By Heidi Skolnik, MS, CN, FACSM, Nutrition Conditioning, LLCWomen’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery
In this day and age, many women are overextending themselves, fitting work, family, errands, social engagements and much more into less time than they’ve ever had. While there may not be a way to escape the demands of modern life, there is a way to fuel up correctly. Fight fatigue and improve your “endurance” by incorporating these five tips into your life.
1. Eat within an hour of waking … or face the effects of Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a neurotransmitter which helps regulate your desire for food and the proportion of energy stored as fat. Skipping breakfast and/or other meals may increase this hormone later in the day, making you ravenous!
2. Recognize that increased stress may make you prone to eat more. Wake up late for work, skip breakfast, fight traffic for an hour, and – boom – your stress level soars. So will your cortisol (the “stress” hormone) level, which, when the environment is right, can increase your risk of overeating.
3. Make it a combo platter: carbs, protein and fat. Choose carbs that are higher in fiber and water – this is an easier way to fill up than with dense carbohydrate foods. Protein helps with satiety, keeping you feeling satisfied and full longer. Healthy fats, like adding a few nuts to your oatmeal or yogurt, can also help you feel satisfied.
In the example we used on air, although choosing mostly really healthy foods, Wanda, a guest of the show, was eating too many carbohydrates without balancing her protein and fat intake. Her sample diet consisted of a big bowl of oatmeal, a huge portion of dried cranberries and a banana (all carbohydrates) for breakfast, followed by a bagel while sitting at her desk, grapes, a small baggie of jelly beans, more dried cranberries, and then chili for lunch. When you add that up, it is like eating 18 pieces of bread!
A more balanced, less-fatiguing choice would be a moderate-sized bowl of oatmeal with a sliced half-banana, a sprinkle of cranberries, a few nuts on top, and an egg. In 1.5 to 2 hours, follow this with an apple and cheese for a snack; lunch can still be the chili with a side salad.
4. Eat less food more often. How you distribute your calories throughout day affects insulin, blood glucose, cholesterol, cortisol, mood, alertness and body composition.
Overeating, regardless of what you eat, can make you sleepy. The hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) can induce a sleepiness (referred to as postprandial somnolence, or drowsiness) following a (large) meal and can send you searching for the couch or wanting to nap at your desk.
Eat smaller amounts even if that means you eat breakfast number-one at home and breakfast number-two at your desk – just don’t eat a lot at once.
5. Get a good night’s sleep. This will help control your appetite. Recognize that poor or little sleep will make you prone to eat more as your appetite-regulating hormones become thrown off. As a result, you may feel hunger even though your body needs rest, not fuel.
Bonus Tip: Get fit! You will truly increase your body’s capacity and be less fatigued. In addition, people who exercise for 150 minutes a week (which is just 30 minutes, 5 days a week) have been shown to sleep better than those who do not!