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WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

How Your Diet's Keeping You Down

By Hallie Levine Sklar

Redbook Magazine LogoWhat if we told you your lagging energy level has little or nothing to do with your superbusy schedule? Read on to discover the real reasons you're dragging, plus simple energy solutions.

● Your body's thirsty.
"Many women who complain of fatigue are actually just dehydrated," says Dave Grotto, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago. Dehydration reduces blood flow to your organs, leaving you sluggish. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids such as water each day. A good self-test? If your pee is clear or pale yellow, you're getting enough fluids.

● You crave carbs.
Who doesn't? But the processed ones in white bread, cookies, and pasta cause your blood sugar to spike, then crash, leaving you exhausted. At least 50 percent of your diet should come from carbohydrates, but opt for complex ones like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

● You're skipping meals.
You dive into your workday with nothing but a Starbucks venti to sustain you, and if you're lucky you find time to scarf down a PowerBar for lunch. Is it any wonder you're exhausted by the time 3 p.m. rolls around? "Skipping meals, or even just not eating for a few hours, can cause blood sugar dips that leave you feeling weak," explains Grotto. A great way to build all-day energy is to eat a fiber-rich cereal for breakfast, according to recent study findings at Cardiff University in Wales. Participants who did experienced a 10 percent reduction in fatigue, fewer incidents of depression, and improved cognitive skills.

● You're not getting the nutrients you need.
Many women are short on magnesium, a mineral that improves cell efficiency, thus conserving energy, says ob/gyn Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. You need about 400 mg a day (most multivitamins have about 100 mg). To make sure you get enough, eat foods rich in magnesium such as peanut butter, green leafy veggies, and whole grains. Another nutrient we often fall short on: omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate metabolism and boost oxygen intake, thus increasing energy. They're found in higher-fat fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, so aim for a few servings a week.

How Everyday Habits Zap Energy

●You're watching too much TV.
For every hour spent channel surfing, people walk 144 fewer steps, according to one Harvard study. The result? Slow and steady weight gain that drags you down. "Try strapping on 10 pounds of weights and walking around with them for a day - you'll be exhausted," says Grotto. That sluggishness also makes you less likely to gear up for a pound-paring workout. To break the cycle, try limiting TV time, or watch it while you're on the treadmill.

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