First Published:

By: Teresa Farney

October 13, 2015

The Gazette

Feeling sluggish? Already worn out and it’s just past 9 a.m.? Your energy level may be more about what you are eating than the number of z’s you’re getting. Food choices have a big impact on our energy levels, both positive and negative. It’s all about blood sugar, which is regulated by many foods and which can trigger feel-good chemicals in our brain that improve our energy level, enhance our mood and increase metabolism. Then we burn more calories – and for the weight-challenged, this can be a good thing.

What’s the best food combination that will kick-start all these things? Is a low-carb diet the way to go? If we eat McDonald’s every day, will our energy and health be sapped?

To shed some light on these questions, we turned to Layne Lieberman, a Boulder-based dietitian and award-winning author of “Beyond the Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of the Super-Healthy,” for guidance.

“The body is similar to a car,” she said. “If you give a car fuel with low octane, it may move, but you can be damaging the engine. Unlike cars, humans react to food emotionally, which should not be ignored.”

Related:It’s flu shot time, and scientists hope this year’s vaccine is better than last year’s
Logically, Lieberman says, there’s no one food combination that works for everyone. There’s a ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat that varies from person to person, depending on whether that person is pregnant, lactating, an athlete, elderly or has diabetes, gestational diabetes or overweight concerns.

“Also there is no one diet that fits all because types of foods (carbs, protein, fat) in one’s diet may vary depending on food intolerances, allergies and food sensitivities,” she said.

As for going with a low-carb way of eating, Lieberman gives it a green light with caution. “Carbs are most efficient at producing our body’s fuel,” she said. “There is a misconception that we should abandon carbs. Carbs provide not only the most efficient form of energy but also fiber, vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants.”

The carbohydrates that Lieberman encourages keeping in your diet include whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

“Avoid carbs that are highly processed and void of natural nutrition, like white flour, white bread, white rice, cakes and cookies,” she said. “Natural nutrition means what Mother Nature provides, as opposed to foods that are enriched with vitamins and minerals in factories.”

So if our energy is low, is something missing in our diet?

“Perhaps,” she said, “but there may be other factors like thyroid, lack of vitamin D, iron or B12, or dehydration. That’s why it’s important to have a yearly physical and bloodwork done by a physician and, if needed, dietary assessment by a registered dietitian.”

What about the premise in the popular book “Fast Food Nation,” by Eric Schlosser, that a daily diet of McDonald’s or other fast food will zap our energy and health?

“Absolutely,” she said. “Fast food is like fueling the body with a chemical concoction and is nothing close to what Mother Nature intended.”

Her recommendation: “Get back to our roots, connect with the earth, and teach adults and children where food comes from. Plant a garden, visit farms and understand the complexities of food production so that we can make better choices for us and the environment.”

For more nutrition information and recipes, visit Lieberman’s website,