Energy is the fuel that propels us through each day. Without it, we’re not able to operate at our best, and moving through our daily demands can feel overwhelming. With energy being such a vital part of our day, how do we get more of it?

 

 

There are several ways you can tackle the problem of low energy levels. Ensuring regular, gentle exercise is a part of your weekly routine is a key step as well as controlling stress. However, in honour of Dieticians Week, Dietician Emily Ghaiyed put together eight simple changes to improve your energy through diet and nutrition.

 

1. Switch to low GI carbohydrates

If you’re regularly feeling sluggish, introducing low-glycaemic (low GI) carbohydrates into your diet may help. High GI foods provide quick energy bursts whereas low GI carbohydrates keep you fuller for longer and will also help to sustain your energy levels.

Low GI carbohydrates include:

  • Soy products
  • Beans
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Pasta
  • Bread made with grains
  • Porridge
  • Lentils

“Switching from white rice to brown rice, white bread to wholemeal or wholegrain bread – steps like that are going to help,” says Emily.

 

2. Pair carbohydrates with a fat or protein (or both) to slow digestion and stabilise blood glucose levels (BGLs)

Fibre, protein, and fats work together to slow the digestion of carbs, delaying their absorption into our blood streams. This is an easy way to prevent spikes in your BGLs after eating. By eating meals that result in a low glycaemic response, the glucose we consume can enter our bloodstream slowly and steadily, building consistency in our energy levels rather than extreme up-and-down spikes.

Emily advises using protein and fats such as:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken breast
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, or pecans)
  • Tofu
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Peanut oil

“Pairing your carbohydrates with a fat or protein will result in a stabilisation of your blood glucose levels across the day,” advises Emily. “A slice of grain or wholemeal toast with some mashed avocado and a fried egg is a perfect example of a balanced, energy-fuelling meal.”

 

3. Have smaller, more regular meals

By eating smaller meals more regularly, you can support your energy levels to remain even, and give your body the best chance of avoiding the dreaded 3pm slump. Aiming to eat every three to four hours can equip your body to stabilise energy levels rather than experiencing those up-and-down spikes.

 

Eating every three to fours hours will help stabilise your energy levels.

 

4. Ensure you’re eating enough iron and vitamin B

Iron’s job is to provide energy to the body by carrying oxygen from the lungs to every cell. Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and is one common culprit amongst people experiencing low energy levels.

Vitamin B is essential for the maintenance of healthy blood cells, and can help to prevent anaemia, which can result in weakness and fatigue.

“Turn to dark-green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, white and red meat, brown rice, pulses and beans to find the iron and vitamin B hits your body needs,” advises Emily.

If you’re worried about your iron and vitamin B levels, Emily also encourages you to seek advice from your GP and have their recommendation on whether a blood test would be worthwhile.

 

5. Focus on hydration

Staying hydrated is a necessary part of keeping our energy up. Water helps to energise our muscles, and dehydration can often make itself known through fatigue or low energy levels.  You should be aiming to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day.

 

6. Drink tea and coffee away from main meals

“You can also improve your iron levels by having tea and coffee away from your main meals,” shares Emily. “Tea and coffee can inhibit the absorption of iron from your diet, so you want to make sure you’re having them separately across the day.”

Emily recommends aiming for at least one hour between meals and drinking tea or coffee.

 

7. Prioritise sleep with a consistent morning and night routine

“Having a consistent morning and routine that incorporates eating dinner and breakfast at regular times can help to improve your sleep and therefore improve your energy,” advises Emily.

Building a morning and night routine could include:

  • Eating dinner at a regular time
  • Eating breakfast at a regular time
  • Preparing for bed one to two hours before you’re ready for sleep
  • Limiting your use of screens and opting for low lights to encourage sleep

 

A consistent morning and night routine can help boost your energy levels.

 

Related: The surprising signs of sleep debt and exhaustion

 

8. Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol can have a significant impact on energy levels. This is because it’s a depressant, causing deficiencies in your serotonin and dopamine levels the day after consumption. Hangovers are also particularly tough on your health, which aren’t helped along by the negative impact alcohol has on your sleep.

In late 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) changed their guidelines as to what constitutes safe alcohol use. They now advise Australians not to consume more than 10 drinks a week, with less than four glasses of alcohol on any one day to stay healthy.

Related: Rethink your relationship with alcohol

 

Invest in your energy to invest in your life

By making these simple changes to your diet, you can increase your energy levels significantly. This has a major impact on our daily abilities to engage fully with our lives, responsibilities, loved ones and communities. If you’re looking to improve your daily wellbeing and your ability to reach your goals, start with improving your energy levels. The difference will feel remarkable.

This page was reviewed by Emily Ghaiyed (APD, MDietSt, BENS, Cert III and IV in Fitness), Dietician at The Banyans Healthcare Group.