Have you felt that afternoon or mid-morning lack of energy? Do you reach for something sweet or caffeinated to give you a jolt? That's right, we all know it. As good as they taste, those sweets and caffeinated foods/beverages give you a cheap thrill of energy then they drain you the rest of the day. Here are 10 ways to increase you energy without sugar or caffeine from my days at Integrative Nutrition (amended for you moms):
1) Reduce or eliminate caffeine: The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar ups and downs, making mood swings more frequent. If you need something to get you going in the morning try some hot lemon water, a decaf or herbal tea or a weak coffee/tea until you adjust.
2) Drink water: Most Americans are chronically dehydrated. Pregnancy and breastfeeding requires you to consume even more water. Before you go to sugar or caffeine, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens. Caution: Soft drinks are now America’s number one source of added sugar. Are you having trouble remembering to drink water? Buy yourself a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle that makes it convenient and fun.
3) Eat dark leafy green vegetables: Green is associated with spring, the time of renewal and refreshing, vital energy. Greens are full of vitamins and nutrients and great for improving circulation, lifting the spirit, purifying the blood and strengthening the immune system. Broccoli, collards, bok choy, kale, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, arugula and dandelion greens are some of the many to choose from.
4) Use gentle sweets: Avoid sugar and chemicalized artificial sweeteners. Use gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar and liquid stevia. Also eat sweet vegetables such as yams, carrots and beets especially at lunch.
5) Get physical activity: Start with simple activities, like walking or yoga—start with 10 minutes a day and increase. Make this a standard part of your day. Simple exercises like walking and stretching can be done long before a post-partum mom gets the "okay" from her caregiver to do heavier exercise. Park or get off the train a few extra blocks from your office. Walk the kids to school instead of driving. Do family yoga in the evening.
6) Get more sleep, rest and relaxation: When you are tired or stressed your body will crave energy. Is pregnancy discomfort keeping you up? Do you have a baby waking every few hours for a feeding? As much as possible, go to sleep early and gently mold your baby's sleeping habits to allow for more restful nights. If you need down-time during the day, find a way to make it happen. Hire help if needed.
7) Evaluate the amount of animal food you eat: Eating too much meat, dairy, chicken and eggs can lead to low energy. So can eating too little! Experiment. Respect your body’s individuality.
8) Take time for yourself: Find activities that restore your energy, such as a walk, a bath, a museum, a movie or whatever you enjoy, and schedule a weekly date with yourself to do these things!
9) Get in touch with your spirituality: We are spiritual beings in a physical world. Find ways to get in touch with your spiritual side, be it meditating, dancing, drawing, church, temple or being in nature.
10) Get rid of relationships that drain you: People can drain you of your energy. It doesn’t mean that they are bad, but it is good to notice who drains you and why. See if you can transform those relationships by communicating and setting boundaries, or end the relationship.