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Staying Energetic at Any Age

Whether you’re juggling a hectic career and family responsibilities, trying to balance your schoolwork with extracurricular activities or keeping up with a busy social calendar as part of a senior lifestyle, maintaining your energy level can be challenging. All too often it’s a glass of milk or cup of coffee for breakfast, fast food for lunch and a candy bar as an afternoon snack. Such eating habits, however, ultimately lead to drowsiness, stress and lack of energy. Keeping your “engine running” throughout the day isn’t hard; it just takes a little planning, self-control and recognizing that you really ARE what you eat.

Most of your daily calories should be consumed in the morning. That way, they’ll provide you with energy throughout the day. Breakfast should typically include protein, complex carbohydrates and fruit. Sound complicated and time-consuming? It isn’t. Try a bagel with light cream cheese and a glass of juice or half a grapefruit, eggs and toast for an energy boost that will keep you going until lunchtime.

Be aware that certain foods can actually make you drowsy. Whether you’re packing your kids’ lunch or choosing your own meal, stay away from foods with too much fat and protein. Avoiding foods like turkey and high-fat dairy products will help you stay alert throughout the afternoon.

If you find it’s hard to satisfy your daily nutritional requirements, dietary supplements are a good idea. And even if you eat right, certain supplements can actually help your body convert the foods you eat into energy by providing you with the right nutrients in the proper balance. Look for supplements that offer a B-vitamin complex, which aids the conversion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy; or herbs such as Ginkgo biloba and ginseng, which enhance your body’s ability to generate energy.

Healthy snacks are great for your energy level, too, no matter what your age. Reach for fruit and vegetables (e.g., apples, bananas, carrots, green and red pepper strips), low-fat yogurt, small pieces of cheese or pretzels. Although it may be tempting, forget candy bars — sweets raise your blood sugar level and provide a short burst of energy. But, as soon as your blood sugar drops (usually after about 20 minutes), you’ll wish you’d scheduled a nap rather than a tennis game.

You may be surprised to know that if you play that game of tennis (or engage in any other exercise), you’ll ultimately increase your energy, rather than deplete it. Exercise raises levels of beta-endorphins and serotonin, substances that boost your energy level and sense of well-being. Including exercise in your day will keep your energy level up, and it doesn’t always need to be the structured exercise of a gym workout or swimming laps. Even brief exercise, such as walking to work or school, using stairs instead of an elevator or riding a bike while on errands can help you stay energetic.

Don’t forget the importance of recharging. Be sure to get adequate rest by determining the number of hours of sleep you need each night and sticking to it. It’s also helpful to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day so your body become accustomed to the routine. The quality of your of sleep is just as important as quantity, however, so make sure you have quiet or play soothing recordings if that helps you sleep. You’ll awaken feeling energetic, and that goes a long way toward maintaining your general health and well-being no matter what your age.

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