Having a healthy lunch is easier said than done!
People say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I’d argue that lunch deserves an equal attention. Why is that?
Lunch gives you the energy to get through the second half of your day
Lunch provides the nutrients your body will use during your workout
Lunch determines how satiated you are at night
Given how many hours have passed between breakfast and lunch, it’s easy to over-eat come lunch time. It’s also tempting to go out to lunch with coworkers or friends, which increases the chance of poor eating choices. Plus, if you eat a too-heavy lunch, you’ll spend the rest of the day fighting sluggishness and sleepiness. Try getting to the gym after hours of yawning at your desk!
It’s vital that you eat a healthy lunch—one that will promote wakefulness and boost your afternoon energy levels. If you want to make your lunch as healthy as possible, here are a few things you need to do:
Let’s be clear: water doesn’t provide you energy. Water contains zero calories (energy), so it won’t increase energy reserves.
However, what water DOES do is keep your organs functioning properly. For example, it keeps your digestive system sending wastes toward the disposal exit. It also keeps your liver working properly to produce and distribute energy.
Dehydration (a lack of water) can lead to reduced liver function, causing your liver to reduce energy production. Not enough water can cause you to feel sluggish and may lead to water retention, which in turn causes bloating.
Drinking water also raises your pain threshold (helping you hit the training harder), keeps all your muscles and organs functioning optimally, and curbs your cravings for empty calories. Add at least 1 liter of water an hour before lunch to keep your body fully hydrated and shut down your appetite.
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If you try to fit in your workout in the afternoon, your body needs protein in order to build muscle. Lunch is the perfect time to increase your protein intake by adding high-protein foods to your meal.
Red meat is a good source of protein and healthy fats, but it can take hours to digest. Poultry is easier on your digestive system, but fish is the #1 source of protein. Not only is it easier for your body to digest, but the healthy fats it provides will increase your energy levels. Fish also contains heart-smart Omega-3 fatty acids that will improve your circulation.
Of course, you can always go with vegetarian proteins: beans, nuts, chickpeas, lentils, whole grains, and soy products. These high-fiber proteins will improve organ function and eliminate toxins, all while giving your body the amino acids needed to build muscle.
Your body needs some sodium in order to store water, but the truth is that ALL modern foods contain plenty of sodium. There’s almost no chance of under-consuming sodium, and it’s more important that you avoid high-sodium foods.
Salt is the primary source of sodium. Any food that’s heavy on salt will flood your body with sodium, which will increase water retention. When your body retains too much water, your heart has to work extra hard to pump and your energy levels decrease. Bloating and fatigue are common side effects of a high-sodium diet. Stick with low-sodium meals—basically, avoid anything processed or heavily seasoned!
Gluten is a controversial nutrient. Some people argue that EVERYONE should avoid it, while others insist that gluten is harmless.
For those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, it’s definitely a food to avoid. For the average person, however, gluten does use a lot more energy to break down and digest. It’s not going to cause health problems, but it can sap your energy levels. Avoiding a gluten-heavy lunch can help to keep your energy consistent all afternoon long.
Foods high in saturated and trans fats (animal products and fried foods) will take longer for your body to break down. They may not be fully digested by the time you leave work and head to the gym, which can lead to reduced energy levels for your workout.
Instead, make sure most of your lunch fats are unsaturated: nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, fish, and avocados.
Follow this advice to have a healthier, more balanced lunch every day!
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