Five simple ways to boost your energy

How many times did you press the snooze button this morning before you finally dragged yourself out of bed?   Once on the tube or train did you slowly start waking up, but was it still a struggle?  Having arrived in the office, is coffee the only thing keeping you going during the morning until lunchtime?  Come mid-afternoon, do you feel like you are ready for bed again and you really can’t keep your eyes open?  Leaving work, do you have a second wind, go out for a few drinks and then once home, feel exhausted but somehow can’t manage to get to bed before midnight when your mind is racing and you can’t switch-off? If this sounds like a day in your life read on for some simple tips about how to boost your energy.

Continued fatigue decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to depression and illness.  Relying on caffeine and energy drinks makes us feel worse in the long-run by causing our system to crash.  Sluggishness can be caused by many things, but poor nutrition is one of the biggest culprits. Food is truly the body’s fuel, and what we choose to eat absolutely impacts the performance on our bodies.

Here are some simple tips about how to maintain steady energy throughout the day.

 

1.    Protein.  Not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue so add some to every meal. Because protein takes longer to breakdown in the body than carbohydrates, they provide a longer-lasting energy source.  We need protein for preserving lean muscle mass, repair and build tissues, maintain cells, transport vitamins and minerals and help with efficient liver detoxification.  Examples of protein include fish, eggs, red meat, poultry and dairy.  Vegetarian proteins include beans, legumes, tofu and nuts.

 

2.    Don’t ditch breakfast and don’t start your day on just coffee. Skipping breakfast is going to set you off on an energy rollercoaster for the rest of the day and it can be a struggle to catch-up.  Choose healthier options such as porridge, fruit, eggs or a smoothie.   Sugary options such as pastries or cereal lack fibre and protein and will keep you hungry and restless for the rest of the morning.

 

3.    Daily dose of exercise. This could mean going to the gym or just increasing your step count during the day.  It doesn’t mean spending hours on the treadmill as research show that you can get your work out done in only 13 minutes.  Research show that doing only 13 minutes of resistance training during an 8-week period,  could increase both strength and endurance (1).

 

4.    Get some shut-eye.  Good night sleep is crucial for memory, learning and weight management. Research shows that partial sleep deprivation (as opposed to chronic sleep deprivation) leads to problems with attention, especially vigilance and that the ability to recover from sleep deprivation decreases the older we are. (2) The day after a poor night’s sleep, avoid the caffeine, stay hydrated and front load your day, i.e. make sure you get the important stuff done at the beginning of the day as your energy will wane quite quickly as the day go on. 

 

5.    Avoid alcohol.  Ditch the drink before bed as it can affect your sleep and your energy the next day.  If you are having alcoholic drinks, make sure you have water in between the drinks as alcohol makes you dehydrated which in turn can really lower your energy levels.  Sip on water throughout the day and add some slices of cucumber or lemon to keep it fresh. 

 

 If you are doing all of the above and you still feel tired during the day, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor to make sure there are no underlying issues that are affecting your energy levels. For example, they can check if you are low on iron, which is very common especially in women.

 

1.       Schoenfeld BJ et.al. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men Medicine and Science in Sport and Excercise. 51 (1), 94-103

 

2.       Paula Alhola & Päivi Polo-Kantola. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr. Dis. Trial. 3 (5), 553+567

 

 

 

 

Did you know that the body recognizes low blood sugar as a threat to its survival?

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

Irritability – where you want to shout very loudly at anyone who bumps into you on the tube or at your kids when they complain about homework.

Anxiety – when your mind won’t stop racing and you keep on turning over the same conversation with your boss over and over again.

Insomnia – when you can’t go to sleep or you wake up at 3am with anxiety and just can’t go back to sleep.

Cravings - where you easily can eat two donuts, half a packet of biscuits and six sweets you just found at the back of your drawer. In only one minute.

Or you might have experienced brain fog, feeling jittery, problems with memory, bloating or poor concentration? Yep, I’ve been there. My earliest memory was that that badminton tournament in my teens, when I nearly fainted, my heart was racing, I was white as a sheet and shivering and I thought I had got some horrible disease. No, that was just a blood sugar crash. Or only last week when my kids wouldn’t get off their gaming devices and I went from calm to blowing my top in less than 30 seconds.

I think we can all relate to these situations. They are all symptoms of low blood sugar levels. Every cell in your body needs energy to function. The main source of energy might come as a surprise: It’s sugar, also known as glucose.

Hypoglycaemia is the medical condition of having an abnormally low blood sugar (glucose) and can be responsible for all the above but also triggering or exacerbating migraines and other headaches. It’s usually a result of not eating enough of the right food throughout the day in order to keep your engine running and your blood sugar stabilized. If you have diabetes for example, a headache may be a sign that you need to boost your blood sugar levels.

