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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - Get ready for a busy spring by eating and exercising to boost energy

Get ready for a busy spring by eating and exercising to boost energy

By Caryn Alter, M.S., R.D.

Most of us are feeling tired and sluggish after the long, dark winter we have endured here in central New Jersey. One of the best ways to boost your energy is to eat more healthy foods and get your body moving. As a result, you may also improve your mental outlook and even lose weight.

Blood sugar spikes and drops are a leading cause of energy fluctuations. Exercise can give you an immediate positive surge of energy, but keeping blood sugar in check by smart eating throughout the day will keep you energized for a longer period of time. It can also help balance your brain’s emission of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which keeps your mood up.

How to eat for optimal energy from morning to night

Set your schedule to eat five to six times a day (about once every three hours). Focus meals on lean protein, whole grains, unlimited vegetables and about three fruits per day. Also build in two high-energy snacks such as a few slices of lean protein, a Greek yogurt, a small handful of almonds or walnuts; or peanut butter on an apple. Also drink plenty of water throughout the day. You know you are properly hydrated when your urine is almost clear.

Fuel up before exercise

To maximize the calorie-burning benefits of exercise, whether you choose a vigorous walk, working out at the gym or participating in a team sport, you need to give your body fuel to burn those calories. Before exercise, eat a carbohydrate-rich snack ─ peanut butter, tuna or turkey on whole grain bread; oatmeal with nuts; or a fruit and yogurt smoothie with low-fat granola ─ to top off muscle stores. The protein you eat helps build and repair muscle tissue.

Moving it

Those of you who are not enthusiastic exercise fans should be pleased to learn that new studies show people who work out twice to four times a week felt more energized and physically capable than those who work out longer and more often. People exercising four times a week had the greatest overall increase in energy expenditure. If you aren’t already exercising, first talk with your doctor about what kind of program is right for you. Then do it! Walk, swim, cycle or play tennis. Aim to break a sweat about 10 minutes into your exercise. You will start to enjoy improved energy sooner than you think.

Finally, don’t forget about sleep. To be optimally sharp and alert throughout your busy day or night, be diligent about getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.

By combining the big three for peak energy ─ good food, regular exercise and quality sleep ─ you’re fueling your body and mind to enjoy every day to the fullest.

CentraState Medical Center’s Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center offers a range of health-focused lifestyle programs designed for people of all ages and fitness levels, including nutritional services for healthy eating, weight management, and sports nutrition. For more information, visit centrastate.com/health-awareness-center or call 732-308-0570. CentraState’s Fitness and Wellness Center offers state-of-the-art amenities including a pool, certified trainers and clinicians, educational programs and more than 170 weekly classes. To tour the facility, call 732-845-9400 or visit centrastatefitness.com.

Caryn Alter, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at The Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold.