In my last post, How Does Your Bedtime Ritual Measure Up?, we looked at the importance of developing a solid bedtime routine for establishing a normal sleep cycle. Now it’s time to look at how and what we eat can impact our body’s ability to achieve a normal sleep state and regulate energy levels for optimal functioning.
Much of what is outlined below has to do with providing our body with the building blocks it needs to produce the hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycle, and making sure we’re giving our body the nutrients and energy it needs to function optimally. (Think about it: you wouldn’t put cola in your car’s gas tank, right? Or let the tank run out of gas before filling it up? You should treat your body the same way: provide it with the right type of fuel at the right time.)
Follow these tips to support energy production and normal sleep patterns:
1. Balance your blood sugars.
The best way to balance blood sugars is to eat regular meals throughout the day.
- 3 meals per day every 4-5 hours is best for stabilizing blood sugar.
Each meal should include a protein-rich food, healthy fats, and fiber.
- This helps to slow the release of glucose into the blood stream, which prevents a sudden surge in insulin and subsequent drop in blood glucose levels, leading to fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration.
2. Eat a whole food, nutrient-rich diet so your body has the building blocks for optimal health.
Consume a rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables. Aim for half of your plate to be composed of nutrient-rich vegetables, like leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc.
Eat healthy fats with each meal.
- Healthy fats come from nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy oils.
- Stay away from highly processed vegetable oils, like canola and corn oil, which can increase risk for heart disease and inflammation in the body.
- Choose nut and seed oils, such as olive, avocado, sesame, flax seed, or hemp seed oil.
- Fats with each meal help you feel full for longer periods, and it also slows digestion which slows the release of glucose into your blood stream, reducing your chances of a blood sugar crash a few hours after eating.
Eat protein with every meal. Protein provides your body with the building blocks to make hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and all body tissues.
- Choose lean, healthy protein choices; and don’t forget about vegetable sources of protein.
- Free-run chicken, turkey, eggs, and cold-water fish are excellent choices for animal proteins, as well as grass-fed beef and bison.
- Organic, non-GMO soy is a complete protein; as is quinoa.
- Pair grains or seeds with legumes to make a complete protein. The proper combining ratio is 2/3s grain with 1/3 legumes for a complete amino acid profile (e.g. 2/3 cup whole grain rice with 1/3 cup black beans).
3. Stay hydrated:
Water consumption calculation: your body weight in pounds divided by 2 = # of ounces/day
- Example: 160lbs ÷ 2 = 80 ounces. 80 ounces ÷ 8 ounces per cup = 10 cups water per day.
- Consuming excess caffeine/alcohol dehydrates us further.
- One cup of coffee takes 2 cups of water just to break even on what you lost.
4. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
If you are unable to eliminate caffeine completely, make a practice of consuming it only before 12pm.
Caffeine also increases the speed of gastric emptying; therefore, it is best to drink it before your breakfast, or a few hours after you have eaten to allow your stomach ample time to break down and digest your food.
Limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks in the evening (or even better: none at all!) to avoid disrupting your sleep. If you regularly have trouble with sleep, consider eliminating alcohol completely until you have resolved your sleep issues.
Remember that there are many reasons we may experience low energy, fatigue, and/or poor sleep. If you have implemented both a regular sleep routine and are following the tips mentioned above, and you are still struggling with your energy levels, there may be additional factors at play, and it may be time to seek professional help to get to the root source of your troubles.