Do you feel low energy in the morning, like you’re missing pep in your step?
Do you reach for something sweet or that extra cup of coffee mid-afternoon?
Do you find it difficult to wind down in the evening?
While these dips and spikes in energy may seem common, they could be compromising your health. Here’s why.
How blood sugar levels impact our energy and cravings
Eating and drinking has far wider-reaching implications than just nutrient and caloric intake. What you consume throughout the day can have a significant impact on your energy levels. It can mean the difference between feeling awake or lethargic at breakfast, energized or crashing after lunch, and calm or wired at bedtime.
Our energy levels are directly linked to our blood sugar levels: when blood sugar levels dip, so do energy levels. Foods like simple carbs (think bagels, toast and processed snacks) and fruit which are high in sugars (glucose and/or fructose) are metabolized quickly. This in turn raises our blood sugar, but it also then quickly drops.
A problematic and health-compromising consequence of this spike-and-crash in blood sugar is that it leads to feelings of hunger every few hours, as well as continuous cravings for foods rich in simple carbs each time our energy crashes. Further, this ongoing roller coaster also eventually desensitizes key hormones responsible for metabolizing our food, and in turn, can lead to weight gain, inflammation and even various metabolic conditions.
Easy blood-sugar balancing tips you can implement throughout the day
Food should fuel you, not slow you down. And the good news is that if you’re already consuming a relatively clean and nourishing diet, balancing your blood sugar doesn’t necessarily require completely overhauling your approach to food – we can feel, focus and operate significantly better with some small yet impactful changes.
For example, for those times when you do crave a sweet treat, fruit or toast made of refined grains, adding protein, healthy fats or fiber to these simple carbs helps to slow down the breakdown of sugars and keep blood sugar levels steady until your next meal.
Here we share some of our favorite nutrient-packed, functional ingredients that you can add to your day to boost energy, stay satiated, and help you unwind at the end of the day.
Morning: start the day right
Does this sound like a familiar morning practice: turning to foods high in simple carbs like muffins, bagels and oatmeal or even just a cup of coffee for breakfast, especially when mornings are hectic?
These are the very foods that can lead to the blood sugar spike-and-crash we spoke about above. And coffee has a similar effect in that caffeine can temporarily help us feel more awake, but when it wears off, it leaves you feeling sleepy again.
The take-away: the way we start the day nutritionally sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Tips for a balanced breakfast:
Avoid eating simple carbs on their own. Add some PFF: Protein, Fats and Fiber. Foods rich in protein (eggs, tofu, greek yogurt), healthy fats (nut butters, avocado, eggs) and fiber (seeds, oats, berries) all metabolize slower than sugars. Including them in your breakfast will slow down how quickly your meal is metabolized, keep you satiated longer, and help keep your blood sugar levels steady until lunch.
- If you’re a fan of smoothies and smoothie bowls, consider going easy on the fruit and heavier on vegetables, proteins and fats. Also, topping your creation with foods balanced in protein, fiber and fat like hemp seeds, nuts or seeds will not only add texture and crunch – they’ll also help to slow down how quickly the smoothie is metabolized. And as a bonus, the act of chewing will activate your digestion!
Pro tip: follow the Perfect Smoothie Formula to create delicious, nourishing smoothies every time
- If you’re a coffee drinker, level up that cup of joe with a serving of adaptogenic herbs and functional mushrooms (we love adding a scoop of JOYÀ's Cacao Elixir Blend to our brew) to help support the adrenal glands (the glands that produce hormones that regulate our stress response, metabolism, blood pressure and more), which can be impacted by too much caffeine.
- If you don’t do well with coffee, consider matcha a worthy replacement. It contains L-theanine and caffeine, a combo unique to green tea that promotes an alert-calm sensation, rather than the caffeine crash of coffee. (JOYÀ’s Matcha-Moringa Elixir Blend will also deliver additional cognitive and immune support.)
Mid-day: keep going
Similar to breakfast, we want to keep our blood sugar levels steady after lunch to avoid that dreaded 2-3 pm crash, when we often reach for something sweet and/or caffeinated.
Tips for avoiding the afternoon crash:
- Just like in the morning, add protein, healthy fats and fiber to your lunch to help keep your blood sugar steady and those cravings at bay. If you do crave something sweet or high in simple carbs, “dress it up” with some protein, fat or fiber. Some of our favorite combos include:
- Apples + nut butter
- Toast + avocado
- Energy balls
- Chia pudding + low sugar fruits like berries
- Dark chocolate
- If it’s the ritual of an afternoon beverage that you crave, opt for herbal tea or a matcha or turmeric latte instead of another cup of coffee. The caffeine in the coffee may temporarily alleviate your butterfly eyes, but very soon the crash will have you right back at droopy (and reaching for more coffee). (JOYÀ’s adaptogenic Matcha-Moringa and Turmeric Elixir Blends will also support deeper, long lasting energy by helping to increase the body’s resistance to stress.)
Evening: time to slow down
The goal come evening is to calm the mind and prep the body for a night of restful and regenerative sleep: these are the hours when our body repairs and recovers. And as you might have guessed, a key factor in determining the quality of our sleep is what we eat and drink beforehand.
Tips for a deep night’s sleep
Avoid snacking after dinner. Our metabolism mirrors our sleep-wake cycle: it slows down in the evening as we prepare for sleep. So if you eat when your metabolism is slowing down, this food won’t be digested effectively, which can lead to weight gain and hormonal imbalances. Further, research shows that late night eating disrupts deep sleep.
Should you crave something sweet after dinner, opt for some dark chocolate (JOYÀ’s dark chocolate is a great option at only 1 g sugar per bar) or an adaptogenic hot cacao. The magnesium in cacao supports relaxation and sleep, and these delicious options also satisfy the craving for something decadent.
- Herbal, non-caffeinated teas are another great wind-down beverage. Herbs like chamomile, passionflower, valerian root and lavender help calm the nervous system so that we can ease into the night ahead.
- While there’s a time and place for that glass of wine or post-meal espresso, regularly consuming these before bed may actually disrupt the quality sleep we get, often increasing the time it takes to fall asleep or stay asleep as the body works to metabolize instead of rest.