Health.com Explains How To Have More Energy

      110 Comments on Health.com Explains How To Have More Energy

Thank goodness for Health.com.  According to an article I read online today, some of my dietary habits are draining me of energy.  Let’s take a look:

Who doesn’t wish for more energy at least a few dozen times a day?

I don’t.  (I hope I’m not alone in that regard. If most people are wishing they had more energy two to three times every hour they’re awake, those zombie movies aren’t as far-fetched as I thought.)

Of course, you know that a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and effective stress management can give you a much-needed boost. But to further figure out why you’re slumping, you need to pinpoint the energy-sucks in your diet. (Hint: Those low-carb meals aren’t doing you any favors.)

Dangit!  And here I thought my energy level was pretty high for a guy coming up on his 55th birthday.  During the daylight hours last weekend, I spent my time sawing logs, tossing the sawed logs aside to saw more logs, and weed-whacking my way through some briar.  After the sun went down, I programmed some updates to a software package I sell to law firms.  Oh, and I also played 72 holes of disc golf while taking work breaks from the logs.  Now that I know I did all that in an energy-depleted state, I feel kind of foolish.

Anyway, here are the energy-draining mistakes Health.com says I may be making:

You go long stretches without eating

Guilty as charged.

Food Fix: Snack early, snack often

Every time you go more than two hours or so without eating, your blood sugar drops — and that’s bad news for your energy.

Hmmm … as I write, it’s been six hours since my last meal.  So out of curiosity, I pulled the glucose meter out of my desk drawer and checked my blood sugar.  It’s 90 mg/dl.  I’m pretty sure that’s not considered low.  Once or twice per week, I do a 24-hour intermittent fast – dinner one day to dinner the next.  I’ve checked my glucose at the 23-hour mark.  It’s always in the 80-90 mg/dl range.  So I’m thinking if your blood sugar drops to the point where you feel drained just two hours after a meal, it may have something to do with what you eat.

Food supplies the body with glucose, a type of sugar carried in the bloodstream. Our cells use glucose to make the body’s prime energy transporter, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Your brain needs it. Your muscles need it. Every cell in your body needs it.

Time to dig out the books on metabolism again.  I was under the impression most of the cells in our bodies can also burn fatty acids or ketones for fuel.

But when blood sugar drops, your cells don’t have the raw materials to make ATP. And then? Everything starts to slow down. You get tired, hungry, irritable and unfocused.

Tired, hungry, irritable, unfocused … yes, I remember that feeling.  I experienced it rather often when I was on a low-fat diet and depended on regular infusions of carbohydrates to keep my blood sugar up.  Back in those days, I would have been a sucker for advice such as:

Grab a bite every two to four hours to keep blood sugar steady.

I had to take a couple of business calls and answer some emails while writing, so now it’s going on seven hours since my last meal.  According to Health.com, that means I’m at least three hours overdue for a snack .  I’d better check my blood sugar again.  Hang on a second …

… Uh-oh.  My glucose has plummeted to 89.  Anyway, on to the next mistake and fix.

Your breakfast is too “white bread”

Energy, thine enemy is a sugary breakfast: pancakes, white toast, muffins and the like. Instead, start your day with soluble fiber (found in oatmeal, barley and nuts).

“It dissolves in the intestinal tract and creates a filter that slows the absorption of sugars and fats,” explains Dr. David Katz, founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center and author of “Disease Proof.”

In fact, research shows that choosing a breakfast with either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber — the kind in whole-grain breads and waffles — actually protects against blood sugar spikes and crashes later in the day.

Well, there’s my problem.  I don’t eat whole-grain breads or waffles for breakfast.  If I eat breakfast at all, it’s eggs and some kind of meat.  But I often skip breakfast because I’m just not hungry.  Part of the reason I’m not hungry is that my glucose is always in the 80-90 range when I wake up.  Since Health.com has informed me that going without eating for more than four hours will cause low glucose, I’m considering setting up the video camera in our kitchen so I can catch myself raiding the refrigerator while sleep-walking.

