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Overcome Energy Sinkholes
(Part 1 of 2)

Waking up in the morning.

If you're one of those perky people who have abundant amounts of energy all day long, this column isn't for you. However, if you wake up in a fog, stumble through the day with your eyes half open and feel like you're hitting a wall every afternoon, have I got good news. I'm going to tell you about some of the "energy sinkholes" people tend to fall into every day and what you can do to climb out.

It's first thing in the morning and all you want to do is crawl back in bed. You're groggy, your motor skills are slow and you're thinking is muddled. One of lifes little ironies is that after a full nights sleep, when you should be completely rested, it can take up to 2 hours to wake up. It's all because of something called "sleep inertia."

The part of your brain that's responsible for awareness and arousal, your thalamus, is alert immediately. But your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain that handles complex behavior and thought patterns, takes awhile to start functioning. It can be a few minutes to as long as a couple of hours.

To make matters worse, your body hasn't had any food (energy) the entire time you've been asleep. Your first priority should be to eat breakfast. If your job involves anything more than just showing up, such as thinking or any kind of physical work, if you skip breakfast you don't think as well and can't work as hard. People who skip breakfast also tend to binge on fatty foods later in the day to handle cravings.

A breakfast of oatmeal, a low sugar whole grain cereal, skim milk, lowfat cottage cheese, whole grain toast (dry), an egg white omelet with chicken and vegetables and a side of fruit are all good options.

Take a cold shower to wake yourself up. To wake up quicker, skip the coffee and take a cold shower or go for a morning walk. Both have been shown to be as effective as caffeine at waking people up, without the negative effects of caffeine addiction.

Lunchtime is the next time people start to drag. You've used up the energy from your morning meal and your body needs some nourishment. Lunch is the second most important meal of the day. What you want to avoid is a typical high-carb lunch. Too many simple carbs and your insulin levels can spike, causing your body to crash. If carbs are the only option, slow down your body's absorption of them by eating plenty of fiber. (Fiber slows down digestion so the carbs don't cause such a large jump in insulin levels.)

Pack a sandwich made on multi-grain bread, try some frozen meals like Kashi, Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice, buy low-sodium soup with a whole wheat roll, or a salad without the fatty dressings but topped with skinless chicken breast, raw vegetables and whole fruit. They're all good options for sustained energy.

Even something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be good, if you make it with lower sodium peanut butter, sugar free jelly and use a multi-grain bread. (I add a packet of Splenda on top to sweeten things up a little.)

CLICK HERE for our Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Recipe!

Next come the afternoon doldrums, which can be caused by a few things. The first and most obvious is a lack of sleep. If you're not getting at least 7.5 to 8 hours a night, then that should be your main priority. For some people, the doldrums are the crash your body experiences as the morning caffeine starts wearing off. If there's any way you can reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake, you can avoid the caffeine crash that happens 5-6 hours later.

For many people the doldrums are simply a matter of eating too many high glycemic (simple) carbs during lunch. As your body processes all the sugar, your insulin levels spike, leading to a crash an hour or two later. You can fight this by eating more complex carbs during lunch. Snacks when you start crashing help too. Try eating some fruit, raw vegetables, low sugar rice cakes or low sodium pretzels to give yourself a boost.

Part 1 2

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7/15/2007