Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finding the Perfect Pattern

We're all insanely busy, running around for our spouses, significant others, kids, bosses, parents, friends, and everyone else under the sun. I find myself, most days, struggling mid-afternoon and staving off a nap, while at night I tend to wake up around 10 p.m. and, as a result, I am unable most nights to sleep before midnight and sometimes even earlier than 2 a.m. This works for me in some respects -- I am, after all, a student. But now I'm married and I have a husband and I have things to do and places to go and food to cook and people to engage in worthwhile conversation ... so I can't keep up with my crazy late nights every day of the week, right?

You're probably wondering where on earth I'm going with this. Well, I was perusing the most recent issue of Real Simple (free at my local coffee shop for in-store reading, yay Teaneck!), and I found this nifty little chart of the through-the-day way to eat and drink. Do you guys have anything that works for you? Let me know if this chart seems pretty accurate. When I get to commuting into the city, I'm going to have to get really good about eating the right stuff at the right time (when I'm away from home, I tend to ... well ... not eat, and then I get home and eat a huge, unnecessary meal).

Follow This Eat-for-Energy Timeline

Here’s how to power through your day effectively:

7 a.m.: Rise and shine!

7:15 a.m.: Drink a glass of water. “Hydrating first thing increases the chances that you’ll continue throughout the day and prevents dehydration, which causes fatigue,” says Sara Ryba, a nutritionist in Scarsdale, New York.

7:45 a.m.: Have your cup of coffee. While you’re filling that pot, pour yourself another glass of water.

8:30 a.m.: Eat a protein-rich breakfast. “Protein helps keep your blood-sugar levels consistent, so you don’t run the risk of an early-morning energy crash,” says Ryba. Stick to foods such as scrambled egg whites on a whole-grain English muffin, peanut butter on toast, or cottage cheese (which has more protein than yogurt) topped with berries and high-fiber cereal.

10:15 a.m.: Snack on a few hazelnuts or almonds. “The nuts are high in magnesium, which is believed to boost energy,” says Ryba.

10:45 a.m.: Drink more water. If you’re not a water drinker, try snacking on some watermelon, which is about 91 percent water.

12:30 p.m.: Enjoy a brown-bag lunch. Dining out, especially in a group, might lead to overeating, which will zap your energy supply later in the day. “The more food you consume, the harder your body has to work to break it down,” says Ryba. Consider an open-faced turkey sandwich with carrots or a cup of lentil soup and an apple.

2:45 p.m.: Snack time. Boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve brain function, with yogurt with flaxseed or a trail mix with walnuts. Now is also a good time to sip an iced green tea, which can help rev your metabolism and give you a bit more buzz. (Antioxidant-rich green tea has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, so you won’t risk messing with your sleep patterns later.)

4:00 p.m.: Break out the popcorn or Twizzlers. “Most people experience a dip in serotonin between three and five,” says biologist Judith Wurtman, a coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet ($16,, so you should reach for 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrates to boost levels of the feel-good hormone. Try one cup of popcorn, three Twizzlers, or a low-fat granola bar.

8:30 p.m.: Finish eating dinner at least 2½ hours before bedtime. Otherwise your body’s digestive process could disrupt your sleep pattern. Try a light but satisfying meal of protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates—for example, salmon, broccoli, and brown rice; or beans, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and grilled chicken in a whole-wheat tortilla.

10:00 p.m.: Sip an herbal tea. Chamomile will help calm you down for sleep, while peppermint aids digestion.

11:30 p.m.: Lights out!