A smart start: cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber a serving and whole-grain breads with 2g per slice.

Yeah, start your day with cereal or bread.  Then grab a snack within the next two to four hours, because your blood sugar will be dropping.  I wonder if there’s a connection?

The next two mistakes the article lists are eating the wrong kinds of vegetables and avoiding red meat entirely.  No complaints there.  But here’s the final mistake and suggested fix:

You’ve cut one too many carbs

Food Fix: Hello, whole-wheat pasta and potatoes!

Carbs help your body burn fat without depleting muscle stores for energy.

So if you keep raising your glucose every two to four hours so every cell in your body can burn glucose for energy without even tapping your glycogen stores, your body ends up burning fat.  Makes sense.

The ideal diet is 50 to 55% complex carbohydrates, 20 to 25% protein and 25% fat.

In a Tufts University study, women on a carbs-restricted diet did worse on memory-based tasks compared with women who cut calories but not carbs. And when the low-carb group introduced them back into their diet, their cognitive skills leveled out.

I see.  So here’s the advice in a nutshell:

  1. Start your day with cereal, bread or waffles.
  2. When your blood sugar plummets two hours or so after eating the cereal, bread or waffles, have a snack to raise your blood sugar.
  3. When your blood sugar drops two hours or so after eating the snack that raised your blood sugar, have another snack to raise your blood sugar.  By constantly raising your blood sugar to make sure you burn glucose for fuel, you end up burning fat.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your next meal — which should be 50-55% carbohydrates to make sure your body produces enough blood sugar.
  5. When your blood sugar drops two hours or so after eating a meal that’s 50-55% carbohydrate (to make sure you produce enough blood sugar), have a snack to raise your blood sugar.
  6. Research at Tufts University shows that after conditioning yourself to require a carbohydrate snack every two hours or so to keep your blood sugar from plummeting, cutting back on carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar to plummet — which means you’ll do worse on memory-based tasks.  So don’t cut back on the carbohydrates.
  7. If you  accidentally forget to eat carbohydrates every two hours or so and your blood sugar plummets and causes you to do worse on memory-based tasks, eat more carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and level out your cognitive abilities.  But don’t forget to have a snack two hours later to raise your blood sugar after it starts dropping, or you’ll become stupid again.

That advice makes no sense to me.  But that’s probably because it’s now been seven hours since my last meal, and my glucose has plummeted to 89 mg/dl.

p.s. – After I wrote this post, we had dinner:  a chef salad with lettuce, onions, eggs, cauliflower, bacon, bits of cheddar cheese, tomatoes from the garden, Italian sausage chunks and a bacon grease/white wine vinegar dressing.  My glucose an hour later is 105 mg/dl.  I don’t expect to need a snack two hours from now.

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110 thoughts on “Health.com Explains How To Have More Energy

  1. Pierson

    Isn’t insulin released in small amounts when one’s blood sugar goes above 85? I was told by my doctor that a fasting blood sugar of 90 was a little high, and that was why.

    I certainly wouldn’t worry about fasting blood sugar of 90. What I want to avoid is the blood-sugar rollercoaster.

    Reply
  2. Kim

    The thing that really bugs me is that in all likelihood, the vast majority of people who read this article and so many other like it, simply believe it without thinking. They’ve been fed the BS for so long that for most people there is no thinking that goes on. It simply reinforces what they “know” to be true: Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient. And sadly, it’s not their fault. Forty years of indoctrination by governments and all the so-called health agencies as well as doctors and dieticians who all parrot the same nonsense. It hurts the most when you see loved ones who are following this terrible advice and what they are doing to themselves in the long term. And as we know, you can’t force it on others. Simply lead my example and hope they catch on before it’s too late.
    Thanks for all you do Tom. Love your blog (and of course “Fat Head”!!)

    I not only believed that nonsense, I wrote that nonsense back when I worked for a small magazine in my 20s.

