Eat Well to Stay Motivated and Energized
Do you have trouble going for a walk at noon or after work even though you're truly committed to your program and itís the only time you have to work out?
Do you feel so exhausted that you just canít get going?
Your dietórather than simple laziness Ė may be the problem.
If you tend to skip meals in an attempt to save calories, you may be robbing yourself of important fuel for exercise. While skipping meals may temporarily make your stomach feel flatter, doing so can also leave you feeling tired, irritable, and unfocused. Then you'll be tempted to forego your noontime walk, or go home, eat and stretch out on the couch in front of the TV after work. If, however, you follow some simple, sensible dietary practices throughout your day, you'll get that brisk walk done. And rather than feeling lightheaded or exhausted afterward, you'll be energized and refreshed.
Stay With Feel-Good Foods
One key to staying motivated to exercise is to keep the amount of sugar in your blood - and thus, your energy level - stable. You can best do that by eating a series of small meals throughout the day - as many as five or six - that are composed of complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, beans and other vegetables, whole grain crackers and fruit. These foods help keep your blood sugar stable because they are digested and absorbed slowly into the blood and don't require your pancreas to produce much insulin.
Refined carbohydrates, such as potato chips, doughnuts and cookies, are absorbed very quickly and trigger the pancreas to produce large amounts of insulin. So, while they may give you an initial boost, your energy will drop off quickly, and your mood will follow. Plus they pack on extra calories with little nutritional value.
The amount of sugar in your blood is also related to the amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is an important chemical called a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. If your level of serotonin is where it should be, you'll have a sense of well-being and confidence - and feel ready to tackle the treadmill or sidewalk. Should it drop, you may feel tired and depressed. If you often experience a craving for carbs, this may be your brain's way of telling you it needs more serotonin.
What about caffeine? Good question. Many people rely on caffeine for the initial kick it can provide. Remember, though, that caffeine can also affect the amount of insulin, and thus, sugar, in your blood. This can actually zap your energy over the course of a day. So, you'd be wise to limit the amount of coffee, tea and soda that you drink.
Handle Your Snack Attack
If you plan ahead and make time for grocery shopping, you can easily pack some simple meals and snacks to take to work with you. Here are some healthy snacks that you can keep in your desk drawer at work:
- Box of raisins
- Handful of nuts
- Fruits such as bananas, grapes, or an apple
- Granola bars (check the calories)
- Carrot sticks
- Light yogurt
- Wheat crackers + low far peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Animal crackers
- Fig bars
Here are some quick options if youíre near a kitchen:
- Instant oatmeal
- Cereal and milk
- Frozen fruit bars
- Pita (or vegetables) with hummus
- Apple sauce
- Tomato/vegetable/bean soup
- Chocolate milk (low fat)
- Baked tortilla chips with salsa
- Low fat cottage cheese Ė alone or with fruit
Keep in mind that finding the right combination of food and drink to energize your workout - whatever time of day you choose - may take some experimenting. It all depends upon your individual tastes and your metabolism. With a little patience, an open mind and a little creativity, you'll determine which foods suit you best.