In order to thrive in life and deal with the demands being placed on the body we must support the body’s physical, nutritional and emotional energy needs. Stress breaks the body down while nourishment to the body and soul restores us and keeps the body and mind well and thriving.

Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators, of course such threats are rare today, but it doesn’t mean your body is not experiencing stress. With busy life style, huge workload, taking care of your family we all have minor ‘hassles’ that are perceived by the body as stress.

Quoting James B. LaValle ‘controlling stress in your life as it happens is the most important measure of optimizing metabolic function’.(1) Simply put, if you know you are going to have a stressful day or you are hitting the gym straight after a busy day at work, making sure that you are eating nourishing food to support yourself should be a priority as otherwise, you just won’t perform as well.

Humans are highly adaptable, meaning, just as we adapt into a state of chronic stress (when given the right environment), we can just as easily adapt out of stress (when given the right environment).

So how do you adapt out of stress? Through nourishing yourself in ways that works for you and your body and that suits your life style and the demands you have in our life.

What you can do right now? Swap your afternoon coffee for a cinnamon tea. It’s widely used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda and studies show that cinnamon can help to control blood sugar. (2). Cinnamon is also naturally sweet so can help to stop those 4pm craving. Pukka does a nice tea or make your own, see below.


Eating healthy is no simple task these days and most are confused about what to eat which does not come as a surprise given the amount of conflicting information.

If you want to find out more how to balance your blood sugar with foods that works for your body and how to understand the ways that your body tries to communicate it’s needs, get in touch via the Honor Oak Wellness Rooms. I offer a free 15-minute chat before booking your appointment.

Cinnamon tea

1 cinnamon stick (Ceylon cinnamon)

250ml hot water

1 tea bag (regular, decaf or Rooibos)

Add the cinnamon stick and water to a mug and let steep for 10 minutes. Add the tea and steep for an additional two minutes. Remove the teabag and sweeten with honey. Instead of tea you could add some slices of fresh ginger for a spicy kick.

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1) Cracking the Metabolic Code; 9 keys to optimal health: The Nine Keys to Peak Health and Longevity by James B. LaValle (2004)

2) Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis Davis PA, Yokoyama W, Journal of Medicinal Food (2011)

How these four foods could boost your immune system this winter

As a Nutritional Therapist I have an essential first-aid kit of herbs and minerals/vitamins and essential oils at hand when colds and sniffs start but sometimes you have to rely on food to help you fight off the bugs.  The first signs of a cold often appear when the weather shifts from warmer to colder; we haven’t got our head around the drop in temperature and get caught out without a decent coat or jumper, and then you experience that little shiver which lets you know that you might be coming down with something. So when you have nothing at hand, head to your kitchen and you can knock up some top immune-boosting remedies straight from your pantry.

Onion (Allium cepa)  - Onions are a natural antibiotic since Roman times and are great for relieving chesty-cold coughs.  You can use it as a poultice or try out a honey/onion home remedy for colds and sore throats.  Including onions in your diet regularly is fantastic as they contain many health benefits other than being used for colds /congested chest /coughs.  Suggestion: chop an onion, place in a bowl and cover with honey. Let it steep over night and then take a teaspoon at regular intervals. This is great for clearing up a congested chest.

Garlic (Allium sativum) It’s the garlic’s active ingredient, Allicin, we can thank for it’s antibiotic, antimicrobial (1), antifungal and antiseptic properties, making it perfect for respiratory infections.  Chopped and eaten raw, steeped in Manuka honey, used in cooking warming soups and stews garlic is one of the best and most easily accessible natural immune boosters.  Suggestion: To bring out the Allicin even more you need to chop it up in tiny pieces (or use a garlic press) and leave it out for 5-10 minutes before using. (2) Consume or cook right away and your garlic won’t live up to it’s full, protective, disease fighting potential.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)  Ginger is not only eases nausea but it’s great at raising the body’s temperature and helping to break a sweat, since in order to kill off pathogens, the body needs to generate enough heat to kill the bacteria or virus. This is why we want to avoid using painkillers like Nurofen which does the opposite.  If we stop the body’s natural system to kill off pathogens, the infection just takes longer to shake. Using spices like ginger and chili, warm baths, keeping warm, drinking hot drinks help the immune system do its job and get rid of the infection quicker.  Suggestion: Chop some ginger in some water and let simmer for at least ten minutes (20 for a zingier tea). Strain and enjoy. If you find the taste a bit strong then add some Manuka honey (but let cool slightly before adding) This is also great if you are feeling a bit nauseous.

