say about this or that....really good feed back... I made your potato salad and the oriental coleslaw on Sat. for a family luncheon and had rave reviews so thanks again."

Maeghan Henke
BC Hydro

Feeling Zapped?

April 9th, 2019

Fatigue is often caused by poor sleep however other big energy zappers include poor diet, lack of exercise, dehydration, low iron and stress.  Food is your fuel and when you don’t get it regularly or the quality of the fuel is poor, your energy levels can suffer.  There are a few things you can do to improve your energy with the food choices you make.

  1. Eat Breakfast.  Breakfast not only provides your brain with a source of carbohydrates, it also stimulates your metabolism and gets you going for the day.  Research shows that breakfast eaters do better in skill- testing questions.  Breakfast eaters tend to make better food choices throughout the rest of the day.  Make an egg sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado and tomato or top a bowl of berries with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of granola.
  2. Include Protein.  Having a source of protein with your meals can help anchor your energy and make it last longer.  Often when people are tired, they think they are hungry and go for sugar as a quick fix, leaving you zapped of energy shortly after.  Having protein in your snack will help prevent blood sugar spikes. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lentils, chickpeas, peanut butter, eggs, meat, fish or poultry.  When packing your lunch or dinner think about what you packed for protein.  Even if you are eating a vegetarian diet, you still need plant proteins such as edamame or pulses.  Bring a lentil soup or chickpea curry in a thermos.  Toss in a mini tin of tuna to eat with crackers or cucumber slices.  Hard boiled eggs and trail mix are also portable protein options.
  3. Get your iron checked:  vegetarians, athletes and females are most prone to iron deficiency.  Wen you are low in iron, you can’t carry enough oxygen to the brain and working muscles and you feel tired and low energy.  Good source of iron are meat, fish and poultry.  If you are vegetarian you will choose plant source of iron such as lentils, chickpeas, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens.  These non-heme iron sources are not well absorbed and should be consumed with a source of vitamin C such as tomatoes, citrus fruit, 100% pure orange juice, peppers, papaya and kiwi.  If you take an iron supplement be sure to take it with a source of vitamin C too such as ½ cup of orange juice. ½ cup 100% pure orange juice contains 55 calories and 11.5g of naturally occurring sugar which is comparable to eating one orange with 69 calories, 12 g sugar. 
  4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Only 1 in 10 Canadians meet the daily recommended intake of fruit and vegetables.  They provide you with essential vitamins and minerals you need for good health and a source of energy for your brain to keep you alert.   Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and make a healthy snack to top up your energy.  Pack a container of cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and bell pepper strips to keep with you for when your snack attack hits.  For more variety bring leftover Greek salad or a container of cut cantaloupe. 
  5. Stay Hydrated.  Water is your best choice for hydration.  It has zero calories and is an essential fluid your body needs for digestion, absorption, waste removal and temperature regulation.  When you are dehydrated you may get blurry vision, headaches and have difficulty concentrating.  If water is boring for you try infusing your water with slices of orange and lemon,  mint and cucumber or apple and cinnamon sticks.  ½ cup orange juice is also a convenient way to stay hydrated and according to NHANES data, people who drink 100% pure orange juice have higher intakes of Vitamins A, C, folate, potassium and magnesium than those who do not drink juice. 

Behaviour change that can make a difference to your energy.

  1. Sleep.  Adults need a minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep per day.  Sleep is not a luxury it is a necessity. People who sleep less than 6 hours per night are more likely to become obese.  Get into a regular bed time routine and have lights out by a certain time. Avoid caffeine at least 5 hours before you plan to sleep. Limit TV and computer screens 1 hour before bed.  Consider having a bath before bed and make sure your bedroom is dark. 
  2. Get Moving: Daily activity can improve your mood, strength and flexibility, help you manage stress and make you feel good about yourself.  Being active can also help improve the quality of your sleep.  If you have trouble falling asleep after your evening workouts, consider moving them to the morning. What activity can you add into your day?  Go for a walk after you eat lunch.  Get up 40 minutes earlier and head to the gym?
  3. Reduce Stress: eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are all important components to managing stress.  Yoga, relaxation techniques and meditation can also help.  Try to use stress as a positive and harness the adrenaline to get things done.  If you have chronic stress you can’t deal with on your own, seek help.

By addressing the energy zapper that is most likely preventing you from getting where you want to be, you will start to make positive changes in your life that will have a trickledown effect on everything you do. When you are happy, healthy and energized research shows you perform better too.