The 5 worst energy zappers and how to beat them

Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing that’s making you tired. Find out if one of these five energy zappers are to blame

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tired woman excerise

Feeling a little sluggish?

When was the last time you felt truly energized? If you have to consult your Google Calendar to remember, you might need to reassess your eating habits.

"People have gotten used to feeling junky throughout the day; it's the new normal," says Andrea Holwegner, a registered dietitian based in Calgary. "When they make changes to their diets, they're often surprised by how much better they feel."

Avoid these five energy zappers to help you feel brighter and more focused throughout the day.

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low carb diet

1. Eliminating carbs from your diet

Carb-free diets might be popular, but Holwegner warns that eating this way could leave you feeling fatigued. "Your brain does not run on protein, it runs exclusively on carbs," she says.

The body converts the carbohydrates we eat into glucose, which is our primary source of energy. Cut out carbs completely and you may not be getting enough of the fuel that keeps you going throughout the day.

Add healthy, complex carbohydrates to your diet, such as whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables.

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eating breakfast

2. Skipping breakfast

There's a reason it's called the most important meal of the day-fasting while you sleep leaves your body's energy stores at empty.  If you don't fuel up, you'll feel lethargic for the rest of the day.

"When we look at research, we see that school children who eat breakfast score higher on memory tests and are more focused. Adults are just like kids, just in bigger bodies," Holwegner says.

Start your day off with a balanced breakfast that includes some of those healthy carbs, as well as protein, and fruits and vegetables. Check out our best healthy breakfast recipes for inspiration.

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diet eating disorder

3. Not eating enough

People need to eat every three to five hours to maintain optimum energy. Holwegner recommends "eating in threes," meaning that every meal and snack should contain a protein, a grain and a fruit or veggie. "Thinking in threes helps people get some structure into their meals," she explains.

These healthy grab-and-go snack ideas can help you pre-plan balanced noshes for optimal energy.

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woman drinking water

4. Dehydration

Skimping on fluids could leave you feeling zonked and unfocused. If the old adage that you need eight cups a day seems daunting, Holwegner says it's really not as much as you may think. "Everyone super-sizes portions in their heads and this even happens for water. You don't need a pint-size glass-one cup is actually a small amount."

Keep a water bottle with you and take sips throughout the day. Juice, herbal tea, broths and milk will also work to keep you hydrated.

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Apples and peanut butter

5. Eating the wrong foods at the wrong time

Since most of us eat lunch at around noon and have dinner later in the evening, we really start to lose steam around three or four o'clock. When you're feeling tired your brain wants those energy-producing carbohydrates to give you a boost. But if you reach for simple carbs such as a bag of chips or can of pop at this time, you'll get a quick burst of energy followed by a crash. Even eating a lone piece of fruit mid-afternoon won't give you the sustained oomph you need to get through the rest of the day.

"Carbohydrates go into the system very quickly and only keep you full for about an hour," Holwegner explains. "If you eat all carbs all the time, you're going to be on an energy roller coaster."

To avoid hitting bottom before dinner, combine protein and carbs for your mid-day snack. Munch an apple with a handful of almonds, yogurt with berries or veggies with hummus and crackers.

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