    Reply
  3. gollum

    Can you please stop making fun of 300 lbs? Okay, I don’t really weigh 300 real pounds, but in Evil Spacecraftkilling Units it is, or was, pretty close.

    Deleted paragraph speculating about intent and grade of lies, also mentioning all brakes on lies are off pre-election here (“plant matter easier to digest”)
    Just this, I do believe the statement about cells needing glucose is wrong in more than one way, if I recall correctly some heart cells run on FFAs.

    Tom, steak and some salad, onions give you 105? Isn’t protein supposed to make your insulin shoot up “as much as sugar”? I read that on Low carb exposed or from some guy, don’t remember.

    Protein does cause a post-prandial rise in insulin (not glucose), as it should. Insulin transports amino acids into muscle and other lean tissue.

    Reply
  4. gollum

    Can you please stop making fun of 300 lbs? Okay, I don’t really weigh 300 real pounds, but in Evil Spacecraftkilling Units it is, or was, pretty close.

    Deleted paragraph speculating about intent and grade of lies, also mentioning all brakes on lies are off pre-election here (“plant matter easier to digest”)
    Just this, I do believe the statement about cells needing glucose is wrong in more than one way, if I recall correctly some heart cells run on FFAs.

    Tom, steak and some salad, onions give you 105? Isn’t protein supposed to make your insulin shoot up “as much as sugar”? I read that on Low carb exposed or from some guy, don’t remember.

    Protein does cause a post-prandial rise in insulin (not glucose), as it should. Insulin transports amino acids into muscle and other lean tissue.

    Reply
  5. Babs

    Kim, I blame it on the public schools, where all us publicly edumacated folks learned about that stupid Food Pyramid where at the bottom it says to eat 6-10 servings of whole grain every day. And at the top is the fats you are to eat *sparingly*. That thing is imprinted on my brain from my grade school. Im 34, and just a couple of years ago found out all this stuff Toms documentary is about. So basically anyone in their 30s or younger doesnt know better.

    Reply
  6. Babs

    Kim, I blame it on the public schools, where all us publicly edumacated folks learned about that stupid Food Pyramid where at the bottom it says to eat 6-10 servings of whole grain every day. And at the top is the fats you are to eat *sparingly*. That thing is imprinted on my brain from my grade school. Im 34, and just a couple of years ago found out all this stuff Toms documentary is about. So basically anyone in their 30s or younger doesnt know better.

    Reply
  7. suntzu00

    Tom,

    You know who else has to dose regularly in order to not suffer adverse effects; heroin addicts. Eating carbs every two hours is simply a recipe for carbohydrate addiction. Cereal instead of bread is like shooting meth instead of smoking crack.

    Yup. That’s why they keep telling the carb addicts they need to eat every 2-4 hours.

    Reply
  8. suntzu00

    Tom,

    You know who else has to dose regularly in order to not suffer adverse effects; heroin addicts. Eating carbs every two hours is simply a recipe for carbohydrate addiction. Cereal instead of bread is like shooting meth instead of smoking crack.

    Yup. That’s why they keep telling the carb addicts they need to eat every 2-4 hours.

    Reply
  9. Kristin

    Boy I sure don’t miss the constant grazing of my old high carb low fat diet. I also don’t miss the headaches, the crabby moods or the complete loss of perspective and control I would get when I was crashing. I just don’t get hungry in the same way I used to. Even if I’m really very hungry it doesn’t manifest with that old gnawing insistence. I’ve been unable to describe this new sensation to anyone who still runs on sugar. It’s kind of like yes, it is time to eat and I’m looking forward to it. But no, I don’t feel like I’m going to pass out or choose something stupid. If it isn’t convenient to eat at that moment I can wait. It just isn’t the big deal it used to be. And it sure is convenient to randomly skip meals.

