If this sounds at all like something you’ve experienced, you are not alone! There’s a reason you feel this way, and it’s more “fixable” than you think. Obviously food and water is what our body survives on, but chances are you don’t often stop to think about its effects on you, besides adding the extra holiday pounds. Somehow we’ve gotten away from this notion, food and water is our energy source, and began to think that we are entitled to eat and drink whatever we want and be fine. Can you wake up tomorrow and decide that your car will run on vegetable oil? I think not. (If your answer was “yes” please contact me, it seems you may be a genius and I’m sick of paying 4 bucks a gallon for gas so share the knowledge!) Like our cars, our body requires “gas” to function. If you put the wrong stuff in, you’ll get the wrong stuff out; ie. low energy, weight/fat gain, health problems, disease, even death.
When we eat, our body converts digestible carbohydrates into blood sugar (glucose), our main source of energy. It's beneficial to point out that regulation of blood sugar is NOT just important for diabetics and pre-diabetics; it's a vital part of the way every human body functions. Our blood sugar level can affect how hungry and how energetic we feel, both important factors to everyday life and play a huge part in our desire to be healthy, work out and stay fit. It also determines whether we burn fat or store it.
Here’s a bit of basic anatomy. Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin that transports blood sugar into our body's cells where it is used for energy. When we eat refined grains that have had most of their fiber stripped away, sugar, or other carbohydrate-rich foods that are quickly processed into blood sugar, the pancreas goes into overtime to produce the insulin necessary for all this blood sugar to be used for energy. This insulin surge tells our body that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it. (Making it hard to see the results you want from your exercise efforts)
However, the greater concern with the insulin surge is not that it tells our body to start storing fat. Whatever we eat and don't burn up eventually gets turned into fat anyway!
The greater concern is that the insulin surge causes too much blood sugar to be transported out of our blood and this results in our blood sugar and insulin levels dropping below normal. This leaves us feeling TIRED and hungry and wanting to eat more. Hence the “afternoon crash.” The unfortunate result of this scenario is that it triggers a neurotransmitter in the brain and makes us want to eat something else with a high sugar content. When we do, we start the cycle all over again. No wonder so many people feel like they don’t have the energy to work out!
Since some of us can relate to the initial scenario and might decide to work straight through lunch, thinking whatever we are working on is too important to come back to later…It is also important to understand what happens when you skip a meal or go on a “crash diet.” When you skip a meal your metabolism SLOWS to conserve your energy. (Like it or not, this happens) And when you lose weight too quickly by not eating, your body thinks it is threatened with starvation and goes into survival mode. It fights to conserve your fat stores, and any weight loss comes mostly from water and muscle. This is what you DON’T want to happen.
Regulating your blood sugar level is the most effective way to maintain energy throughout your day as well as maintain your fat-burning capacity. Imagine what else you could get accomplished in a day if you had just a little more energy!
Tips to help avoid the “crash”
1. Never skip a meal, especially breakfast, and eat foods with protein at each meal- Eating frequently prevents hunger pains and the binges that follow, provides consistent energy, and may be the single most effective way to maintain metabolism efficiency. Breakfast is VERY important in beginning your day with a balanced blood sugar level, otherwise you will be fighting an uphill battle all day. Protein will help you stay fuller longer, is necessary fuel for your muscles, and is a factor for helping blood sugar regulation. A diet with an imbalance of protein and carbohydrates will result in peaks and valleys in your energy level and, chances are, higher fat storage.
2. Eat healthy snacks between meals- Plan your snacks and take them along so that you will be able to eat regularly and won't be tempted by junk food. This may be good advice for people who stay at home, too. It may initially take a few extra minutes to prepare, but it will be worth it. Plus, think of the time it will save you from stopping at a fast food joint, finding a gas station for a snack, or going to the vending machine.
*Just remember that it was possibly snacking between meals that caused you to become unhealthy or overweight in the first place. It will be very important that snacks are healthy; that they are pre-portioned so you won't be tempted to overeat; and that meal sizes are reduced to compensate for the additional calories the snacks provide. (Snack example: 1/4 cup almonds and half an apple)
3. High fiber snacks and meals also help to regulate your blood sugar level. The fiber slows down glucose absorption and your rate of digestion, keeping your blood sugar level more consistent and warding off feelings of hunger. This makes eating apples and oranges a better choice than drinking apple and orange juice. (Juice also typically contains more added sugar than a candy bar!)
4. Drink a lot of water (Yes, like a gallon a day)- “Water accounts for approximately 60% of your body weight. Your organs and all vital systems require water in order to function properly. Dehydration, even at minor levels, can cause various bodily systems to slow down, making you feel sluggish, tired and irritable.” (WebMD) Water has also been shown to help people shed weight. I’m not suggesting that good old H20 is a magic potion. But drinking water has no calories and helps fill up the stomach, helping make people less hungry. You should be drinking a minimum of 5 bottles of water per day.
5. Get regular exercise- Just get moving! This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym 5 times a week. Instead, find ways to get 20-30 minutes of activity in a day. Take the stairs, walk the dogs, park at the back of the lot, whatever works for you. It may sound counter-intuitive but research has shown that taking a walk helps fight fatigue better than a 20-minute nap. (Energy levels increased in the study by at least 50%) It turns out, being “too tired” to exercise isn’t a very good excuse!
*For more information about your health & fitness needs please contact me, I’m very open to helping you navigate through your life to find a healthy, fit balance!