Whether or not New Year's resolutions are your thing, it's only natural that after a few weeks of holiday indulgence you might find yourself really craving a lifestyle reset. As with pretty much everything in life balance is key, so we've got a few nutritional tips for energy to help you move, for focus to help you work, and for relaxation to help you get those all important hours of sleep.
Between the inclement weather throughout these short dark days, and the fact that everything seems to shut down a bit over the last week of the old year, by the first weeks of the New Year you can really be feeling like it's time to get the blood flowing! But don't forget: cutting down on indulgences doesn't mean you should cut down on nutrition. If your body is going to be working it needs fuel, and the most basic energy blocks for that are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are stored mostly in the muscles and liver and are necessary for exercise. Eat some an hour or two before exercising, and again within half an hour of finishing up in order to replenish your muscles’ energy stores. Focus on complex carbs from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes, which provide fibre, vitamins, and minerals in addition to energy. Protein is actually your body’s second choice for an energy source; it’s accessed only after all the available carbs have been used up. The best way your body can use protein is for repairing the tissues that have been working so hard by building muscle, which is why it's recommended for after a hard workout. From high quality meats to quinoa there are many different ways to fit protein into any kind of diet, and if you’re going to be spending some time sweating it’s extra important to have a good handle on at least one consistent and substantial protein source.
The end of the year often (though we know not always!) means projects get wrapped up, or a least put on hiatus. January can be an exciting opportunity to launch brand new projects or return to those in progress with renewed vigour. It's been shown repeatedly in studies that eating a breakfast sets you up to be have stable energy throughout the day, and, this can be surprisingly difficult to remember to do, but try to eat smaller amounts more regularly rather than 'pushing through' until you're starving and, of course, exhausted. Taking a break from work for a healthy lunch or snack will make you work much more efficiently in the long run! Two of the major elements at play as far as keeping your brain on task are stimulants (coffees, teas, and other natural sources of caffeine) and steady nutritional support—B-vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids are often cited as key. Leafy greens like kale are packed full of the B-vitamins that can help with memory and focus, while regularly incorporating blueberries, cranberries, green teas, dark chocolates and similar foods into your day will keep antioxidant charged blood flowing to your brain. Make sure your fatty acids are topped up with fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, Omega rich fish or flax oils, and, of course, everyone's favourite: avocados.
Get an Awesome Night of Sleep
It's one of life's little—or sometimes not so little—frustrations that you can spend your whole day wishing you had more energy and yet still find it difficult to sleep at night. Many of us rely on the caffeine mentioned above to get the focus we need for working through the daily to-dos, but it's really important to take note of when it might start to hinder overall, rather than help. Everyone's reaction to stimulants, whether in espresso or matcha, is a little different; try to be aware of how long it takes your body to process them. Some of us can have a cup of coffee at 10pm and nod off half an hour later, others... not so much. The classic safe bet for an evening sip is chamomile tea, both for its lack of caffeine and for its reputed nerve-soothing and sedative qualities. When it comes to sleep, your brain is basically working with melatonin and serotonin, so foods with nutrients that interact with those chemicals are likely to impact your rest. Tryptophan is an amino acid helps you make serotonin and melatonin. Walnuts are great source of tryptophan, and also contain their own melatonin, and tart cherries can also naturally boost levels of melatonin. Kiwis actually contain serotonin! More generally speaking, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium all help your body create melatonin, so try having tuna or turkey for dinner for their high levels of B6. Vegetarian B6 sources include pistachio nuts, avocados, and pinto beans. Spinach, chard, almonds and yogurt are all high in magnesium, and you can get your calcium from not only dairy, but kale, edamame, figs, oranges... there are all kinds of tasty ways to help yourself have sweet dreams.
Whether you're easing gently into the New Year or off to a start with a bang, we wish all the best in health and happiness for 2018!