    I had that experience today. I had my usual coffee with cream in the morning, then got busy cutting logs with the chainsaw. I didn’t think about food and didn’t run out of gas until I literally ran out of gas and decided to stop for the day instead of going on a drive to fill the gas can. So despite a lot of physical work, I had my first meal at 6:00 PM and felt fine while working.

    Reply
  10. Kristin

    Boy I sure don’t miss the constant grazing of my old high carb low fat diet. I also don’t miss the headaches, the crabby moods or the complete loss of perspective and control I would get when I was crashing. I just don’t get hungry in the same way I used to. Even if I’m really very hungry it doesn’t manifest with that old gnawing insistence. I’ve been unable to describe this new sensation to anyone who still runs on sugar. It’s kind of like yes, it is time to eat and I’m looking forward to it. But no, I don’t feel like I’m going to pass out or choose something stupid. If it isn’t convenient to eat at that moment I can wait. It just isn’t the big deal it used to be. And it sure is convenient to randomly skip meals.

    I had that experience today. I had my usual coffee with cream in the morning, then got busy cutting logs with the chainsaw. I didn’t think about food and didn’t run out of gas until I literally ran out of gas and decided to stop for the day instead of going on a drive to fill the gas can. So despite a lot of physical work, I had my first meal at 6:00 PM and felt fine while working.

    Reply
  11. Chris

    Now that I am LC, I marvel at all of the people walking the sidewalks and driving the streets of Chicago with food. Walking and eating. Driving and eating. A few scrambled eggs for breakfast keeps my hunger at bay for five hours or more. Keeping your blood sugar up with frequent snacks smacks of advice placed by shills for food processors or Big Pharma. Have you looked into the ownership of Health.com?

    It’s owned by Time Warner.

    Reply
  12. Marilyn

    Off topic here. On the topic of Rascal. =^..^=

    I have a day-by-day cat calendar. Today’s picture is an 18-year-old cat who — they stated matter-of-factly — has lost all his teeth. It seems to be an accepted fact that old cats will lose their teeth. A lot of mine did. As I look back, knowing what I know now, I would certainly have fed them differently. I would expect that if Rascal eats a better diet he won’t have that problem. Eighteen years is probably too long to wait for a report, but you might find it interesting to watch and see what happens.

    Dogs, cats, people … a good diet means keeping your teeth, at least for a lot longer.

    Reply
  13. Dan

    Hi Tom,
    I was hoping you would write about this one! An excellent response to a crappy news article.
    I have a question. About blood sugar, how can you tell you have good blood sugar control through the day if you don’t have a glucose meter? I eat a good rounded paleo diet and no longer experience the painful hunger i used to feel in the grains and sugar days. Is that all there is to it, or are there other signs that would tell me how i am doing? Any thoughts?
    Dan

    I think you’d have to measure. Glucose meters are pretty cheap these days.

    Reply
  14. Chris

    Now that I am LC, I marvel at all of the people walking the sidewalks and driving the streets of Chicago with food. Walking and eating. Driving and eating. A few scrambled eggs for breakfast keeps my hunger at bay for five hours or more. Keeping your blood sugar up with frequent snacks smacks of advice placed by shills for food processors or Big Pharma. Have you looked into the ownership of Health.com?

    It’s owned by Time Warner.

    Reply
  15. Marilyn

    Off topic here. On the topic of Rascal. =^..^=

    I have a day-by-day cat calendar. Today’s picture is an 18-year-old cat who — they stated matter-of-factly — has lost all his teeth. It seems to be an accepted fact that old cats will lose their teeth. A lot of mine did. As I look back, knowing what I know now, I would certainly have fed them differently. I would expect that if Rascal eats a better diet he won’t have that problem. Eighteen years is probably too long to wait for a report, but you might find it interesting to watch and see what happens.

    Dogs, cats, people … a good diet means keeping your teeth, at least for a lot longer.

    Reply
  16. Dan

    Hi Tom,
    I was hoping you would write about this one! An excellent response to a crappy news article.
    I have a question. About blood sugar, how can you tell you have good blood sugar control through the day if you don’t have a glucose meter? I eat a good rounded paleo diet and no longer experience the painful hunger i used to feel in the grains and sugar days. Is that all there is to it, or are there other signs that would tell me how i am doing? Any thoughts?
    Dan

    I think you’d have to measure. Glucose meters are pretty cheap these days.

    Reply
  17. Dan

    Bacon grease and vinegar dressing… just add mayo and potatoes and you’ve got German Potato Salad. Ah, the memories of childhood.

    Reply
  18. Craig

    Of all the myths about nutrition that refuse to die the idea that, “whole grains are good for regulating your blood sugar because the fiber makes them slow to digest” is the most mind-boggling. It gets repeated over and over and over when it is incredibly easy to disprove.

    You don’t have to read studies or have some deep understanding of science. Just eat whole grains and check your blood sugar. Watch it spike up then collapse. I was in my earl 30s and only about 30 pounds overweight with healthy fasting blood sugar level when I saw Fat Head and started learning the truth about nutrition. When I got a glucose meter I was amazed by the roller coaster ride my blood sugar would take after eating whole grains, especially if I ate a large portion with a meal that was really low in overall fat. You know, the kind of meal that gets recommended to people with serious problems with weight and type 2 diabetes — the kind of problems I was headed towards if I’d kept following the standard USDA nutrition advice.

    Almost every article I see in the mainstream press about nutrition parrots the same advice about whole grains regulating blood sugar. Just a few days ago I read another article in my daily paper about cutting out red meat, using vegetable oils in place of animal fats and eating lots of whole grains to maintain healthy blood sugar. How did a hypothesis that is so easy to disprove with a cheap meter anyone can buy at Wal-Mart become so widely accepted as fact? How do doctors get away with giving that advice to people with blood sugar problems bad enough that they are actively monitoring their glucose levels and seeing the effects of whole grains? I say this as a natural skeptic. Your documentary was fascinating, but I didn’t just blindly accept anything you, or Gary Taubes or Jimmy Moore, etc., were telling me. I bought a cheap glucose meter and it quickly became obvious that the standard advice on blood sugar was completely wrong.

    I’m glad you tested for yourself. I don’t expect you to blindly accept what I say.

    Reply
  19. Mike

    I can’t help but wonder if General Mills, or one of the big cereal companies, is a big [i]Health[/i] magazine and/or health.com advertiser. This article reads like a cheap infomercial.

    You can count on cereal ads in most health magazines.

    Reply
  20. Mike

    I can’t help but wonder if General Mills, or one of the big cereal companies, is a big [i]Health[/i] magazine and/or health.com advertiser. This article reads like a cheap infomercial.

    You can count on cereal ads in most health magazines.

    Reply
  21. Mike

    One of my favourite comments under original article : Another post by a paleobotomy victim. I am 100% victim 🙂 of being focused on life, not on feeding times and artificial food. As others mentioned, lots of people around me moan about starving a few hours after meal. That’s it, we can only carry on our path.

    Reply
  22. keerti

    hi just reading the stuff about plummeting glucose levels and I have personal observation that may be interesting: It does happen in some situations
    some years ago i was working in a very busy massage clinic (it wasn’t unusual to do back to back sessions from mid-day until 7 Pm. When I first started there I would at times get the shakes (from hypoglycemia). If I had to wait until I finished work I would go on an eating binge to feel normal again. This was an uncomfortable way to be. After some reading about dehydration I decided to drink one large glass of water every session. The hypoglycemic shakes stopped. My hypothesis from this is that when we don’t have enough to drink that there is insufficient water for the body to draw reserves from the fat cells and as a result glucose levels drop. Further to this the suggestion to eat carbs to balance glucose levels is likely to be interpreted as eat refined carbs which I suspect soak up available water leading to sea sawing of glucose levels! In other words it is the very act of continual carb eating that causes the glucose swing.

    Reply

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