vital

Vital Signs

Use these diet strategies to keep your energy level consistent all day long. By Alissa Rumsey.

Q Lately I’ve been dragging in the gym. I have bouts of low energy and think it could have something to do with my diet. What foods should I include in my meals to ensure lots of energy in the gym and out?

Diet can have a tremendous impact on your energy levels. Many people turn to caffeine or sugar when they are low on energy, and while this can provide a short-term energy boost, it eventually backfires. Once the sugar or caffeine wears off, your body realises that it has nothing to use for energy, and you end up exhausted and hungry (and much more likely to overeat). A few tweaks to your food choices and meal timing will help guarantee plenty of energy at the gym and throughout your day.
Eat a balanced breakfast. Include complex carbs, protein and fat. Swap out processed foods like doughnuts, pastries and bagels (which will just cause a blood sugar spike and subsequent energy crash) for healthier options. Try wholegrain cereals with nuts and fruit, an omelette with vegies and cheese or Greek yoghurt with granola.
Don’t overdo it on carbs. While carbs provide quick energy, too high a carb load (with not enough protein and fat) can cause a drop in blood sugar and low energy. Focus on balancing fibre, protein and fat at each meal to slow the release of glucose into the blood and help prevent energy crashes.
Make sure you’re eating enough. Getting sufficient calories and protein ensures that you are fuelling your body for energy. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function, your energy levels will suffer. You will also break down precious calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy – something no one wants.
Don’t overeat. Overeating puts the body into overdrive, channelling large amounts of energy to digest and absorb all that food, so afterwards all you want to do is lie down and sleep.

About the dietitian Alissa Rumsey is a dietitian and strength and conditioning specialist. You can find out more about her at alissarumsey.com