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Beat winter fatigue with these easy steps Jan. 13, 2013
Written by: Marilyn Linton, QMI Agency

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Feeling fatigued isn’t just a winter worry. But sludge and snow, icy temperatures and long dark days sure make these months hard to get through. We all want to be and do our best, but where do we find that extra energy needed to make the most of life’s challenges?

In fact, “slow and sluggish” are words that many of her clients use, says Calgary dietitian Gillian Proctor of www.fuelnutritioncalgary.com. “High fibre foods generally supply high quality carbohydrates which in turn supply energy as well as nutrients,” she said. “When I say to eat healthy carbs, people often think of pasta, but I want them to think fruits and veggies such as sweet potatoes. They help to boost the body’s serotonin levels that often cause food cravings and low energy.”

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There is instant energy (think espresso!) and long-lasting energy, says Toronto dietitian Doug Cook (www.dougcookrd.com). “Long-lasting energy requires us to pay attention to healthy behaviours. Restorative sleep trumps everything else,” he stresses. Aside from eating nutritionally and at regular times, going outside and taking a walk ensures an instant boost of energy, he adds. “You run into problems if you skip mealtimes or eat poor quality meals. You need lots of vitamins and minerals to maximize energy. If not, you could feel like a 100 watt bulb that is getting only 60 watts of power – you’re under-fuelled!”

“The biggest problem I hear from clients is that their energy drops in the afternoon,” says Ottawa nutritionist Rachel Hewitt. “And the biggest reason for that is they aren’t eating enough at the beginning of the day. Like your mom said, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Eat protein, she advises, and have a glass of water with your breakfast before you down that cup of coffee.

“Getting your blood pumping outdoors in the cold months will increase circulation, help maintain physical vigilance and prevent your body from feeling sluggish,” says Don Gauvreau, founder of Vancouver-based SD Pharmaceuticals. The competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer likes energizing music to boost energy levels and says that Dendrobium nobile, an orchid plant extract used in Chinese medicine, is an excellent all-natural energy booster.

Doing the bellows -- a simple yet ancient yogic breathing exercise -- can give you a much-needed energy boost, writes alternative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil at www.drweil.com. Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose with breaths equal in duration but as short as possible. Try for two to three in and out cycles per second, then breathe normally for a bit before resuming the exercise. Don’t do this more than a total of 15 seconds the first time you try. Each time you practice, increase your time by five seconds until you reach a minute – but be careful not to hyperventilate.

Drink more water, advises Rachel Hewitt. “Water is our most required nutrient and most people are lacking in it. It’s so basic, but within a week if you drink more water you will notice you have more energy.” Hewitt likes coconut water instead of sports energy drinks: “Coconut water is better in electrolytes and is a natural source of sugar.”

Smoothies are a good meal substitute on the run, says Gillian Proctor. “If it’s a healthy smoothie, say, something with fruit and yogurt and maybe flax seeds, then you’ll get a boost of energy. “ (Really good healthy smoothie recipes can be found at www.eatingwell.com). “What would compromise energy is any highly restrictive diet that starves the body,” warns Doug Cook. “Under-eating below 1200 calories per day is not recommended.”

Boost your energy with a tasty treat – like Rachel Hewitt’s amazing black bean brownies which are grain and gluten free, high fibre, high protein and low fat (www.rachelhewitt.com). “Their fibre slows the release of sugar into your blood stream for longer lasting energy compared to a candy bar that gives you a sugar high but follows that with a crash. I don’t tell people what’s in them, and everybody loves them!”

Your energy booster checklist

  • Get outside if even for ten minutes a day 
  • Limit alcohol: Any energy you feel is followed by a slump
  • Use caffeine to sharpen your mood and mind – but only before 2 p.m.
  • Snack on yogurt, almonds, hummus or fruits and veggies
  • Sleep regular hours
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals of lean protein and complex carbs
  • Drink more water
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Reduce stress and anger
  • Get enough iron in your diet

Rachel’s secret brownies

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 large eggs
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or organic canola oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup natural sweetener such as coconut sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Lightly oil an 8 inch baking pan.

3. In a food processor, place the beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, vanilla and sugar; process until smooth. Remove the blade and gently mix in chocolate chips.

4. Spread in prepared pan.

5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until centre is set. Cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!

So very Oprah

“Passion is energy,” said Oprah Winfrey. “Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Energy or candy?

The debate is on whether energy bars are nothing more than candy. Some say their added vitamins and minerals give a real energy boost. But Rachel Hewitt says, “Many have additives and artificial sweeteners. I would rather have some almonds, and fruit is also an excellent energy booster because it has natural sugars, fibre, vitamins and minerals.”

Energy: What It Is

The human body converts carbohydrates to glucose, its most important source of energy. This is the “blood sugar” that rises after eating carbohydrates. A rise in blood sugar triggers your pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that helps glucose enter the body’s cells. Once inside the cell, glucose supplies the energy to fuel your body. – Reader’s Digest Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal

 

MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON, QMI AGENCY

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