I am sure many of you, and the organizations you work for, set goals and objectives. This is an important practice; if you don’t know where you are heading – how do you know if you have arrived? However, in today’s 24/7, uber-competitive world many of us struggle keeping up, much less getting ahead. We lack time and, frankly, the energy to keep doing more, better and faster. Time is a great equalizer. No matter our background we all have the same number of hours in a day. But, personal energy is a different story. Imagine having more energy and focus in your daily life? Imagine having the vitality and mental clarity to make better decisions, and consistently perform at the highest level at work and play? It is possible.
Fuel your Body for Superior Performance
Much like fueling your car, you must become mindful of how you fuel your body. Joshua Rosenthal, Founder of Integrative Nutrition and an incredible teacher always says: “Food changes everything.” What, and how, we eat affects the way we feel, think, act and perform. If you eat processed, junky food your thoughts, organs and person will over time become processed and junky.
Just pause here for a moment and take that in.
We hear over and over again: you are what you eat. But, we don’t really think about it. Your whole person is made up of what you consume; that includes how healthy you are, how much energy you have, and your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Research is now beginning to prove this. A recent study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology concluded that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tended to be. (i)
So how and what do we eat to increase our energy and show up as our best selves? Here is list of key items to try to avoid and ones to embrace.
1. AVOID PROCESSED FOOD
Work to avoid anything that comes from a box and has an elaborate ingredient list.
Processed foods are simply not real food. They tend to be:
> High in sugar and high fructose corn (more on that below)
> Contain artificial ingredients – read chemicals - such as preservatives, colours, flavours, thickeners and texturants
> Engineered to be incredibly rewarding to our brains making us overeat and addicted.
> High in trans-fats and processed oils. These are among the unhealthiest substances you can consume.
> Low in nutrients and fiber
Finally, refined processed foods are, (I am sure I can find studies, and trends that support this) the main reason why people all over the world are getting fat and sick.
It seems that every time a population adopts an American diet high in processed foods, they get sick.
Embrace whole, unrefined foods.
Whole foods are foods based on whole ingredients. They include fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, eggs, whole grains etc. Think single food items.
When you consume items in their most natural condition, your body then receives enzymes and nutrients in their most unrefined state. They provide a natural, nutritional energy boost.
2. AVOID FACTORY FARMED MEAT
Factory farmed meat has been linked to various diseases (it is pumped full of antibiotics, genetically modified feed and the live stock is often sick) . Factory farmed meat is also linked to environmental destruction, and the inhumane treatment of animals. (ii)
Embrace sustainably raised, antibiotic-free naturally raised meats (& consider eating less of it.)
Pasture-raised meat is much better for you than factory-farmed meat and not as destructive to the environment.
Find a local butcher that carries sustainably raised meat. You can also consider purchasing meat directly from organic farmers.
Finally, consider reducing your meat consumption. Eating too much red meat, dairy, chicken and eggs can lead to low energy. So can eating too little. Experiment. Respect your body’s individuality.
3. AVOID REFINED SUGARS
Refined sugar is extracted from either sugar cane or beets. It is void of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and as a result requires extra effort from the body to digest. In fact, in my nutrition classes I learned that the body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb refined sugar properly. It enters swiftly into the bloodstream and creates havoc on the blood sugar level, first spiking it —causing hyperactivity and often nervous tension—and then dropping it extremely low—causing fatigue and depression.
Embrace fruit and honey
Fruits contain vital nutrients that foster the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation, and engagement. Fruit also provides antioxidants that minimize bodily inflammation, improves memory, and enhance mood.
Because we do not eat a lot of refined sweets or grains in our home, I do not worry about spiking our sugar levels with fruit. We always have a variety of organic, ideally local fruits available for consumption.
In terms of honey, I buy local, unpasteurized, raw honey. I also use it in baking. It is a quite wonderful sweetener with a host of side health benefits.
4. AVOID OVEREATING
Just recall your recent holiday meal. Eating to the point of being overly full requires tremendous amounts of energy to digest and absorb all the food consumed.
Embrace smaller portions and chew food really well.
5. AVOID DEHYDRATION
Even mild dehydration can alter a person's mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly, according to two studies recently conducted at the University of Connecticut's Human ‘Performance Laboratory.
Before you go to sugar or caffeine, have a glass of (purified or spring) water and wait a few minutes to see what happens.
Caution: soft drinks are now Canada’s number one source of added sugar so stay clear of those.
Tap into Passion to Fuel your Energy
Finally, I couldn’t write about energy without touching on the subject of purpose or passion. I always say you can eat all the organic kale in the world but if you hate your job you won’t be healthy or energized. I believe passion is a natural human fuel that inspires action, and those without passion or purpose are unfortunately running on empty. Each of us should take quiet moments to ponder our passion. What would you do with yourself if you had all the time in the world? Think about what you: love to do, love to read, and love to talk about. Also, think about what you fear that excites you.
The goal is to find work you love or learn to love the work you do. As you do so, you will find yourself more energized, engaged, productive and happy.
I sincerely believe you can have the energy to live the life you want. It does take some mindful choices and the development of some positive behaviours. Please feel free to reach out for support along your path to a higher–voltage you.