Nutrition Advice from Stephanie Karpinske, R.D.

How to Beat The Mid-Day Energy Slump

woman meditating

Even when she sleeps well, Tiffany sometimes gets sluggish around 10 and 2 during the workday. She’s not alone. Many people get tired around these times as well. That’s because it’s usually been a few hours since breakfast or lunch and your blood sugar levels may be dropping. But before you head for the office vending machine, follow these steps to make sure something other than hunger isn’t causing that energy drop.

Step #1: Drink some water. Caffeine from your morning coffee can leave you dehydrated, and dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. Rather than grab a soda or another cup of coffee, drink a big glass of H20 and refill it throughout the day. Many of us forget to have water outside of meals. But your body needs water even if you’re working at a desk all day.

Step #2: Get up. If you’ve been sitting for an hour or more, stand up and walk around. Sitting in one place for an extended period of time makes many people tired. Just a short stroll outside or a few laps around your office floor can help get oxygen-rich blood to your body, reviving you from your slump. In fact, Tiffany found that getting up from her desk every hour keeps her from getting that sleepy feeling.

Step #3: Breathe In. Focus on taking deep breaths. When you get busy or stressed, you may take shorter breaths and the lack of oxygen can make you tired.

If none of those things help and you need a little snack, try eating a small amount of protein and some complex carbohydrates. The protein will boost alertness and the complex carbs will slowly raise blood sugar levels. Try a piece of string cheese and an apple, a few almonds and a pear, or a container of Greek yogurt with fresh berries. Keep these types of snacks handy so you won’t be tempted by the nearest candy bar.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


Sleep: The Easiest Way To Lose Weight

girl in bed

If you want to slim down, go to sleep. Really. That’s according to several studies that show how getting forty winks affects our hormones. When you’re sleep deprived, levels of ghrelin, a hormone that boosts your appetite, go up. And levels of leptin, a hormone that tells your body it’s full, go down. These two actions drive you to overeat. And you know what happens when you overeat.

Lack of sleep also leaves you tired throughout the day. To boost your energy level you may turn to calorie-dense, high-sugar foods and caffeine (e.g. donuts and coffee), which give you a shot of energy—followed by another energy slump. These energy highs and lows keep you snacking throughout the day to stay awake—a habit that can pack on the pounds over time. And the more hours you’re awake, the more likely you are to snack.

So how much sleep do you need? Although you always hear that you should get 8 hours of sleep a night, this is just an average. Sleep experts recommend a range of 7-9 hours a night. The quality of sleep also matters. Research has shown that people who have sleep apnea have higher levels of leptin and weigh more. The disrupted breathing prevents the deep sleep needed to keep leptin levels from rising.

So if you’re hungry and tired all day and can’t seem to drop those extra pounds, try getting more zzz’s and/or seeing your doctor to identify possible sleep problems. And encourage your kids to sleep more too. Healthy sleep habits develop in childhood.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


How Much Protein Should You Eat for Exercising?

Chicken Chimichurri Wraps and Cilantro Mint Sauce (same picture)

When you think of what an athlete or bodybuilder eats, what foods usually come to mind? Chicken breasts? Egg whites? Tuna? These foods are all packed with protein and many athletes and bodybuilders eat them because they need the extra protein to build and repair body tissue after intense workouts.

Knowing this, people who exercise a few times a week assume they too should eat extra protein so they buy jugs of protein powders, cartons of egg whites, and boxes of protein bars. But do they really need all that protein? Probably not. In fact, most of us get plenty of protein from our regular diet. Consider that one cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, a chicken breast has about 30 grams, and a cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has 18-20 grams.

The average woman needs about 46 grams of protein a day and men need about 56 grams (according to the CDC). If a woman eats a chicken breast and a cup of Greek yogurt, she has met her needs for the day in just two foods! Since many foods contain protein, you can see how easy it is to get far more protein than the body needs.

If you work out at an intense pace for more than a half hour a day, your body may need a little extra protein but you probably already get that additional protein in your diet. So there’s no need to make buy special protein-enhanced foods. And if your diet does lack protein, go for whole food sources instead of highly processed protein shakes and bars. A cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has more protein and fewer calories than most protein bars.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


Do You Need A “Recovery” Snack?

Trail Mix

In my last blog, I talked about pre-workout snacks but post-workout snacks are also worthy of discussion. Many people automatically assume they should eat a “recovery” snack after a fitness class or other activity. But is this really necessary or are you just eating all the calories you just burned?

Knowing when to snack
As with pre-workout snacks, if you just had a light to moderate workout, such as a walk or a short bike ride, you can probably skip a post-workout snack. If you exercised intensely for an hour or more, see how you feel and go from there. If you’re hungry or feel weak, have a small 100-200 calorie snack.

What snacks are best?
Choose real foods, such as a banana or a small handful of almonds. You don’t need expensive smoothies, shakes, bars or sport drinks. Many of these are full of artificial ingredients and some have as many calories as a meal.

Snacks for kids
The rules for workout snacks apply to kids as well. Avoid forcing snacks on your kids before, during or after their sporting events. Kid’s sports have become snack buffets and many times snacks are not needed, especially for younger kids who may spend more time learning basic skills rather than burning calories running around. Water is usually all they need unless it’s been several hours since their last meal. If they’re hungry, offer them a banana, orange, or other portable snack to tide them over until their next meal.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.


Do You Need A Pre-Workout Snack?

Cheese and Crackers

I often see articles about the “best pre-workout snacks” to eat. But how many people really require one? If you’re going out for a walk or a bike ride or playing a little tennis, you probably don’t need to eat before you go. Many people just assume that they need a snack when it’s really not necessary.

So when should you eat a pre-workout snack? If it’s been several hours since your last meal, you might want to eat a little something, especially if you’re starting to feel hungry and/or low on energy. You also might want a snack if you’re going to be doing intense exercise for more than an hour. If you have a health condition, such as low blood sugar or diabetes, you probably need a pre-workout snack but talk to your doctor to see what’s best for you.

If you decide you need a snack before working out, light carbohydrates are usually best. This could be a piece of fruit or some whole grain crackers. Avoid foods that are mostly sugar, such as juice, because you’ll end up with a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. Foods high in protein or fat are usually not a good choice either because they take energy to digest so they can leave you feeling tired and sluggish during the workout.

Whether you have a snack or not, be sure to drink water before heading out. And bring water with you to drink during your workout. Most people feel the effects of dehydration long before they feel the effects of a missed snack.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.