(KUTV) Salt Lake City - As we prepare for longer nights and shorter days, Dr. Shawn Talbott joined Kari & Caitlin on Fresh Living to share what foods to reach for and what foods to avoid to keep our energy up during the winter.
Daylight Savings time ends this Sunday (November 5) - which means we “fall back” and gain an hour of sleep (hooray!). However, it also means that the days are getting shorter and we’ll be in the dark more often (boo!), which can sap energy levels and leave us feeling sluggish and fatigued. As busy and productive people with over-scheduled, stressful lifestyles (sometimes combined with little quality sleep and poor eating habits), it is no wonder so many of us feel drained. For a lot of people, saying that you “feel tired” can be a signal that we’re actually over-stressed and emotionally burned-out.
Too many people try to “treat” this fatigue with high-sugar and high-caffeine energy drinks - which inevitably leads to the familiar “rush” followed later by a “crash” in both energy and mood levels. These same energy drinks can also interfere with restful sleep cycles - so you wake up even more tired and exhausted the next day. Instead of masking your fatigue with sugar/caffeine, a more effective and healthier approach is to address the underlying causes of fatigue - so your energy levels are high all day long and your sleep is restorative and rejuvenating at night. To help keep energy levels high all day long, we want to manage 3 important aspects of our underlying physiology: Hydration, Circulation, and Transmission.
Hydration - in many cases the fatigue you feel during the common “mid-afternoon slump” is actually dehydration - so chugging a glass of cold water can be just as effective in restoring energy levels as drinking an energy drink, eating candy bar, or hitting the coffee shop. Staying hydrated all day long by sipping on water or low-sugar fluids can keep you from getting dehydrated in the first place. Having just a little sugar (~5-grams) can actually speed absorption of water from the gut into the bloodstream (enhancing hydration compared to plain water) - but having a lot of sugar (~40-grams) such as in a soda or energy drink can slow down absorption, thus delaying hydration.
Circulation - our blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to our muscles, organs, and brains - so if we want the highest levels of physical and mental energy, we need to ensure optimal blood flow. We want our circulatory system to function less like the Pony Express (slow) and more like FedEx (fast!) - and a great way to enhance blood flow is with Pomegranate Juice and Matcha Green Tea - both of which have been shown in research studies to open up blood vessels and enhance blood flow to muscles (supporting physical performance) and the brain (supporting mental performance).
Transmission - feeling mentally sluggish with brain fog and concentration deficits can lead us to feel completely exhausted and even a bit depressed, especially at this time of year as we head into the high stress Holidays. By managing the balance between crucial brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine - we can not only feel more energetic, but also generally happier and more stress resilient. Brightly-colored fruits are high in Flavonoids - specialized phytonutrients that can both improve blood flow and optimize neurotransmitter balance. Citrus fruits, apples, grapes, and berries are rich sources of flavonoids - and higher intakes of these foods have been associated with improved brain health and reduced risk of age-related dementia. A popular “energy tea” from the Amazon uses Guayusa Leaf to increase neurotransmitter levels and “mental awareness” without causing the tension and stress response (epinephrine) found with high caffeine beverages such as coffee.
As the days get shorter through the winter months, we can keep our energy, mood, and productivity levels high by focusing on staying hydrated, enhancing blood flow, and optimizing neurotransmitter balance. Not only are these approaches effective for helping us feel our best, they’re scientifically proven to help us live longer and healthier.
About the Author: Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN (ShawnTalbott.com) is a nutritional biochemist and exercise physiologist who studies nutritional psychology (how food components can improve physical performance and mental wellness). He is the award-winning author of 13 books and a former “World’s Fittest CEO” whose work has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, The TED stage, and The White House.