Put the bounce back in your step with these energy-boosting tips
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What dietary supplements are essential to your daily regimen?
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Do you have a guilty pleasure food?
What motivates and inspires you to do what you do?
Ashley Koff, RD, celebrity dietitian, lecturer, and coauthor of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged, says energy imbalances manifest in many ways, from the obvious—feeling tired—to digestive complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and other conditions. Here, she offers simple ways to restore energy balance.
BN: How does energy work?
AK: Imagine an assembly line inside our bodies. When food comes in, it’s broken down into various components, and as they travel along the line, there’s input from different “workers,” changing the structure of the components into usable forms. An example of input would be the enzymes that help us break down and assimilate food. These start to work in our mouth as we chew, and the rest of the assembly line gets the message that food is present, so that it can mobilize its forces. Working as it should, that process efficiently converts food into energy. Unfortunately, it can sometimes malfunction.
BN: What causes problems?
AK: Our internal assembly line is designed to deal with foods as they are found in nature: an apple, for example, rather than an apple-flavored candy with corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other man-made ingredients. Here’s how things go wrong: Let’s say apple components fit into square holes but apple-flavored candy components are oval. Those ovals may squeeze into the square but they’re never going to fit perfectly; there will be spaces and leftover pieces that cause problems.
For a while, the body will try to work with these “abnormal” foods, but over time, the assembly line blows up, just like employees who reach a breaking point. People often tell me that they can’t eat unhealthy foods the way that they used to. Their body is saying, “25 years of this? Please stop, I can’t take it any longer.”
BN: How do we fix our assembly line?
AK: Eat foods that are as close as possible to their natural form; quinoa instead of quinoa flour, for example. And treat your body like a race car, which makes frequent
pit stops for small amounts of fuel rather than carrying around a full tank. If we overfill our body, the excess is stored as fat and when we need more energy, our body sends out hunger signals rather than dipping into fat stores. To avoid this, try to eat a small amount of food roughly every three hours, using these portions:
- Carbohydrates: A fist-sized serving
- Animal protein: A palm-sized (without the fingers) and thickness serving
- Oil or seeds: 1 tablespoon
- Non-starchy vegetables: As much as you want
Note that some foods fall into more than one category. (For more details, visit ashleykoffrd.com.)
Two other things are also vital: Learn to relax, because constant stress keeps the assembly line working 24/7, and it gets exhausted. And be as active as possible throughout the day.
BN: What supplements can help?
AK: There are three key supplements that are really important for energy balance:
- Magnesium is Mother Nature’s muscle relaxer, and it turns off the assembly line, allowing it to rest. If you take calcium, I recommend a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. Or, take a magnesium citrate or glycinate supplement, 1 serving, as a liquid, powder, or pill.
- Probiotics—the good bacteria in our digestive system—are key for energy because they help our bodies process nutrients properly. Look for a combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and if you have digestive issues, Bifido infantis.
- B vitamins, from a multivitamin or B-complex supplement, help us assimilate carbohydrates. They’re good for the heart and extremely important for managing the body’s energy. I take them at lunch to counteract mid-afternoon energy slumps, but not in the evening, because that’s the wrong time to boost energy.