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Optimize your energy levels through your diet

Personal · Jun 15, 2020

By Andrea Stokes, Registered Dietitian, Medisys Health Group

If you’ve been working from home for the last several weeks, your diet has likely fallen into one of two camps: survival mode eating, characterized by snacking throughout the day and relying heavily on convenience foods, or inspired chef eating, relishing in the ability to prepare great meals in your own kitchen in the middle of the workday.

There is no shame in falling into the first camp; the pandemic challenged us in countless ways, and many of us have had to stay the course in survival mode. If you’ve been able to cook and consume satisfying and enjoyable meals while working from home, I salute you. No matter your current nutrition situation, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a common effect on us all, even one year later: we are very tired.      And while many of us understand that nutrition plays an important role in our overall health, many may underestimate the role that diet plays in our energy levels throughout the day: we can use nutrient-rich and satisfying foods to help maintain consistent energy and optimize productivity all day long. Get started with these five strategies:

1.  Eat enough calories throughout the day. 

Your body needs fuel to function, and in times of stress your energy needs actually increase. One of the best self-care strategies you can practice is to feed yourself, regularly and consistently. If your days are chaotic, try scheduling specific times to take breaks to eat and recharge. Try not to ignore hunger or delay meals – it can be hard to re-energize after your fuel tank has hit empty! 

2.  Aim for consistency – not perfection. 

Not every meal is going to be a nutritional knockout – and that’s OK! Consistency over time is key. Some foods will provide more long lasting energy (see our next tip below), and others will work in a pinch when life gets busy or when you have limited options available. If you find yourself relying more heavily on processed convenience foods than you did before, that may be the best way for you to continue to eat regularly given the circumstances. Avoid judging yourself for your food choices, but know that our nurse practitioners and registered dietitians are here to help if you need it.       

3. When possible, include a combination of protein and high-fibre carbs with each meal.

     Protein and fibre are filling nutrients and take longer to digest, meaning they provide longer-lasting energy and can help you avoid drastic dips in hunger, energy, and mood.  

  • Great protein sources include: lean meats, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. 

  • Fibre-rich carbohydrates include: fruits, veggies, oatmeal, bran, brown rice, beans, peas, lentils, and whole grain breads and crackers.

4. Add snacks between meals

This is especially important if your meals are often spaced far apart. Don’t wait until you’re famished to eat - keep your energy up with regular snacks that include a good source of protein.

Pro tip: Try Greek yogurt with berries, a banana with peanut butter, or raw veggies with hummus.      

5. Stay hydrated

Dehydration is common and can be a huge drain on energy. Aim for at least 8-10 cups of water per day. Keep a water bottle with you to encourage you to drink throughout the day. If you need some help with kick-starting your water intake habits. Join the 9-Day Hydration Challenge.

Chronic fatigue can be an indicator of various mental and physical health issues. If you feel increasingly tired, contact your primary care provider or use the TELUS Health Virtual Care app to speak with a health care professional today.