Avoid Holiday Burnout with Nutrition


    In a recent poll, 68 percent of Americans experience greater fatigue over the holidays. This is due to the endless shopping trips, family obligations, parties, overeating and lack of sleep, which can quickly drain you of energy. Making a few changes in your diet will not only give you more energy during the holidays, but give you more energy for the rest of the year. The key is your circadian rhythm. Anyone who has ever traveled through multiple time zones and felt the effects of sleeplessness, disorientation and loss of appetite is familiar with their circadian rhythm, our internal clock. What most people don’t realize is our circadian rhythm also is responsible for converting food into energy and reducing metabolic stress.

     Our energy-generating pathways have a unique metabolic rhythm that is programmed into our DNA. Once you understand this concept, you can simply adjust the nutrition composition of your meals to allow the energy pathways to work in an ultra-efficient mode. This is the core principle behind Function Eating. Consuming the right combination of nutrients at the right time will give you more energy, reduce metabolic stress and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Here are seven simple steps to raise your energy levels.

1. Never skip breakfast. The ideal breakfast consists of about 80 percent carbs and 20 percent protein. This ratio will not only reduce cortisol levels but also replenish muscle energy stores depleted while you were sleeping.

2. Eat high-carbohydrate foods between 9:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. to ensure that the muscles and brain have sufficient energy.

3. Decrease consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods throughout the afternoon and evening.

4. Consume 55 percent of your daily calories by 1:00 P.M. to parallel the body’s energy needs.

5. Eat high-protein foods between 5:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. The protein turnover circuit is most active during this period because it is not competing with the pathways responsible for generating energy.

6. Keep fat intake to a minimum in the morning and throughout most of the day, but increase your intake of healthy (mainly plant) fats in the evening. Since these fats are especially potent suppressors of hunger, this strategy helps keep you full in the period between dinner and bedtime.

7. Whatever time of day you work out, make sure you pay close attention to your fueling and recovery nutrition.

    And here’s an eighth tip: For an additional energy boost add a caffeinated drink to your daily regimen. Caffeine’s beneficial effects include increasing energy, reducing fatigue and improving alertness and mental focus. With all of these benefits a caffeinated energy drink or shot should be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, energy drink and shot manufacturers add a whole of other ingredients to caffeine. Some, such as vitamin B6, have neither a positive nor negative effect. However, one ingredient, taurine, found in most energy products, may actually make you more fatigued.

    Studies have shown that taurine blunts the effects of caffeine. It does this by activating specific receptors in the brain responsible for decreasing mental alertness. Whereas caffeine makes you more alert and gives you more energy, taurine has the opposite effect, it makes you more tired and sleepy. Researcher suggest that taurine may be responsible for the “energy crash” that’s been reported after consuming an energy shot. 

    To get the full benefits of caffeine, choose an energy product that has doesn’t have taurine but rather has a small amount of carbohydrate and protein. Whereas taurine decreases the effectiveness of caffeine, small amounts of carbohydrate and protein significantly enhance it.


    This was demonstrated in a recent study from Montana State University where sports science researchers compared two commercially available energy shots, one that contained taurine to one that contained a small amount of carbohydrate and protein.

    The results were dramatic. The caffeine/carbohydrate/protein combination (Body Glove SURGE) was shown to be 200 percent more effective than the caffeine/taurine combination (5-Hour Energy) in extending energy levels, improving alertness and mental focus.

Energy Products That Contain Taurine

5-hour Energy® Red Bull® Monster Energy® Full Throttle® Rockstar® AMP Energy® Celsius®

The bottom line – incorporate the principles of functional eating to get you through the energy-depleting holiday season. And if you need an additional energy boost make sure that your energy drink or shot doesn’t contain ingredients that increase holiday fatigue.


About the Author

Dr. Robert Portman, a well-known sports science researcher, is coauthor of Nutrient Timing. The Functional Eating Plan is summarized from his latest book, Hardwired for Fitness.

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