(Editor’s Note: Mandy Faulkner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. In this column, Mandy shares her advice on leading a happy and healthy life by building stronger families through nutrition. When Mandy is not busy with her nutritionist career, she and her husband own and manage Stittsville’s Market at the Barn.)
It’s the middle of the day and you feel like you’re not going to make it to suppertime without another large coffee or you’re reaching for all the snacks trying to get a burst of energy to get over the midday slump. We’ve all been there, and it’s not fun, dragging yourself through the day counting the minutes until bedtime. If you find yourself here more often than not, chances are there’s something in your daily routine and habits that’s affecting your energy levels.
Think of your body as a car. If you don’t treat it right, give it the right fuel, and carry out some maintenance, it won’t work at 100%. Below, I’ll share a top common energy zapper and what you can do to change it.
Energy Zapper: Blood Sugar Imbalances
What is blood sugar (blood glucose)? Glucose is the simple sugar found in food. It is also the primary fuel for the brain. It provides energy and nutrients to the body’s organs, muscles and nervous system. The absorption, storage and production of glucose is constantly being regulated by the liver and pancreas.
After we eat, blood glucose travels through our bloodstream and the pancreas releases the hormone insulin. Insulin acts like a key to open our cells so that the glucose can be absorbed giving us energy. When we eat a lot of sugar or carbohydrate-rich foods, the pancreas kicks in to produce the insulin necessary for all the new blood sugar to be used. If there is too much and cannot be all used by our cells, the excess glucose is sent to the liver and stored as glycogen or converted into fatty acids, circulated to other parts of the body and stored as fat.
Refined or processed foods, like white pasta or bread, contain less fibre and often have added sugar, resulting in the rapid release of glucose in the blood and a burst of energy, which is why we often crave sweets at 3 pm. However, the body then releases excess insulin to deal with the sudden increase, which causes blood sugar levels to suddenly fall, or crash. This crash can leave us feeling irritable, unfocused, and lead us to reach for foods that will quickly alleviate the symptoms such as chocolate or coffee and so the blood sugar roller coaster continues.
Not only are you setting yourself up for constant cravings, the prolonged high insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. Chronic high blood sugar levels can lead to inflammation and lowered immune health. In addition to highly refined and processed foods and drinks, stress and the release of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, also elevate blood glucose levels.
When blood sugar levels are kept stable there is a steady supply of glucose to the brain and cells, allowing the body to work normally and to have steady energy levels.
Include protein, fat, and some fiber with each meal and snack.
Consuming good quality fat and protein with carbohydrates helps slow the release of glucose into the blood which helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. This results in balanced blood sugars which helps to regulate energy levels and reduce cravings.
Instead of simply having an apple, add a handful of nuts or some nut butter to it. I love a granny smith apple with almond butter. If you love a good smoothie, make sure that it isn’t just fruit. Add in some vegetables such as frozen cauliflower, trust me, you won’t taste it, add some fat, a couple of chunks of frozen avocado works, and some protein, hemp seeds, oats, plain greek yogurt, or protein powder can do the trick. Just make sure your protein powder isn’t full of added sugars and fillers. Here is a recipe for Banana Bites that are guaranteed to be tasty and won’t spike your blood sugar.
A brisk 30 minute walk a day can greatly reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
If you would like to learn about more energy zappers and what you can do about them, you can grab my Free 5 Energy Zappers: How to Regain Your Energy & Take Control of Cravings guide here.
My name is Mandy Faulkner. I’m a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and I help build stronger families from the inside out. Regardless if you are on your own, partnered, or a parent, You are a part of a family and each person has a unique role to play within that family unit. By nurturing and nourishing the individual, the family becomes stronger.