Turmeric root – (Curcuma longa)  The turmeric root looks a bit like a gnarly, skinnier cousin of ginger and when you peel back the skin the vibrant orange flesh is revealed. Be careful as it stains very easily.  Turmeric is a powerful herb that has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, for healing wounds and treating skin conditions such a psoriasis. Turmeric  also contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.  An easy way to use fresh turmeric is to add it to curries, grate some onto eggs to take the breakfast to a sunnier level, into yogurt dressings or why not brew some punchy immune boosting tea.

Suggestion: Slice or grate about 1 inch of fresh turmeric, 1 inch of fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp of ground Ceylon cinnamon) to 3-4 cups of water and let simmer (not boil) for about 15 minutes. You could also add some pepper corns and a pinch of cayenne for extra boost.  Leave until room temperature and add 3 tbsp of lemon juice and some Manuka honey if using.

1.     Antimicrobial activity of fresh garlic juice;  (S.Yadav, N.A Trivedi, J.D Bhatt) AYU, 2015

2.     World’s Healthiest Foods, G. Mateljan (p.261)


Nourishment for your post-natal Mind and Body.

According to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, women who have just given birth are supposed to stay in bed, be waited on hand and foot and given lots of massages. They are also supposed to eat lots of hot soups and stews because they are nutrient dense and easy to digest.

Hand on heart, I don’t know of a single new mother who had that kind of care nor looked after herself the way we might care for our health when we were pregnant. We just grab whatever we can in order to stay upright while we feed our baby and stumble through the day and night. We agonise over decisions during pregnancy, but very little thought is spent on the months following birth.

photo - casserole.jpg

Pregnancy is incredibly nutrient demanding and if women go into pregnancy already nutrient deficient that is eventually going to lead to various health issues that could have been avoided.

However, once we get through pregnancy and birth most women stop caring for themselves and the focus is on the baby and getting back to ‘normality’ again. Post-partum nutrition and health is not talked about much. But this is where extra care needs to be taken since recovery is of the utmost importance for the future health of a woman, especially if having more children is planned.

So many health issues are directly linked to pregnancy and birth, not only the typical ‘baby weight’ being hard to shake. Many women that I see in clinic have health issues that are directly linked to giving birth and the post-partum period several years earlier, and that is mainly down to depleting themselves and their nutrients stores.

The most common nutritional deficiency in women before conception is zinc and magnesium. Low zinc cause depression and other mental illnesses. In addition, years of hormonal contraceptive use before pregnancy increase mineral deficiencies which must be contributing to the extremely high incidence of women suffering from post-depression – typically affecting between 8-15%. Animals eat their placenta, women do not, ‘therefore this excellent source of zinc, copper, iron and essential fatty acids is not utilized for lactation when the need for a high zinc intake…is the greatest’. (1). Not only linked to depression and low moods, deficiency in zinc and magnesium can also cause unexplained infertility and recurrent miscarriages.

Loss of bone mass is also common unless the woman has excellent stores of calcium before conception. This also includes the health of the teeth. Pregnancy and subsequent breast feeding put huge demands on a woman’s calcium stores. It is very common to report cavities and other health problems in the years following the birth of a child. (2)

Less known but not at all uncommon is the frequency of post-partum thyroiditis – the development of hypothyroidism following pregnancy and birth. For most women who develop postpartum thyroiditis, thyroid function returns to normal within 12 to 18 months of the start of symptoms. However, some women who experience postpartum thyroiditis develop permanent complications if they don’t get adequate nutrients, have an underlying immune condition and if they carry on being stressed and sleep deprived. (3)

The thyroid, a butterfly gland that sits low on the front of the neck, regulates our metabolic rate and is associated to changes in body weight and energy levels.

Hands up who felt exhausted and struggled to lose weight post pregnancy?

Nourishing yourself post pregnancy with the right foods and drinks will make the recovery process easier and put you on the right path to being a strong parent right away. The first six months of post pregnancy is not called the Fourth Trimester for nothing as it’s so closely linked to birth.

I love showing women about how to re-build their energy, enrich their breastmilk, balance the hormones and moods and support the digestive tract and how to nourish themselves throughout this precious time of their life and support their health beyond the six months.

1, Operative delivery and postnatal depression: a cohort study BMJ, (Published 14 April 2005) Ellen C G Grant

2. Calcium Metabolism during Pregnancy and Lactation Christopher S Kovacs, MD Faculty of Medicine – Endocrinology, Health Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 300 Prince Philip Drive, St. John’s, Newfoundland, A1B 3V6, Canada. Last Update: March 10, 2015.

3. Postpartum Thyroiditis: Not Just a Worn Out Mom

4. Katherine Pereira; Ann J. Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2008;4(3):175-182.