3 Sneaky Ways Your Diet May Be Affecting Your Energy Levels

We're all feeling exhausted right now. According to the results of a recent survey, three out of five people report being more tired than ever. Whether you're battling an afternoon energy slump or can't start your day without a few cups of coffee, you may not want to focus on your sleep schedule, but rather your diet.

That's right: your daily diet may be affecting your energy levels. stephanie Nelson, MS, RD, registered dietitian and in-house nutrition expert and nutrition scientist at MyFitnessPal, explains how your eating habits can make you feel sleepy or sluggish. Here are three little-known ways your diet may be affecting your energy levels

  1. the size and frequency of your meals are not appropriate for your body's needs
    It's amazing how much you eat at once and how much you eat in a day can have an impact on your energy levels.

"Pay attention to the size and frequency of your meals. Meal size and timing have a big impact on your energy levels, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone, or even one unique way of doing things, and 100 everyone has % of the time," Nielsen says.

If you've ever felt lethargic after a big meal (looking at you, Thanksgiving turkey!) ), you'll know how much of an impact the size of a meal can have. To determine if you want to change how much or how little you eat, pay attention to your habits throughout the day - and how energetic you are afterward.

Effects may vary from person to person. As Nelson explains, "Some people feel more energized when they eat three large meals a day, while others reach their optimal energy levels when they eat smaller meals and snacks in between. For some people, smaller portions make them feel less tired because their bodies "don't work too hard to digest after a meal. For others, whose meal times may become irregular depending on their lifestyle, their bodies may respond best to larger scheduled meals to help regulate their metabolism."

  1. you're eating more sugar than you realize
    You already know that sugar messes up everything from your blood sugar levels to your mood. The crash that happens after eating sugar is real; it can send your energy spiraling upward. But even if you think you've cut back on your sugar intake, you may eat some in unexpected ways.

"Pay attention to the sources of sugar in your diet, and watch out for sources of added sugar. High-sugar foods and drinks - like candy and soda - can lead to energy crashes and early hunger," Nielsen explains.

Some of the biggest culprits of sneaky sugar are "healthy" foods with added sugars. "Sweetened coffee is supposed to fill you up with caffeine, but it usually leads to a sugar crash," Nielsen says. "[And] yogurt is often considered a health food, but sweetened yogurt can add up to an additional 15 grams of sugar per serving. The same goes for instant oatmeal; flavored oatmeal contains a lot of added sugar, which can lead to an energy crash later on."

  1. Your meals need to be better balanced
    If you've been eating an unbalanced diet and struggling to consume some nutrients more than others, your energy levels may be suffering. Lack of certain energy-boosting vitamins and minerals can lead to lethargy, grogginess and general weakness.

"Balance your meals and snacks. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates that help support energy levels, while healthy fats and proteins will slow digestion, thus providing a sustained release of energy over a longer period of time," Nelson advises. She also suggests achieving balance through energy-enhancing food combinations. "Try mixing two foods that both provide energy, such as fruit and nuts, cheese and vegetables, or fruit and yogurt."

For more information on increasing energy levels naturally through diet, continue reading at

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