The link between nutrition & energy
It’s not just about eating your greens
Struggling to get going on a Monday morning? Hitting that dreaded wall of tiredness after work? Believe it or not, what and when we eat can have a big impact on how we feel throughout the day – and on our health too. If you and your droopy eyelids are jealous of those who can drift off in a click of a finger, wake up with birds and keep going throughout the day, then gather round. We’re talking all things energy and nutrition.
Nutrition? What's it all about?
Ah, nutrition. We won’t pile a load of science on you, we’ll just give you a whistle-stop tour of what you need to know. First things first, nutrition is the study of nutrients in food and drink, it’s about how our bodies use what we eat and drink to give us energy. A nutritionist works out how our food and drink is related to health and disease – who knew? Nutrition is also about the foods we choose to eat, you’ve probably heard the term ‘good nutrition’ a few times before. Good nutrition means your body is getting all the things it needs to work at its best.
So, the important thing to take away from our short Bunsen burner-less session is that nutrition and energy go together like bread and butter – food is broken down by our bodies to give us energy.
What is energy & where does it come from?
Energy helps to pull us out of yawn-filled slumps (who hasn’t had one of those?), but we also need it to grow, keep warm and to be active. Different people need different amounts of energy, and this can depend on your basal metabolic rate or BMR for short. BMR is the amount of energy your body uses to maintain the basics, like breathing and your heartbeat – it’ll vary depending on your body size, gender and genes, too.
Our energy comes from the foods we eat, and different foods will provide us with different amounts of energy – simple. Energy is measured in kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ) and you can find the amount of energy your packaged food has on the label. Carbohydrate is the most important source of energy because it’s the main fuel for our muscles and our brains – cool, right? But fat, protein and alcohol are energy sources too.
Foods to keep you fired up
We know food = fuel. If you’ve missed a meal before – maybe you got caught up at work or stuck into the latest documentary series – you’ll know the word ‘hangry’ all too well. When we don’t eat well enough, our bodies feel like they’re running on empty and our blood sugar and energy levels drop. The best way to keep your energy levels up is by eating a healthy and balanced diet every day. Not sure what that includes? Here’s a quick refresher for you:
• Eating five portions (at least) of fruit and veg
• Basing your meals on higher fibre, starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta
• Having dairy or dairy alternatives
• Eating beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat or other protein sources
• Having small amounts of unsaturated oils and spread
• Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water or other fluids
Why eating right is important
So, let’s re-cap. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of greens, wholegrains and lean protein is what you need for good nutrition. It’ll give you the energy you need to stay on form. Eating right is super important for other things too. It can help to reduce the risk of things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while also keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in check – happy days!
Here are some quick tips to help you stay ahead of the game when it comes to eating healthy.
B is for breakfast – don't skip it!
We’re sure you’ve heard this many times before, but breakfast is an important meal of the day. A healthy, balanced breakfast will help keep you going until lunchtime. Things like porridge and fruit, a bowl of high-fibre cereal or eggs will set you up for a morning of greatness – whatever you’re doing! If you can’t face food first thing, why not grab a quick snack like a piece of fruit or a smoothie?
Eat at regular times
If you eat regularly throughout the day, you may find it easier to sustain your energy levels for that 3pm meeting or that lunchtime run. Try to eat three meals a day and base them on carbohydrates – we already know they’re a good source of energy. If you’re feeling a bit peckish between meals, have healthy snacks on standby like fruit or low-fat yoghurt.
Did you know the human body is made up of around 60 percent water? Staying hydrated is super important when it comes to keeping energy levels high – we need enough of it to stop that sluggish feeling coming on. It’s recommended you drink at least six glasses or mugs of fluids a day. Water is ideal and if you’re not a fan of it, why not add a slice of lemon, lime or orange? And it’s good news for us tea drinkers! Tea and coffee count as part of our daily liquid intake – cuppa, anyone?