Eating for an energy boost around the holidays

Around the holidays, it’s more important than ever to keep up your energy. But no matter how busy you are during the hustle and bustle of the season, don’t be tempted to turn to so-called “energy drinks” or “energy bars.” These over-hyped, artificial, processed beverages and foods are both dangerous and counter-productive for natural energy.

Instead, as always, I recommend starting with a healthy, balanced diet.

Food is fuel for the body. And when your body turns over the complex macronutrients in foods, it translates into increased energy, mental abilities, and whole body physical performance — both short-term and long-term.

Right off the bat, strive to avoid foods with sugar and refined carbs. These foods only give you short bursts and eventually run counter-productive to energy production.

Instead, go for whole, natural foods for long-lasting energy. Low-carb foods with healthy fats and proteins taste better, satisfy your palate, and provide more sustainable energy.

Also, complex, non-processed foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat take longer to digest and offer metabolic benefits. Their energy and nutrient content comes embedded in the food matrix, so it’s easier and more effective for the body to digest and metabolize, and put them to good use.

Nature’s perfect energy boosting foods

I often write about the many benefits of coffee, which gives an immediate boost in mental energy and cognitive function. It also has long-term benefits for brain and body.

Although coffee is a great source of energy in the morning and during the day, you should avoid it at least four hours before bedtime.

You can also make sure to get caloric energy and vitamin and mineral nutrients from eating some of Nature’s perfect foods — such as organic dairy, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry.

One of the great tragedies of modern human health and nutrition was the faulty dietary advice that steered people away from these healthy foods. I still see clueless dieticians and nutritionists asking how many eggs “you can get away with.”

I used to have breakfast periodically with U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (1915 – 2013) when I worked with him during the 1980s and 1990s. He ordered two to three eggs every day and a glass of milk. He said it was the only way he had the energy he needed. And in his 70s, he had more energy than most people in their 30s.

Of course, another way to naturally improve energy levels is to make sure you’re getting the quality rest you need at night.

Tart cherry juice (or extracts) raises melatonin levels, which improves sleep and gives you more energy during the day. Yogurt provides a natural source of calcium to avoid calcium deficiency, which may also interfere with sleep and daytime energy. (Just remember — get calcium from foods, not from dangerous calcium supplements. For a full report on the dangers of calcium supplements, see the December and upcoming February issues of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)

Beans (legumes), dark green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds are all high in magnesium, which is important for brain function, including the neural sleep center.

As far as alcohol is concerned, there are many benefits associated with moderate consumption. But metabolizing excess alcohol can contribute to wakefulness at night. Drink only moderately (two to three drinks per evening), preferably with food. And avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime. It is worth staying up a little longer after you’ve had your last drink to savor the moments. You’ll feel better in the morning. (I will tell you more about this topic tomorrow.)

Dietary habits for increased energy

Of course, in ancient Chinese and in Ayurvedic medicine of India, when, how, where, and with whom you eat is just as important as what you eat.

I recommend following the universal human behavior to have three meals per day. This habit appears to match human metabolism and nutritional requirements. And it will help keep you energized throughout the day.

But avoid eating big meals late in the evening. If it gets late before you can get to your last meal, eat light, and avoid foods that give you indigestion. My mother used to use an old French expression about not eating later in the evening. She would say Qi dort, dine, or “one who eats, sleeps.”