Foods that Give You Energy in the Day and Help You Sleep at Night
Between work, family, and surfing, life can be exhausting sometimes. But responsibilities keep coming, and so do swells—so it's up to us to find the energy to keep up. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to make sure our energy stores are topped off. For one, getting enough sleep each night is essential. But beyond that, we can also benefit our bodies by eating the right foods. Here are five foods that can help give us energy during the day—and a couple more that can help us unwind in the evening, when we are ready to rest.
1) Brown rice: Carbs are the popular topic of the day when it comes to healthy eating. Too many carbs end up getting converted into fat, but if you don’t have enough of them, you won’t have the energy needed to support physical activity. The trick is to eat the right amount and the right kind of carbs—namely, complex carbs. In Hawaii and Japan, rice is a major source of carbs for many of us—but we tend too eat too much of it, and the wrong kind. Consider replacing your white rice with brown rice, which is the whole-grain version. Brown rice is more filling, which means you are less likely to eat too much. Plus, it is rich in fiber and nutrients. Finally, it has a much lower glycemic index score than white rice, which means that it digests more slowly, giving you steady energy through the day rather than spikes of energy followed by a crash.
2) Sweet potatoes: Again, carbs aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they are used correctly (i.e., not consumed to excess, and preferably as complex carbohydrates). Sweet potatoes are a great example. Rather than eating the high-starch/low-fiber normal potatoes found in French fries, consider eating roasted or lightly sautéed sweet potatoes, which give you tons of nutrient, fiber, and healthy carbs to power your body throughout the day.
3) Eggs: While some people are against using any animal products, most agree that eggs are an incredible source of protein. In fact, in many nutritional circles, they are the protein against which all other proteins are measured. Protein helps to rebuild muscles that are broken down during exercise, and also helps to keep your appetite sated so that you don’t overeat less healthy foods. They are also rich in leucine and various types of vitamin B, all of which energize you and help your body function more efficiently. And all of this makes sense, if you consider that the majority of the egg is supercharged, nutrition- ally dense food for what would otherwise have been a growing embryo!
4) Nuts: Just as carbs aren’t necessarily bad for you if they are used correctly, fats are actually quite healthy too, as long as you eat the right kinds. Nuts are the right kind of fat, and can be super beneficial to your body. Fat burns slowly and steadily, providing energy for the long-term, which makes nuts a great fuel for extended periods of exercise (like marathon surf sessions). Nuts are also full of nutrients that your body needs. And the oils in them help coat your stomach and make you feel full so that you don’t overeat unhealthy snacks. Consider a few handfuls of almonds or cashews along with a banana before paddling out, and you will find that you have the energy you need to surf all day.
5) Green leafy vegetables: When we think about food that gives us energy, we often think of high-calorie foods (since calories are actually a measure of energy). But our bodies need more than just calories to function. We also need nutrients and vitamins that enable us to digest calories and turn them into energy that we can use for movement and life. Plus, these nutrients and vitamins help keep us healthy, repair damaged cells, and increase brain and body function in a variety of ways. Green leafy vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamins, which is why things like spinach, kale, and chard are considered superfoods. Iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, is NOT a superfood. It has very little to offer in terms of beneficial content, so pass over the bleached lettuce next time you build a salad, and go heavy on the spinach. After all, Popeye ate it for a reason!
6) Turkey: After a busy day of work and surf, you want to relax and get to sleep so you can wake up refreshed and do it all over again. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey that helps increase the production of mela- tonin, the hormone that aids in falling asleep. As it turns out, there’s a reason you always take a nap after Thanksgiving lunch! Turkey is also high in protein, which is essential for rebuilding muscle after exertion.
7) Chamomile tea: A universal remedy for insomnia, chamomile tea is an herbal (non-caffeinated) tea that helps relax you and get you ready for bed. Not only does the warm liquid soothe your throat and body, but the chamomile apigenin, which is an antioxi- dant that binds to receptors in your brain to make you sleepy. As an added benefit, the flavones in the tea help reduce inflammation, which means less risk of cancer and heart disease.