What To Eat To Increase Energy Levels And Still Lose WeightDecember 6, 2021
During weight loss phases, the decrease in food intake can leave you feeling worn out and run down. Reduction in overall calories is commonly associated with fatigue, lethargy, brain fog, irritability, and overall, not feeling great. It is important to know how to increase energy levels.
Your body is like a car: for it to perform at its best, it needs the proper fuel, which is food in our case. We need to feed our bodies well and feed them often. What should you do if you want to shed a few pounds but not shed your energy levels? That’s where diet quality and choosing nutrient-dense, high-quality foods can optimize and increase energy levels while trying to lose weight.
Increase Energy Levels and Weight Loss
With all being said, weight loss comes down to energy balance – burning more than you are consuming. It is important to understand what makes up our diet so that we can achieve the best of both worlds; lose weight and feel great. Our diet is made up of 3 main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Protein: Contains 4 calories per 1 gram. Protein is the most important nutrient after bariatric surgery as it helps preserve lean muscle mass, reduces hair loss, helps control hunger/fullness, aids in fluid balance, and more. Protein also has the highest thermic effect of food – meaning that your body takes more energy to burn this nutrient over carbs and fats. If you remember going back to the basics of bariatric nutrition, always consume protein first at meals and snacks to ensure you don’t miss out on this crucial nutrient.
Carbohydrates: Contains 4 calories per 1 gram. The number one thing is to choose high-fiber carbohydrates after bariatric surgery to prevent dumping syndrome, keep you full between meals, provide adequate energy and maintain proper GI health. Glucose from carbs is the preferred fuel for your brain and red blood cells which can lead to clearer thinking and an increase in overall energy. It is important to not be afraid of adding carbohydrates into your diet when the time is right after surgery.
Fats: Contains 9 calories per 1 gram. Fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient of all three. Fat is generally recommended to consume smaller amounts of after surgery as calorie content is higher and doesn’t provide the “full” or “restricted” feeling due to low food volume. When incorporating fat sources, choose healthy fats like avocados, nuts, olive oil, fatty fish (aka salmon, tuna, etc.) that can help increase energy levels and provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
As there are items to add more of, there are also food items to minimize in your diet if you want to feel your best.
High sugar items: Simple sugars and simple carbs can zap energy by spiking blood glucose and plummeting soon after. Avoid/reduce candy, pastries, sugar-sweetened drinks, high-sugar condiments like BBQ sauce and some dressings, and use table sugar. Better alternatives would be items labeled either “low-sugar” or “sugar-free”. Lastly, using zero-calorie sweeteners to use in place of regular sugar may be beneficial as well.
Greasy, fatty foods: Highly saturated and trans-fat foods can make you feel bloated, heavy, and sluggish. Avoid/reduce these items for both weight loss and energy benefits.
Excessive caffeine: Although small to moderate consumption of caffeine can help boost energy levels, overconsumption of caffeine can make fatigue worse in the long run. Keeping caffeine intake to <200mg per day is a general recommendation.
Low protein items: Non-balanced meals and snacks without protein will leave you feeling wanting for more as protein keeps you full and fueled. Add a cheese stick to your apple or add hummus to your whole-grain crackers. Pairing up foods with protein can keep you more satisfied and energized.
Helpful Tips to Use
Now that we know what makes up a high-quality diet, we need to understand how to put it into practice. Meal structure and scheduling are key factors for keeping your energy up and preventing the 3 pm slump.
- Take time for meals and snacks throughout the day. Don’t skip meals as this can lead to fatigue. Remember, your body needs to be fueled, not forgotten.
- Try to aim for 3 small, main meals and 1-2 snacks in between. This will allow you to get all nutrients that your body needs and keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Use the Bariatric Plate Method as a guide for structuring meals. All meals and snacks center around a lean protein source. A serving of non-starchy vegetables is added next and lastly a serving of complex carbs. A small serving of a healthy fat source may replace carbs if that is your personal preference.
In addition to food, fluids play a vital role in keeping the energy up and weight loss going. There are a few key items to keep in mind:
- Aim for at least 64 ounces of caffeine-free, low-calorie drinks daily. Discuss with your Registered Dietitian for more individualized recommendations.
- Your body is made up of ~70% of water and relies on adequate fluid intake to function properly. If you are not drinking enough, your body will not be able to perform at its best and will likely experience fatigue and possibly stalled weight loss.
- Electrolytes are also critical in helping reduce fatigue. There are naturally occurring electrolytes like sodium/potassium/magnesium in foods, but it can sometimes be difficult to consume enough after WLS. It may be a good time to consider adding 1-2 low-sugar or sugar-free electrolyte drinks or water tablets/powders.
- As mentioned above, a small to moderate intake of caffeine can be beneficial to energy levels. If fluid goals are met daily, caffeine intake of <200mg per day can be safe to aid with overall energy.
Lastly, there are more specific vitamins found in foods that provide a greater contribution to overall energy than others. Along with focusing on a high-quality, balanced diet, adding more foods that contain these vitamins may be beneficial for reducing fatigue during weight loss phases.
- B12: meat, fish, eggs, milk, some fortified breakfast cereals.
- Iron: red meat, beans, liver, nuts, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals.
- CoQ10: organ meats, fatty fish, oranges, strawberries, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, soybeans, lentils, sesame seeds, pistachios, soybean oil, and canola oil.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil.
Implementing these strategies to increase energy levels and decrease fatigue can be helpful in keeping the pep in your step while you’re trying to lose weight. Although these are general recommendations, always consult with your medical team or Registered Dietitian for more personalized recommendations.
ABOUT THE AUTHORJennifer Davis RDN, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. She works with bariatric patients on their diet and education for pre and post-surgery diet guidelines. She is always there for her patients at any point in their weight loss journey to answer questions regarding nutrition. She joined My Bariatric Solutions in December 2019.
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