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Eating for Energy

Highly caffeinated energy drinks have been in the news lately for their questionable safety. Luckily, there is a better way to stay awake! Read on to find out how to eat for energy, and how to safely enjoy caffeine.

Snacking Smart
Calories, by definition, are individual units of energy. This is why food is the perfect, natural way to deliver energy to your body. By snacking smart, you can give your body a steady boost of energy without crashing later. The goal is to keep your energy at a consistent level throughout the day, rather than experiencing a series of peaks and dips. You can achieve this by eating at regular intervals, without allowing yourself to get too hungry or too full.

When your blood sugar dips too low, so does your energy level and ability to concentrate. Simple sugars (such as those found in fruit) will give you a quick energy boost by restoring your blood sugar. The secret is to not have carbohydrates alone. Pair these foods with slower to digest fiber, proteins, and healthy fats, to avoid a crash later. This rule applies to both snacks and meals. Some examples include:

·  Low fat or nonfat yogurt (protein) topped with berries (simple carbohydrate)

·  A banana (simple carbohydrate) topped with peanut butter (protein & healthy fats)

·  A bowl of lightly sweetened whole grain cereal (fiber & simple carbohydrates) with low fat or nonfat milk (protein)

Compensating with Caffeine
Most caffeinated beverages are safe, so long as they are consumed in moderation. If you need a caffeine boost, choose tea or coffee drinks without excess sugars and creams. Canned energy drinks can be filled with excess sugar, questionable ingredients, and unhealthy amounts of caffeine. A cup of English breakfast tea, a nonfat latte, or a simple black coffee are all ways to enjoy caffeine without putting yourself at risk for weight gain or other health complications. Also, be sure not to consume caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime, as caffeine can stay in the system hours after it is consumed. Caffeine is not a replacement for adequate sleep and a nutritious diet.

Other Energy Boosting Strategies
Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can also provide you with a natural energy boost.  Physical activity helps deliver oxygen throughout your body, giving you more energy to go about your day, and can also help you sleep better at night.

Last, but not least, remember to get enough sleep! Getting 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night is your first defense against tiredness, and is extremely important for both your mental and physical health.

Kelly Toups is a Registered Dietitian and Gastronomy graduate student, and works for the Boston College Dining department. Send questions to