Steps to Power Up Your Energy Reserves
By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
Whether training for your fifth marathon or starting your
first fitness program, there are a few differences in how you should be priming
your energy reserves. You can’t count on a single food or supplement to give
you an energy burst, let alone keep you going throughout the day.
What you can do is create the right conditions within your
body for energy to “show up.”
of the wrong foods
Let’s face it. We eat too many carbohydrates, too many
processed foods in general and we definitely eat too much sugar. These are the
energy drainers. Carbs are like kindling to a campfire. They give you an
immediate flame but what they don’t give you is the nice, sustained glow that
will get you through the evening. For that, you need heavier logs. That’s where
fat, protein and fiber come in. Like the heavier logs that catch fire from kindling,
they provide the fuel for a warm, glowing evening fire that can last all night
When you are eating foods that play havoc with your blood
sugar — throwing it up to the ceiling and crashing down — there’s no way you
can feel sustained energy. You’re on a blood sugar roller coaster and all you
can do is hold on for dear life. When that blood sugar drops, the first thing
that goes is energy. So the first order of business is to remove energy
When you and I talk about “energy” we tend to think “get up
and go.” But in science, the term “energy” means calories. Some companies
selling “energy” foods and beverages capitalize on the confusion between the
colloquial and the scientific definition.
When you buy an “energy” bar, all you’re really doing is
buying a bar that has calories, which is fine, but the source of those calories
is what’s going to make the difference to your “get up and go.” A high-carb “energy”
bar with little protein, fiber and fat will provide calories, but not alot more
So when you take the bad stuff out of your diet, and replace
it with the “good stuff,” you get more energy! That is because you’re removing
the obstacles to energy, like blood sugar hell, and giving your body the
nutrients it needs to make cellular energy.
The magic of
Years ago, I wondered why I felt more energetic after eating
canned tuna. After becoming a nutritionist, I learned that tuna is rich in an
amino acid called tyrosine. That is a precursor to the neurotransmitter
dopamine which triggers an excited feeling of pleasure and anticipation in your
Protein is also more satiating than carbohydrates. It also
speeds up your metabolism and helps to rebuild your body: everything from
neurotransmitters to bones are made from proteins. Focus on eating more protein
than carbs, and stop worrying so much about fats. Low-fat diets are a bust.
Research shows they don’t produce weight loss or improved health.
your energy ATP
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule made in every
cell. It’s like the currency your body uses for cellular energy. Your body uses
a sugar called D-Ribose (also known as ribose) to create that currency. But
ribose is not like rollover minutes. You can’t store it up. If you are doing
something strenuous that requires a lot of exertion, you’ll need a lot of it,
maybe more than your body can churn out right away.
And if your muscles are sore from a workout, you’ll need to
recover in a reasonable time so you can keep up your work-out schedule. For
that reason, Bioenergy Ribose is an ideal supplement to take. I play tennis 8-9
times a week, without a day to relax and re-boot. I need to keep my ribose
storehouse constantly replenished, so it is an important part of my supplement
Other supplements to consider include Vitamin D, which has
been shown to improve performance in older adults, and Magnesium which also
relaxes muscles and eases soreness.
For sustained energy, I’m also a huge fan of drinking tea
all day. I’m not one of those people who thinks caffeine is the worst thing
people can ingest. Plenty of research shows that coffee helps diminish risks
for a number of health conditions. But as much as I love Starbucks, for
sustained all-day energy, I’m a big fan of green tea, which gives you caffeine
without the jitters. It contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which is also
associated with clear, calm focus and even better sleep. You can also try black,
oolong, white or yerba matte tea. While they don’t contain relaxing theanine,
they have many health-giving properties, and the mild dose of caffeine offers
One of the cleverest pieces of advice I got in grad school
was from a professor who said, “When you hear hoofbeats outside your window,
don’t start looking for zebras.” Low-energy people often start looking for
answers in food sensitivities or weird genetic anomalies. Sure that might be
the reason, just as hoofbeats might be from zebras, but the more logical
explanation is also the simplest: You’re tired because you don’t sleep enough.
Instead of looking for magical superfoods, try getting 7-8 hours of sleep each
When you sleep well, you make smarter nutritional decisions.
If you also add D-Ribose into the mix, your tired muscles will recover faster
so you can exercise even more. More exercise means sleeping better at night and
having more energy throughout the next day. It’s that simple.
snacks for sustained energy
Training for a marathon? Try oatmeal with cream, nuts and
raisins, or a baked sweet potato with butter and canned tuna.
Pre-workout pick-me-up? Try string cheese with an apple.
Post-workout recovery? Try a whey protein shake (but go easy
on the extras.)
For everyday activities: A handful of almonds with one piece
of fruit, Two slices of turkey with sliced tomato, 100-calorie pack of popcorn
with a handful of walnuts, hard-boiled egg with apple and two whole-grain crackers.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka “The Rogue Nutritionist”) is a
nationally-known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He is a
board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the
author of 13 books on health, healing, food and longevity including three
best-sellers, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb and his
latest, The Great Cholesterol Myth. Visit: www.johnnybowden.com