Our body requires specific nutrients each day in order to function -- which is why it should come as no surprise that how we feel largely depends on the foods we eat. We should wake up refreshed after a restful sleep, ready for the day ahead with sustained energy levels throughout the day, but if that's not the case for you, it may be time to learn how to eat for optimal energy.
Eating for energy isn't just about what you eat. It also takes into consideration different diet types, food quality and meal timing, all of which are important due to the effect they have on blood sugar, hormone and ultimately your energy levels. While there is no one-size fits all diet, there are foundations that will support the eating/energy connection -- and it's not as complicated as you may think!
The low-carb approach is one that continues to get a lot of attention. Minimizing the intake of processed carbs is widely recommended when it comes to health, but the same cannot be said for whole food sources. Going low-carb for a few weeks, can be a great strategy to kick start weight loss through balancing blood sugar and hormones, but in the long term can have significant hormonal consequences, especially in women.
The high fat, very low carb ketogenic diet is another popular approach that has shown to be effective in the short term and has also been used to support certain medical situations. But over the long term, changes in the gut microbiome and imbalanced levels of inflammation may not best support long term health. If you want to be eating for energy, instead of focusing on one specific diet, you'll want to focus on a diet that includes a balance of good quality proteins, healthy fats, and yes - whole food carbs.
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source. They support the thyroid, which is responsible for maintaining your overall metabolism including your energy levels. Limiting your carb intake over time, can lead to lowered thyroid hormone production, a lower metabolism, and feeling sluggish throughout the day.
Over restriction of carbs acts as a stressor on the body, impacting your hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and increasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time, this can lead to adrenal dysfunction and you may experience higher levels of tiredness, body aches and pains, moodiness or irritability, sleep difficulties or lowered libido.
Long-term avoidance can also impact the gut as carbs feed the good bacteria needed to maintain a healthy microbiome. If levels of beneficial strains become too low, it slows short-chain fatty acid production, which can lead to imbalanced blood sugar levels, hormones and unhealthy levels of inflammation. If you're curious about whether your hormone levels are balanced or not, a stress, mood and metabolism test will identify your baseline and the support your body needs to restore any imbalance.
The best diet, is one that incorporates dietary foundations that support long term well-being with adjustments based on your individuality like current health, activity levels, body type and goals. Here are a few tips to start with:
Our body is always sending us signals, which is why it's important to pay attention to how you feel. Having low mood and low energy will have an effect in all areas, so getting the most out of your diet is the best way to feel and look your best.