Five ways to boost our energy over the Christmas period

It's that time of year again. People are planning their New Year's resolutions but Jackie, a nutritional therapist, says that we should be concentrating on other areas that make us feel good about ourselves, not just on our size.

(Left) Jackie Donkin, Nutritional Therapist. Credit: PA Images

Written by Jackie Donkin, Nutritional Therapist.

Stay Hydrated65% of the body is water which is essential for optimum brain function. Being dehydrated can have a negative effect on concentration and memory, reducing them by 13% and 7% retrospectively, and cause symptoms of fatigue and tiredness.

As well as aiming to drink 2 litres of water each day, eating foods high in water content; cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, celery, mushrooms, watermelon/melon, oranges, blueberries and apples will contribute to water intake. Avoiding salt will also contribute to a favourable hydration status. The colour of your urine is a great indicator of your hydration status; too dark (dark yellow to amber colour) highlight’s dehydration and light, straw colour urine highlights that you are significantly hydrated.

Blood Sugar BalanceThe “peaks and troughs” of blood sugar fluctuations can lead to feelings of fatigue. Foods high in sugar, such as chocolate, cakes and pastries can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. These foods are simple in structure, almost devoid of fibre, low in nutrients, and quickly broken down. This provides a fast release of glucose into the blood which then falls drastically when the sugar has been taken up and absorbed by the body. This process can lead to feelings of tiredness and fatigue … and cravings for more sugar!

Caffeine can also cause the same effect; it stimulates adrenaline which encourages the release of stored glucose, resulting in a rapid rise in blood sugar. Ensuring our diet is high in slow-releasing carbohydrates will contribute to an even blood sugar balance; foods such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, butternut squash, lentils and wholegrains.

Eat A Balanced Diet.It is important to eat quality macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fats) and micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals, to ensure that our energy systems function efficiently. For example; B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and CoQ10 are required for the main energy processes. Folic acid, B12 and iron are required for the production of haem (iron-containing compound of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body). Vitamin C is required for fat transportation Antioxidants e.g. Vitamin A, C, E and selenium help to buffer free radicals (toxins). This highlights the importance of eating a varied diet to provide the array of nutrients required for an efficiently functioning body. Concentrating on incorporating quality sources of protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses), carbohydrates (brown rice, granary/seeded bread, oats) and an array of fruit and vegetables will meet this challenge. “Eating A Rainbow” is a great example of how to achieve obtaining these recommended nutrients.

SleepAlthough challenging at this time of year, with young children and social commitments; adequate and quality sleep is imperative to achieving healthy energy levels. Lifestyle advice incorporates removing blue light devices, such as iPad’s, laptops and phones, at least an hour before bed – including scrolling through social media channels! Methods to induce relaxation are helpful; having a bath, reading a book or meditation can all contribute to preparing the body for sleep.

Credit: PA Images

Nutrition-wise, it is suggested that eating late in the evening can disrupt sleep patterns, as body systems are busy concentrating on the process of digestion rather than on repair and renewal during the sleep cycle. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep patterns; as a stimulant it can keep the body in a state of alertness hindering sleep. Foods containing tyramine such as; bacon, cheese, ham, salami, potatoes, sugar, sausage and wine can increase the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Therefore, these foods should be avoided in any meal eaten late in the evening. An important initiator of sleep is serotonin, which is produced/made by tryptophan.

The body needs vitamin B6, niacin and magnesium to ensure the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. So, eating foods high in tryptophan including milk, poultry, eggs, soybeans and dairy products can be an easy aid for improving sleep. Having a warm, milky drink or a herbal tea such as chamomile and lemon balm an hour before bed can help with promoting sleep.

Exercise and Fresh AirNot nutrition-focused but essential to our overall wellbeing … get out into the fresh air and walk! Exercise is so important for us; it helps us to reconnect with nature, expose us to daylight, oxygenate the blood, and improve circulation … giving us more energy. And whilst we are out of the house over the festive period … we are not thinking of food and treats!

ITV News Central reporter Tania Sangha has been finding out about a new campaign highlighting the impact of body shaming and how we can feel a little bit better about our body image as we approach the end of the year.

For more information about body image and mental health contact: