It’s the dog days of Winter and it seems like every person I talk to is complaining about how dark it is. And they have a point! I’m glad I’ve trained myself to be an early riser for the gym over the years, otherwise waking up to complete darkness at 5:30am would be even more of a struggle than it already is (from time to time).
With limited sunlight and frigid temperatures, we often gravitate to staying inside and cozying up to our Netflix and favourite comfort food. Although, usually, we’re not curling up to the healthiest of comfort food, leaving us with that temporary satisfaction, only to be met with belly-aches, fatigue and low energy later on. While that might be a generic statement to make (as I know there’s a good lot of you who prefer to soak up all the outdoor fun Winter has to offer), the reality is that most people suffer from low energy on a frequent basis, but especially during the Winter. The good thing is that I have loads of natural solutions for you to get that energy boosted in no time!
Natural Ways To Boost Your Energy
1.Drink water – I know, I know. How dare I put the most mundane, basic tips at the top of this list. But seriously, I joke with my nutrition pals that if everyone just did this one thing, we would be out of jobs. Water is so crucial for so many processes in the body. Our bodies alone are 60% made up of water. Once you’re even 1% dehydrated (by the way, if you’re experiencing the sensation of thirst, you’re considered to be dehydrated), your metabolism will begin to down regulate and slow down. That’s cute, but our metabolism is kind of a big deal – it’s responsible for so many processes in itself, but primarily, converting food into energy in the body. Water is also responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cells. For those who could probably afford to up their water game a bit, they may find nausea and fatigue to be more common and recurring symptoms. When drinking water, we want to aim to have 1 cup per 20lb of body weight. Since I’m not big on math, what I recommend is filling a large glass of water or water bottle and sipping it throughout the day. Once it’s empty, fill it up – and just keep on sipping all day long! Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to jazz it up, if you’re one of those people who don’t enjoy the taste of water.
2.Nourish your gut health – I know what you’re thinking – “Rach, when are you going to cut to the chase and tell me I can drink coffee?” Not yet, my friend! Actually, I won’t be at all. Not because coffee is necessarily bad, but it’s not the most efficient source of energy or fuel for our bodies. Emphasizing prebiotic and probiotic foods that help nurture our gut health on the other hand, will help us burst with energy! When we have a good balance of good gut bacteria in our digestive tract, we’re able to assimilate nutrients better which we can later use for energy output. As well, when our digestion is working properly, we’ll naturally have increased energy levels as accumulated toxic waste and metabolic by-products are being eliminated out of our body (woo hoo!).On top of that, probiotic-rich foods allow us to digest them much easier so our body isn’t left to do so much work in the digestion process after we’ve ate (as opposed to when we accidentally gorge on a giant bowl of pasta!) We want to make sure we’re loading up on probiotic-rich foods (which help to proliferate that good gut bacteria) such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso paste, tempeh, kefir, along with prebiotic foods (which help to feed that good gut bacteria) such as onions, garlic, banana, apple, asparagus and dandelion greens.
3.Eat whole foods-based nutrient-dense foods – This has truly been the biggest thing for me throughout my health journey! I used to thrive off of 100-calorie snack packs, diet this and aspartame-that. I would be so perplexed why I had no energy and why I was always hungry. Hmm .. maybe because I wasn’t eating real food. You see, when we give our body the proper nutrients it needs to thrive, it gives back to us.
Simply by eating wholesome colourful real food, I found I had increased energy, mental clarity, reduced brain fog, better sleep and improved mood. When shifting towards a whole foods based diet, it’s important to make sure we’re getting a wealth of nutrient-dense foods made up carbohydrates, fats and protein at each meal. Feel free to mix and match any of the following together or eat them alone as a balanced, satiating and energizing snack!
- Healthy Fats: avocado, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, eggs (with the yolk!), tahini, nut butter
- Protein: organic grass-fed chicken or beef, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, organic fermented tempeh
- [Slow-Burning] Carbohydrates: sweet potato, beans and legumes, apples, bananas, carrots, quinoa (psst – because they’re “slow-burning”, they will be released into your bloodstream much slower than some alternative carbohydrates, which will give you a more steady release of energy versus a spike.
4.Combine your foods properly – This might be slightly confusing if you just read my last tip about making sure you’re having nutrient-dense meals/snacks that consist of carbohydrates, fats and protein. While I do encourage you to do this, there is a certain way to do it to ensure our meals and snacks are easy to digest and leave us with boundless, bursting energy! Each of those macronutrients I just mentioned – carbohydrates, fats and protein – each have their own digestion time. While carbohydrates typically take about 1-hour to digest, protein can take about 3+ hours, with fats taking the longest amount of time to digest. We want to keep this in mind by keeping the following in mind:
- Non-Starchy Vegetables + Protein + Fat = ✔️
– Wild salmon, broccoli, mushrooms
– Organic chicken, cauliflower mash, sautéed kale
– Taco salad with organic ground chicken, romaine, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, salsa
- Starchy Vegetabes + Healthy Fats = ✔️
– Quinoa and avocado
– Roasted sweet potato wedges and coconut oil or olive oil
- Consume fruit on it’s own (45 minutes away from meals) = ✔️
5. Lower your toxic load – More than 80,000 toxic chemicals have been introduced into our environment over the past few decades, most of which haven’t been properly tested for their effects on human health. These toxic chemicals are hiding in our personal care products, make-up, clothing, furniture and in our food. While it’s almost nearly impossible to avoid all of them, there are things we can do to ensure we’re not accumulating too many toxins in our body, which has been known to lead to headaches, migraines, dizziness, low energy, brain fog, infertility and depression.
We can keep our toxic load down by emphasizing detoxifying foods such as lemon, cilantro, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, broccoli, along with fibre-rich foods that will help move toxic waste through the digestive system and out of the body, including apples, hemp seeds, quinoa, oats, chia seeds and ground flax. You can also keep your pesticide and herbicide exposure down by referring to EWG’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list. I understand it’s not always realistic to buy everything organic, but there are some foods where it actually is more important to buy organic, just like there are a list of foods that you can get away with not buying organic all the time. By following those few steps, you’ll be decreasing your toxic load drastically and find you have increased energy as a result.
What’s one of your favourite natural ways to boost your energy?
Note From Becka: I want to thank my dear friend and Holistic Nutritionist, Rachel Molenda for contributing this article. For more of her interesting insights as well as delicious recipes, check out her website and social media: