1 – Eggs
If you wake up feeling groggy, woolly-headed and unable to bear the thought of parting from your pillow then breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day for you. The only thing worse than sleep deprivation is being sleep deprived and having fluctuating blood sugar levels at the same time.
A ‘sugar crash’ is hard enough to deal with at the best of times – hello that 3pm afternoon slump! If you’re feeling sleep-deprived though, as I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, you’re going to be craving sugar to keep your body fuelled. The best antidote to this craving is the right balance of protein and fats, and eggs are the perfect breakfast option in this case.
Not only will the fat and protein ratio in eggs help to keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady, studies have found that leucine, an amino acid contained in eggs, can help to encourage the metabolism of energy from your food, making you feel more invigorated and awake.1 Next time you have a bad night’s sleep, why not sit down to some poached eggs on toast or scramble them?
Veg and hummus
Remember that 3pm slump I just spoke about? This often occurs in the afternoon as your blood sugar levels start to dip following your lunch. When this happens, you’ll find the temptation for sugar to be at its worst and you’ll likely find yourself desperate for a biscuit, chocolate bar or pack of crisps.
Veg and hummus can help to counteract this – this might not sound like the most tempting snack but it actually can be pretty effective at curbing cravings. There is some evidence to support the idea that crunchy snacks can actually satisfy you quicker due to the association between sound and taste.2 This might explain why crisps, popcorn and other loud snacks are so popular!
Raw veg with a side of hummus can provide this crunch in addition to plenty of protein and a range of energy-boosting nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, iron and magnesium. Why not check out this delicious recipe for protein-packed chickpea and lentil hummus if you need any more convincing?
3 – Nuts and seeds
Speaking of snacks, nuts and seeds are another good option if you’re looking for something to satisfy your hunger pangs without draining your energy levels. Similar to eggs, these offer an excellent balance of healthy fats and protein without the worry of sugar – almonds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are some of my especial favourites.
Of course, chia seeds have an amazing reputation when it comes to maintaining healthy energy levels, being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. Almonds, on the other hand, provide plenty of protein, magnesium and vitamin E whilst pumpkin seeds are rich in immune-boosting zinc and iron. Of course, eating nuts and seeds on their own isn’t for everyone but thankfully you can easily incorporate them into bakes – just take a look at these delicious, supercharged Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls.
4 – Green Tea
Coffee is probably your beverage of choice when you find yourself yawning at your work desk but this milky, often sugary, drink can actually do more damage than good when it comes to your sleep. That’s why I often recommend sticking to a more natural option such as green tea. Green tea has been the drink of choice in Asia for centuries but more recently the West has finally caught up with the benefits – not only is green tea incredibly rich in antioxidants, it also contains caffeine.
Yes, the same stuff that’s found in coffee; however, the caffeine contained in green tea is moderated by an amino acid called L-theanine, which actually has a calming effect and aids concentration. Now this doesn’t mean that you can just go and gulp down all the green tea you want without any repercussions but, overall, it’s a more nourishing alternative.
5 – Berries
If you find yourself seeking a sugar hit, why not opt for a natural source instead? Fruit is supposed to be the main source of sugar in our diets but all too often we’re reaching for refined sources that don’t offer us the same benefits. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries all contain sugar but they’re also chockfull of fantastic nutrients too!
It’s these nutrients that can go a long way towards fighting those sleepy symptoms – blueberries, for example, are particularly rich in antioxidant polyphenols whilst raspberries may help to increase your levels of the satiety hormone, leptin.3 Even strawberries are thought to help balance blood sugar levels! It also helps that berries are super easy to incorporate into your diet – you can drizzle them on top of your cereal in the morning, work them into salads or even serve with some natural yoghurt!
6 - Porridge
I started this list with a suggestion for a fatigue-fighting breakfast so it only seems right that I finish this list with one. Porridge is a staple in most health food lists and for good reason – oats are an excellent source of fibre that can help to balance your blood sugar levels and support your digestive functions. Unlike many breakfast options, porridge also supplies a slow, steady release of energy to keep you going through the day rather than a quick hit that rapidly wears off.
Porridge also offers plenty of B vitamins which can help to give your energy levels a boost, plus a good amount of magnesium, an essential mineral when it comes to supporting your mood, muscles, joints and metabolism! There’s plenty of different ways to make porridge – you can serve it with berries and nuts or even add some cinnamon for a slightly sweeter, spicier flavour.
What else can you do to give your energy levels a boost?
Okay, so you’re keeping an eye on what to eat and avoiding all the right foods – what else can you do? Well, arguably the best thing you can do to fight sleep deprivation is to keep hydrated. Nothing will sap your energy levels and concentration quicker than dehydration so this is really important – you should be aiming to drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water a day!
It might also help if you consider boosting your intake of certain vitamins and minerals, as I’ve already mentioned. Your diet is one way of doing this and it’s the best way in our opinion; however, we do also offer a Balance Mineral Drink.
Finally, there’s plenty of lifestyle steps you can try in addition to improving your diet that can help to ease sleep deprivation. If tackling sleep deprivation at work is a real concern for you, you could take a look at my blog ’Our 10 top tips for coping with sleep deprivation at work’, however; the best thing you can do is to try and regulate your sleep patterns so this isn’t a reoccurring event. Please take a look at A.Vogel Talks Sleep for more tips and advice.