Marie Clarie

December 2003, "Four Energy Sapping Mistakes Busy Women Make"

Do you load up on caffeine to get the day started? Reach for carbs to beat the 3p.m. blahs? Or veg in front of the TV to de-stress at home? It may make you feel worse. Here, new expert solutions.

Slow morning start
"I only feel on top of things after my second cup of coffee"
Robin, 23, investment associate.

Problem: Robin has four caffeinated drinks before noon (at least two coffees and two Diet Cokes), which ends up making her more stressed than energized. That much caffeine stimulates the body's "fight or flight" response, says Jana Klauer, M.D., a researcher at St. Luke's - Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. It puts Robin's body in a constant state of alert, which is exhausting - and, over time, such stress causes blood pressure to rise.

Fast Fix: Robin needs to cut down on caffeine and drink more water. Although she drinks most of her caffeine in the morning, trimming back will still help her sleep better at night. "But she should taper off the caffeine slowly to avoid withdrawal headaches," says Dr. Klauer. The first week, she should cut our one coffee and one soda, then get rid of the second Coke the next week. She should try to make every other drink water. By the end of the month, she should be drinking just one caffeinated beverage a day.

One Day Later: "I thought I would be much more groggy after skipping my at-home coffee and just getting my usual soy latte on the way to work," says Robin. "Mid-morning , my hand hovered over the Diet Coke buttonon the vending machine, but I made myself get water instead. I'm glad I'm sticking with the program, but I haven't really noticed any huge changes in how I feel."

One Week Later: "Giving up some caffeine wasn't as hard as I'd expected. I never really thought caffeine had a big effect on my sleep, but I was wrong - I know I'm sleeping better now. But I still feel foggy until I have my latte. For health reasons, I'm glad I changed my caffeine habit - and I think my skin looks healthier now, too. But, overall, I haven't noticed a huge change in how energetic or focused I feel."

Robin Rates the Remedy: 3 stars (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, 5 being the highest)

The Afternoon Slump
"I reach for carbs to wake myself up"
Liz, 26, PR account executive

Problem: After a breakfast of toast or a bagel, then a sandwich, quesadilla, or wrap for lunch, Liz trys to revive herself in the afternoon with a snack of Chex Mix, chips, crackers, or cookies. Every time she has these refined carbs, her blood sugar spikes, and she feels energetic for a little while. But when that energy burns up, she crashes.

Fast Fix: Fewer carbs and more protein at every meal will keep Liz's blood sugar steady, says Dr. Klauer. That means cottage cheese or yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a salad topped with chicken or tuna for lunch, and fish, chicken or lean meat with vegetables for dinner. In the afternoons, Liz can maintain her energy and stave off hunger with a piece of cheese or fruit.

One Day Later: "I was a tiny bit more energetic, but I felt miserable," Liz says. "I spent most of the day craving all the carbs I wasn't supposed to be eating! I would have give up if I hadn't been doing this for Marie Claire."

One Week Later: "I'm not draggy in the afternoon anymore - I don't zone out. I get through my projects faster, and I'm surprised that I no longer rush to grab a Diet Coke in the afternoon! Eating fewer carbs is getting easier: Yogurt for breakfast is faster than toasting a bagel and cooking dinner is pretty simple, too. I still crave carbs when I'm really hungry, though, so I snack on fruit or nuts between meals. Plus, without all those carbs, I've lost five pounds!"

Liz rates the remedy: 4 stars

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