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Energy Ups and Downs? Your Caffeine-Drinking May Be to Blame

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Last week, I shared these tips with Dr. Oz and his audience, but here's a deeper look and some extra tips for anyone trying to drink their way out of energy ups and downs.

Take this quick quiz to see if you have energy ups and downs -- to which of these do you answer "yes"?

A) I have trouble getting up and going in the morning.
B) I struggle to make if from mid-morning to lunch.
C) I feel my face heading for the desk or pillow (or car steering wheel -- uh oh) shortly after lunch.
D) Some days -- okay, most days -- I achieve zombie status mid-afternoon.
E) All of the above

If you answered A-D about most days, and certainly if you chose E, you are like so many of my clients battling daily energy ups and downs. And like many of them you may be turning to or considering beverages to get some quick energy when it seems to have abandoned you. However, did you know that may be the biggest energy blunder of all? And here's why:

1) More Energy vs. Better Energy: Grabbing for a quick shot of "energy" but actually grabbing a calorie-free stimulant drink (think sugar-free "energy drink" or black coffee or tea) may rev your engines, but without any "energy" coming in in the form of quality calories. your body will feel like a car without gas when you rev those engines -- spinning its wheels, hoping for nutrients, and irritated until it spews out smoke or slowly burns out inside.

Energy Fix: If you consume a calorie-free beverage that contains natural stimulants, then make sure to consume some nutrient-balanced food as well, like a handful of organic edamame, organic nuts and fruit, or organic veggies with hummus.

2) What Goes Way Up, Will Go Way Down: Carbs are our bodies' preferred source of energy -- quick energy, that is -- so they deserve a place in any better energy recipe. As noted above, you don't want to skip carbs when you have stimulant-containing beverages or your energy will soar and crash; just the same, it's an energy blunder to consume too many carbs at one time, especially if you're already consuming a stimulant. As with most things in life, the carb/stimulant/better energy key is balance.

Energy Fix: Be aware if your stimulant beverage contains carbohydrates -- for example milk in your coffee or tea, or a milk replacement, or juice, and especially added sugars. An appropriate serving of carbohydrate (for most) is about 15 grams per serving (that's the amount you consume, not the amount the label says is a serving), so read the label. (If it's coming from added sugar sources though, like cane juice, sugar, honey, etc., then the sugar amount should be no more than 10 grams.) Also, make sure that if you are drinking your carbs, skip them from your food at that eating occasion. Try a salad with hemp hearts, or lowfat organic cottage cheese with cinnamon, or wild salmon with sautéed veggies (they provide protein and healthy fats only).

3) Think Band-Aid vs. Daily Aid: It happens to everyone -- the night where the kids get up or stress keeps you awake, or the day the morning hectic-ness drains every ounce of energy from your active and reserve tanks. Yes, there are days when a stimulant is a necessity as the show must go on, just like many cuts and scrapes need a band-aid to help protect your wound while you heal. However, if you put a band-aid on a wound that really needed stitches, or you attempt to put band-aids over a rash and hope it will get better... Well, most of us have also been to the emergency room or had to call the doctor's service because something we thought was a nothing turned out to be a something. And needing a stimulant, for any of the examples above, A through D and most certainly E, on a daily basis reveals a bigger boo-boo than any band-aid can address.

Energy Fix: While you don't have to give up your daily cup of joe or ounce of dark chocolate, if you are relying on stimulants to function, you should take a deeper look. Are you getting enough, quality sleep? Are you having nutrient-balanced eating occasions regularly during the day? Is your stress -- good and bad -- out of control, or have you forgotten how to turn it off and relax? Before you turn to a beverage to address these problems, consider that the beverage may be part of the problem, not the solution.

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