The whole busy working mom thing was kicking my ass five years ago. On a good day I would end up with my head on the desk only to awaken in a puddle of my own drool. On a bad day I was fetal, under my desk, praying everyone would leave me alone so I could nap in peace.
Fast forward to today. I’m busier than I’ve ever been thanks to three kids, a part-time career, and a writing habit that won’t quit.
Yet despite the frenzied pace of life, in just a few weeks I’ll be heading off to an intensive five day cycling tour through California’s wine country.
So how did I go from being a glassy-eyed mombie to feeling (just about) ready to tackle the biggest physical adventure of my life?
It’s pretty simple. I began caring for myself as if I was participating in an endurance sport. Because … holy shit! In many respects I was.
Parenting doesn’t happen in slow motion.
It’s fast paced, non-stop and action packed. Which is exactly why it’s so damn tiring.
Whether you’re thinking about tackling your own dream adventure, or you just want to feel a little perkier, food can make all the difference. Here’s how to eat for energy:
1. Show carbs some love and eat balanced combinations—I ain’t afraid of no carbs and you shouldn’t be either. Just make sure to eat fiber rich, low glycemic carbs like whole grains, beans, nuts, berries, leafy green vegetables and cruciferous veggies. That’ll give you some instant vroom. Then combine them with healthy fats and lean proteins, to avoid the high/low energy roller coaster and give you staying power.
2. Plug the drain—If you were trying to fill a cup with water, but the cup had a hole in it, would it make more sense to keep filling the cup or plug the hole? Ding, ding, ding. Unless your name is Chrissy Snow I’m assuming you got the right answer. Most of us look for quick energy fixes from sugar, processed foods and stimulants. While these foods often seem to provide an initial energy boost, they actually deplete our bodies because they require a large amount of energy to digest and assimilate. Consuming draining foods is like having a constant energy leak. So best to avoid them.
3. Don’t be a pain in the ass—The easier we can make the digestive process, the more energy that’s left in the reserves for other essential functions and activities, like, say, yelling at your kids or looking for your car keys for the 18th time that day. That’s why it’s important to eat lightly and stop when you begin to feel satisfied. Doing so places less burden on your digestion, helping you to feel more energetic. Chewing your food really well and eating softer foods can also ease the bodily burden. So be mindful not just about what you eat, but how you eat. Nothing makes you feel more sluggish than a slow digestive system and a stomach full of shit.
4. Act like a cow and graze—A large meal can trigger the body to release more insulin, resulting in low blood sugar levels and a fatigue-inducing slump. Hello, Thanksgiving stupor! Likewise, skipping meals is a sure fire way to crash and burn. Instead, eat smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day to help keep your blood sugar levels steady. Generally, three moderate-size meals plus two snacks a day works well. Remember to balance them to help sustain blood sugar levels.
5. Snack smart—Unsalted nuts, fresh fruit with nut butter or yogurt, and vegetable sticks or whole-grain crackers with hummus are all great, but, man, is it ever time for some fresh ideas! Try adding some endurance ingredients like quinoa, flax or chia. One of my favorite breakfast or snack options is chia seed pudding. It’s so simple to prepare, it practically makes itself and, no, you don’t need to pet it. It’s also super easy to make your own trail mix, energy balls, and bars, all of which are great on-the-go or right after a workout.
SEE: 21 Healthy and Portable Energy Boosting Snacks
6. Supplement—To make sure you maintain high energy even when your diet isn’t pristine, start your day off with a little insurance plan. There are some good options available but most of the stuff you’ll hear about is just a total waste of $. Look for a plant based, no added sugar supplement like Vega One that contains real, whole food ingredients you recognize by name. For the past five years, it’s been my only go-to supplement. Personal preference: I prefer a powder over pills or capsules because it’s easy to add to my morning smoothie. Speaking of smoothies … they’re packed with nutrients and easy to digest.
7. Keep away from triggers—Food intolerance or allergic reactions can be extremely fatiguing because they create stress and inflammation in the body. Common food sensitivities include wheat, dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and eggs. Take it from me. Horrible things happen to my intestines when I eat dairy or gluten. And guess who doesn’t want to be crapping her chamois shorts while cycling though wine country? So I’m being extra vigilant in avoiding those foods leading up to my trip. If you suspect you have a food intolerance, find someone who can help get to the bottom of it, like a Naturopath or a Health Coach who specializes in digestive issues. I know a great one (ahem).
8. Hydrate—Drink enough water throughout the day and avoid the major dehydration culprits – caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Unless, of course, you’re a hypocrite like me and you plan on drinking wine during your adventure. That’s why it will be all the more important for me to make sure I hydrate while I’m cycling. You’ll find Vega Sport Hydrator in my water bottles. It tastes great and, more importantly, it has all the right stuff to help keep me going and replenish the electrolytes I sweat out on those longer rides.
9. Eat nutrient dense whole foods—Raw foods and superfoods are nutrient efficient because they provide more energy than they cost to consume. Raw foods have all of the enzymes intact that naturally help us to digest food and absorb those wholesome nutrients. Eat lots of fresh fruits, veggies and sprouted nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. Superfoods are also nutritional powerhouses because of their high levels of antioxidants and essential nutrients. Examples include acai berries, blueberries, dark leafy greens like kale or chard, and sea vegetables such as green algae and seaweed. Just be sure to check the mirror to see what’s lurking in your teeth!
10. Pop some dark chocolate—Yes, it’s a mild stimulant. But it’s also damn tasty, not to mention good for you. In fact, dark chocolate has been shown to improve athletic stamina … whether you’re running, on a bike, or between the sheets. I like to pop a few dark chocolate almonds into my mouth before I hop on my bike. Less is more in this case. You don’t want to eat too much or it can minimize or even undo the benefits.
The fact is, for busy moms like you and me, life is a marathon every day. Leftover goldfish crumbs and cold chicken nuggets aren’t going to add pep to your step. You might not be an elite athlete. But you most likely spend your day running in circles just the same. So isn’t it high time you started eating for energy?
This is the second post in a six part humor series called 40 Ways To Get Back in the Saddle. Follow the madness and get inspired to chase your own dreams! To start from the beginning, go here. To read the next post, go here.