By the time 3 PM rolls around, do you find yourself craving a midday refill for your extra-large coffee mug? Before you drink another cup, stop and think about what your body is actually telling you. While one or two cups of coffee are a temporary and harmless morning pick-me-up, you shouldn't need to rely on caffeine to get through the day. Here are some caffeine-free tips to boost your energy.
Caffeine-free tip #1: Check your food intake
"A 3 PM slump is not innate to us," says Angela Pifer, MSN, certified nutritionist, founder of Nutrition Northwest Co.
and in-house nutritionist for the International Ballet Theatre. "Since food gives us energy, it's more of a problem with our blood sugar dropping."
Pifer asks her patients to close their eyes and picture their food intake throughout the day. The line-up may include a small breakfast with coffee, a light lunch, maybe a snack, and dinner, but what Pifer finds is that most people consume the majority of their calories after 1 PM, when they should be consuming an equal amount of calories before and after 1 PM.
Caffeine-free tip #2: Eat more in the morning
By suppressing hunger and pushing it later in the day, you are fighting the natural drive to eat earlier and you set yourself up to take in more calories – perhaps too many – later on. According to Pifer, you need to even out your calories throughout the day to stop cravings and keep you moving and energized.
To stay alert throughout the day, she suggests eating small meals consistently throughout the day to prevent peaks and valleys with your blood sugar levels.
Caffeine-free tip #3: Snack smart
According in Pifer, a healthy snack contains 75 percent complex carbohydrate to 25 percent lean protein. This ratio will boost your energy and keep it up. Following are some smart snack suggestions. Complex carbohydrates include:
- 1 piece of fruit
- 5 to 6 whole wheat crackers
- one-half a whole wheat pita
- 1 whole wheat piece of bread or toast
- one-fourth cup Go Lean Cereal
- one-fourth cup high fiber cereal
- 4 to 5 pieces of dried fruit
- 1 cup raw vegetables
Match any one of those carbs with one protein, like the following:
- 1 serving of nuts (9 almonds, 7 pecans, 3 walnuts, 1 macadamia
- 6 ounces of yogurt
- 2 teaspoons nut butter
- 2 tablespoons hummus
- 8 ounces milk or soy milk, nonfat or light
- 2 to 3 ounces meat or tuna
- 1 ounce cheese (harder cheese has less fat than soft)
- 1 egg (hardboiled or otherwise)
Caffeine-free tip #4: Sip a smoothie
Another great snack or light meal are healthy smoothies. Pifer suggests smoothies made with rice, almond, cashew, soy or regular dairy milk. To keep you satisfied and your blood sugar level on an even keel, add an additional protein source. For sustenance, add organic protein powder in the form of rice protein or you can omit the protein powder and use 1 tablespoon of flax meal or nut butter.
(Click for super smoothie recipes to boost your energy.)
Follow these caffeine-free tips and you'll have energy all day long and won't need to be tethered to the coffee bar counter.
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