Now that we’ve established what energy is, let’s talk about what energy feels like.

In my last post I set the foundations of understanding what energy is. Before I went back to school for nutrition I thought “energy from food” was supposed to feel like caffeine. At least, that’s what I was looking for! But I never got that feeling from food, no matter how much I ate. As it turns out, that’s not what food energy feels like.

Energy from food is more subtle than caffeine.

After eating a meal, if you pay attention, you can feel the energy that comes from your food. It’s not going to smack you in the back of the head like coffee. It won’t ramp you up like tea, or provide the jump-start that you feel from yerba mate, or any other stimulant we have at our disposal these days. However for some time after you eat the right foods, if you’re mindful, you’ll feel a steady stream of energy to think better, move well, continue being productive and make good decisions.

The right food energy at the right times

will not only help your brain to work better and you to be highly productive during the day, but it will also help you to get better results from your workouts, and sleep better at night.

How do you figure out what foods give YOU the most energy?

The only way you can truly find out what kinds of foods, and combinations of foods work best for you, and what times are best for you to eat is to make yourself a subject of your own experiment and collect some real data.

Take some daily observations.

Observe what you eat and how you feel for 7-10 days. You can use a food app, which will provide you with additional, interesting information about what you’re eating. Or, you can simply write it all down in a designated journal.

Observe more than what you eat.

Make notes about your energy. Specifically:

  • How did you feel before you ate?
  • How did you feel afterwards?
  • Note all energy dips and swings, highs and lows. (Food can have a delayed response in the body.)

Contrary to what the fads say,

it’s not protein, or carbs, or fat that will determine whether you get energy from your food. In order to be optimal we need all of these in combination. I share much more about that in my upcoming book.

It’s important to note:

  • How a food has been prepared will affect your energy. For example, if your food is covered with heavy sauce, or soaked in oil or fat, it can take longer to digest, stay in your stomach and make you feel sluggish for a while.
  • Foods high in sugar will give an initial burst of energy and leave you hungry shortly afterwards.
  • If you eat too much of almost any food, it will make you sleepy.
  • If you don’t eat enough, it can make you tired. But, during starvation or semi-starvation, you can feel unusually wired due to the increase of stress hormones in your body. (Many of my busy clients get excited about this, but they quickly lose interest when I explain how it’s not a long-term plan for optimal performance).

Your energy also depends on many other factors.

Not getting enough sleep, or being under high levels of stress for long periods are two of the external factors that can override the energy you get from food. These energy-draining issues are easier to discover when you’re logging your food and observing what you eat for a short amount of time. I’ve got more details on how to understand where your energy comes from, in Eat to Lead. Alternatively, I can lead you through a food journaling exercise and help you to decipher your observations in person.

Have you ever journaled about your food? If so, what did you get from it? Drop me a note on that in the comments below and let’s discuss.