6 Tips to Sustain Energy Throughout the Day
If you were to create a visual of your energy levels, would it look like the greatest roller coaster to exist? Would it include high peaks (of energy) and several drops that would certainly have you holding onto your hat? If so, you’re not alone.
Our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. We often start off strong with high energy, but after a grueling day, we find ourselves needing an afternoon pick-me-up to help power us through to bedtime. It can be quite the ride, but it can also be difficult, especially when we have to keep up with kiddos whose energy levels never seem to hit those downward slopes.
Thankfully, there are ways to sustain our energy throughout the day so we can start strong and finish strong.
Food Makes a Difference
We’ve long heard before that the foods we consume play a significant role in how we tackle the day. We also all know that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. What we sometimes can forget is how helpful a snack can be in maintaining our energy. It seems our kiddos’ love for snack time is something we should take note of.
Meg Fraley, Family Clinical Supervisor at Nourished Colorado, recommends starting your day with a hearty breakfast followed by a morning snack. From there, have your lunch before fitting in another afternoon snack. She explains, “When we drink coffee or caffeine, it gives us that energy burst, but it’s not sustainable; whereas food gives us that longer sustaining energy. If we don’t have enough from the beginning of the day, we tend to get tired and not have enough energy, and we go to that place where we need caffeine. If we get more [food] in throughout the day, we tend to not have as much of a drop at that point.”
All Foods Are Great
The types and amounts of food one person may need to sustain their energy can differ from what someone else needs. The key is listening to your body to find out what works best for you.
Fraley shares, “When I am looking at what I am going to eat, I am looking at what foods sound good and what’s going to give me energy, and that differs for everyone. I recommend trying different foods and having your plate be as well-rounded as possible. Make sure you’re hitting all the different groups on that plate like fats, carbs, and protein, and really listen to your body, asking yourself ‘when I eat this, does it give me energy?’”
Make it a Coffee Combo
There’s nothing wrong with an afternoon coffee to give yourself the jolt of energy you may be needing to power through the evening. However, if you find yourself reaching for that cup of joe each day and your energy isn’t kicking into high gear quite like you anticipated, consider pairing your coffee with an energy-sustaining snack.
“I’ll do an afternoon iced coffee and pair it with something else, and what I noticed is when I’m getting tired, that combination really helps. The caffeine really spikes our energy, and then we crash because we’re not giving ourselves something more sustainable. I recommend a pick-me-up of some sort, but I highly recommend adding food. I tend to go for something with protein or carbs at that time,” says Fraley.
Sleep Well and Often
Getting the right amount of sleep at night is difficult. The daily stressors alone are enough to keep us up at night, but trying to get in as many hours of sleep at night as possible will help to keep you alert throughout the day.
Fraley agrees and shares that food can play a role in good, quality sleep. She says, “I think it all goes full circle. If you’re not getting enough food throughout the day, it’s hard for you to get a decent quality sleep. If my patients are struggling to sleep, we’re talking about ‘are you getting enough food?’, ‘is your body waking up because it’s hungry?’, and ‘are you fully nourished enough?’ When my patients get enough food, their sleep in turn gets better.”
Get in Movement
When you’re exercising, you may think that you’re getting more tired. However, exercising is actually beneficial in doing the opposite and boosting your energy. According to Dr. Toni Golen and Dr. Hope Ricciotti, exercising boosts oxygen circulation throughout the body. They explain, “This increase in oxygen not only supports the mitochondria’s energy production, it allows your body to function better and to use its energy more efficiently. Plus, your body gets a boost from an exercise-induced increase in hormone levels that makes you feel more energized.”
The movement you choose to participate in doesn’t have to be extensive either. A little bit will go a long way. Fraley shares, “Movement can give us energy, but I also know as a parent, it’s not always the easiest to get in. Even a 15-minute yoga break or a walk outside can be really helpful.”
Take Screen Breaks
In order to prevent digital eye strain, the American Optometric Association encourages practicing the 20-20-20 rule. What this entails is taking a 20 second break, every 20 minutes, by looking at something 20 feet away. While this helps to prevent eye strain, it can give you a much-needed dose of energy, too.
The 20-second breaks give you time to get an energy-sustaining snack, hydrate, stretch, or step outside to bask in the sun. All of these things can help give you a quick energy boost and get you back on track.
Making these lifestyle changes a habit won’t happen overnight. Between keeping up with kiddos, work, and everything in between, sometimes we’re lucky to even remember to eat something that isn’t what our kiddos left behind for breakfast. It’s going to take time and plenty of reminders, but in the end, it will work out, and you’ll be energized throughout the day, everyday.
What are some easy-to-follow steps parents can take to keep their energy levels high throughout the day?
From a nutrition standpoint, making sure we’re getting enough food and calories in. There’s a misconception of how much energy and calories and nutrients we need to get in, it’s very underestimated about how much we need. The other reality is as a society most of us don’t get enough in, especially before midday hits when we’re so tired. Not getting enough food and nutrients in to give us the energy we need. My recommendation is making sure you always have a hearty breakfast, along with a morning snack, lunch, and then usually we recommend another snack. The thing that people also don’t understand is that when we drink coffee or caffeine, it gives us that energy burst, but it’s not sustainable, whereas food gives us that longer sustaining energy. If we don’t have enough from the beginning of the day, we tend to get tired and not have enough energy, and we go to that place where we need caffeine. If we get more in throughout the day, we tend to not have as much of a drop at that point.
Are there certain foods they can incorporate into their diets to help with energy?
My approach is anything fits, all foods are great. And really listening to your body and what gives your body energy. There’s a misconception around carbohydrates. We know carbs give us energy, some can give us longer lasting energy like complex carbohydrates, whole grains. We also know protein and fats give us that longer sustaining energy as well. When I am looking at what I am going to eat, I am looking at what foods sound good and what’s going to give me energy, and that differs for everyone. I really recommend trying different foods and having your plate be as well-rounded as possible, making sure you’re hitting all the different groups on that plate like fats, carbs, protein on the plate. And really listening to your body like when I eat this, does it give me energy? I also don’t recommend taking foods away. I recommend keeping foods and adding more on, so you’re not denying yourself foods that you really want in those moment that might not give you as much energy, but you’re also adding something to it to give you that sustained energy.
How much sleep is recommended to help them power through the day?
I think it all goes full circle. If you’re not getting enough food in throughout the day, it’s hard for you to get a decent quality sleep. If my patients are struggling sleeping, we’re talking about ‘are you getting enough food? Is your body waking up because its hungry? Are you fully nourished enough? When the patients get enough food, their sleep in turn gets better. Sleep is hard. I’m a parent of three and I try to get as much sleep as I can, but there’s some days where that doesn’t happen, but I definitely notice a difference if I’m getting 7-8 hours of sleep, I’m feeling much different than as opposed to 5-6 the next day. Doing the best you can with what you’re working with. It’s important and we should try to get as much as we can.
Does the afternoon cup of coffee really help or does it make the sleepiness worse?
For anyone who feels that they need to have a coffee or something caffeinated, my recommendation would be to pair it with some type of food. I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I tend to go for something protein/carb at that time. I’ll do an afternoon iced coffee and pair it with something else, and what I noticed when I’m getting tired, that combination really helps. The caffeine really spikes our energy and then we crash because we’re not getting ourselves something more sustainable. Recommend a pick me up of some sort but I highly recommend adding food. Movement sometimes can give us energy, but I also know as a parent, it’s not always the easiest to get in. Even like a 15 minute yoga break, a walk outside, can be really helpful. Also, taking a break from screens can be helpful as well.