Stop Eating “Lazy Foods” and Get More Energy

Are you eating the same foods you always did, but feel as if you are dragging through the day?

Food gives your body energy, but some foods sap energy and make you feel tired. These are the “lazy foods” we all love to eat. We get a quick boost of energy but end up feeling tired.

How Does Your Metabolism Change After 50?

Your metabolism converts food into energy, but three factors change with age:

  1. Physical Activity: When you move throughout the day you burn energy. Reduced physical activity is the biggest factor that can change your metabolism.
  2. Muscle: The more muscle you have the more energy you burn. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Muscle loss is often part of the aging process.
  3. Digestion: Older adults have a decreased ability to absorb and use the nutrients in food. The digestive system moves food more slowly through the colon. Muscles in the digestive tract also become weaker, stiffer and work less efficiently. Your body gets less energy from food.

Prescription drugs and ongoing health conditions also slow your metabolism.

One of the best ways to safeguard your health is to make sure that you are eating a diet that is high in nutrients. This improves your:

  • Physical condition
  • Brain function
  • Bone strength
  • Eyesight
  • Immune system

What Nutrients Do Adults Need?

Nutritional needs change as we pass 50. Adults 50+ should include these nutrients in their diet:

  • Protein
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Vitamins B6, B12 and E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Protein is an essential building block in your diet as you age. When you eat enough protein, you are able to maintain your muscle mass. Muscle is important for every activity, from getting out of a chair to running a marathon. More muscle improves better function and increases metabolism.

Focus on getting enough of these important nutrients every day. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, beans and healthy fats like olive oil. Then you will have less room for foods low in nutrition.

How Does the Body Process Food?

Your body transforms simple carbohydrates into glucose before it enters your blood stream. This spike in blood sugar signals the pancreas to release insulin.

Insulin returns your blood glucose levels to a normal range. Insulin lets your body know that energy is available. The body uses the carbs for a quick burst of energy. But that energy burns out quickly. Then you feel exhausted.

What Foods Should I Avoid to Have More Energy?

Cutting out these 5 types of food will provide you with more energy.

 1. Processed Grains

Foods that are white, sweet and come in a bag are usually highly processed grains. Grains are a source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a form of energy best eaten with the naturally occurring fiber, but these grains have been stripped of fiber during processing.

Foods that contain processed grains include:

  • White bread
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Rice

Processed grains will cause a temporary spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. You get the momentary boost of energy quickly followed by an energy crash.

Processed grains contain few nutrients and vitamins to sustain your body. Over the long term you will find yourself feeling more tired. Your energy levels will be more even if you avoid foods that cause spikes and crashes.

Photo: bagels

2. Breakfast Cereals

Is a bowl of cereal part of a well-balanced breakfast? Not necessarily. Breakfast cereals are one of the easiest foods to eat but can set you up for a vicious energy spike and crash.

Breakfast cereals are usually highly processed grains such as:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rice

Often the secondary ingredient in breakfast cereals is sugar. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and low in protein and fiber will set you up for sugar cravings all day. The high amount of carbohydrates are burned through quickly. Without the presence of protein, fats or fiber, your body is left without any nutrient stores. By lunchtime you are starving and ready for a nap.

 3. Sugary Drinks

Drinks that contain added sugars offer a quick pick me up but will slow you down later. The added sugar results in a high calorie content. Some examples are soda pop, fruit juices, flavored milks and even smoothies.

Some drinks, like soda pop, are completely void of nutrition and fill you up on empty calories. Fruit juice, milk and smoothies may provide some nutrition. But the sugar content might outweigh the benefit of the nutrients. The sugar content without the fiber of the fruit will provide a similar crash and burn effect.

 

Photo: Mountain Dew bottle

 4. Coffee and Energy Drinks

We all have days that start with “I just need a coffee!” When you drink coffee in moderation, there are positive physical and mental effects. But relying on coffee for that short-term mental boost in brain function is dangerous. It means you are not giving your body the proper fuel (and rest!) it needs to function.

Caffeine, from coffee or energy drinks, can stay in your system for 5-15 hours. Caffeine travels from your bloodstream into your brain, where it reduces your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The caffeine you drink to keep you awake will also interfere with your ability to sleep later. You will be more tired and drained the next day.

 5. Alcohol

Alcohol is another drink that can interfere with the quality of your sleep. If you are drinking a high calorie alcoholic drink, such as orange juice with vodka or beer, then you get a double hit to your metabolism. Poor sleep quality slows down your metabolism. The empty calories also spike your sugar… and then you crash.

There are many changes to your metabolism and lifestyle that happen after you turn 50. You will benefit by focusing on meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Cut these five lazy foods from your diet. Instead, replace them with healthier choices so you can enjoy increased energy and a faster metabolism.

Photo: pouring wine into a glass

Find nutritious recipes for people 50+ on our recipe channel

Read: 6 Tips for Getting More Energy after 60

Resources:

  1. Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging
  2. 7 Foods that Drain Your Energy
  3. Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats
  4. How Nutritional Needs Changes as You Age
  5. Changes During Aging and Their Association with Malnutrition
  6. Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations
  7. Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories

 

New Study on Self-Motivation

Self-motivation is key to healthy aging; we need motivation to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and engage our brains by learning something new. A recent study shows that there may be ways we can train our brains to improve our self-motivation.

Scientists know that neurons that are essential to motivation are located in an area of the brain known as the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This area is located deep in the middle of the brain and is involved in the reward and pleasure circuits. In a recent study published in the journal Neuron, scientists from Duke University asked people to activate their VTA by focusing on feelings of motivation.

For the study, 73 participants were asked to go into an fMRI machine which scans the brain and detects which areas are most active. Participants were then asked to generate feelings of motivation using their personal strategies during 20-second intervals. The participants were unable to simply activate this area of the brain on command.

The researchers then used neurofeedback, a training method where they show a meter displaying the activity in a specific brain region – in this case, the VTA – in real time. Now that participants were able to see the meter move as an indicator of brain activation, they quickly learned which self-motivation strategies worked while they laid in the fMRI.

The research team saw great success in participants who used the neurofeedback training. Participants thought about pep talks, high-fiving a room full of people and other motivational scenarios to get the meter to move. Although exhilarating, some say it was exhausting to focus all their energy on one intense emotional experience.

For participants that underwent the neurofeedback training, they were able to activate their VTAs after removing the meter by thinking of the same situations they had before. While the study does not test whether neurofeedback can change long-term behavior after the fMRI sessions, the team hopes that this research may someday be used as a clinical tool to help train people to become more self-motivated. And because of VTA’s role in the reward circuits and dopamine production, the team sees potential for the neurofeedback training to help those with ADHD or those recovering from drug addictions.

In the meantime, find ways to motivate yourself so that you can make choices to stay active and healthy.

Sources

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/03/469033034/could-you-hack-your-brain-to-get-more-motivated

http://today.duke.edu/2016/03/motivation

http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(16)00095-7

http://karg.cbi.pku.edu.cn/brain-info.php