What are the key macronutrients?
If you follow nutrition at all, you have probably come across the term 'macros' at some point or another. These are the major aspects of all foods including carbohydrates, fat and protein that allow the body to function. They are broken down through their own unique individual pathways and provide the building blocks to power our systems.
- Carbohydrates: These are the primary means of acquiring energy for the body, but what is important to know is that not all carbs are the same. We'll discuss how simple carbs can leave you feeling more fatigued than energized when compared to their complex carb siblings.
- Fats: This macro is insoluble in water (hence why they often float) and provide fatty acids that are broken down and transformed in to energy.
- Proteins: Without protein, we would lack many of the critical amino acids needed for thousands of different chemical reactions taking part throughout the body. Consider tyrosine which is then converted into the T4 thyroid hormone, the pigment in skin called melanin, as well as the mood hormone dopamine and norepinephrine.
A healthy balance of all of these macros, excluding those with certain conditions, will help maintain your health. Though some foods help maintain your health status more than others, including our energy-draining foods below.
What exactly do you mean by energy-draining foods?
There are certain foods, often loaded with simple carbs and saturated fats that leave our body wanting. Simple carbs for instance, are short chains that are quickly broken down and used up by the body. Complex carbs are far longer chains, and due to the added time it takes to process them, this leaves us feeling satiated or full between eating.
Saturated fats are another troublesome addition to our diets as they have been associated with a small increase in the risk of heart disease. The saturated part of their name means they can pack tightly together, which is how they remain solids at room temperature. Examples of these include butter and coconut oil, and when was the last time your primary care provider told you to go home and enjoy an entire stick of butter? Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature due to a kink in their chemical structure which includes products such as cooking oils. Research notes that replacing saturated with unsaturated fats may help provide protection against cardiovascular disease and help reduce inflammation.
Here's a list of energy-draining foods to minimize or avoid entirely:
- White bread. Even fortified, this form of bread is considered to be high on the glycemic index. This means it releases its energy (what little there is) very fast. You might experience a spike in your energy before you crash.
• Substitute with sprouted bread
- Pre-made smoothies. Many of those on the market are packed with added sugars to make them taste somewhat appealing.
• Make your own so you can control what goes in to it and individualize the flavour to your preference. Get inspired with our smoothie recipes!
- Fast foods. They call them fast because of the short time it takes to receive the food as you move through the drive-thru. They should be called fast because of how quickly your body processes the nutrient-poor food!
• Try and set aside a day to meal prep so you have nutrient dense options ready to go for work.
- Alcohol. When these types of drinks are metabolized, they end up reducing a precious coenzyme the is essential for energy production throughout the body. Without that enzyme, you're left feeling fatigued. This explains why the 'morning after' is so terrible after a night of heavy drinking.
• Minimize your intake or try a non-alcoholized variety.
- Coffee. This option comes with the caveat that coffee can be a very healthy, no-calorie option to provide energy during your day. It's important to note that over-consumption can be detrimental as your body may become reliant on the routine dose. This is why caffeine withdrawal occurs with individuals experiencing symptoms of headache, fatigue and irritability.
• Substitutes such as Bambu are made from chicory, figs and acorns that have a roasted flavour akin to coffee, though without the caffeine.
- Energy drinks. One of the worst substances to introduce into your diet as they are often filled with sugar and caffeine in addition to substitutes designed to make the drink appear healthy. Check out our other article, Energy Drinks and Brain Damage – Is there a link?
• Black coffee or matcha are far healthier substitutes.
Other ways to support a whole-body approach to good health is ensuring you have a diverse diet.
Sometimes though, there might be issues with absorption or digestion, in which case whole-food supplements like Bio-Strath are worth considering. It contains the full spectrum of B vitamins and amino acids along with many other nutrients. What also doesn't hurt is that it can increase the absorption of other nutrients including magnesium, iron, thiamine and zinc.
Hopefully you find something here to implement in your own daily routine - no need to feel like you don't have the energy to conquer your day!