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Get Off-the-Charts Energy!


It might not be your bank account, but there is something you (and every woman on the planet) have in common with these megastars: You could probably use more energy. "Musicians' schedules are incredibly grueling," says Ashley Koff, R.D., a Los Angeles dietitian who works with top singers. "They may spend the morning on a cross-country flight and then have to perform that evening—burning more than 1,000 calories during a two-hour concert." Use their tips to keep you powered up all day and all night long.

Waiting too long between meals and snacks can leave you feeling wiped out. "If you're ravenous, that means your blood sugar is low," says Harley Pasternak, a Los Angeles celebrity trainer and author of The 5-Factor World Diet. "You're also more likely to make poor food decisions and overeat." He recommends that his superstar clients—including Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Jennifer Hudson—nosh every two to three hours to fend off fatigue.

To maximize energy, eat a mix of whole grains, healthy fats like nuts and salmon, and lean protein like fish and chicken, plus plenty of fruits and veggies. "I tell my clients to get a minimum of 1,200 calories a day—more if they're performing—and to break it up into three meals and two 100- to 150-calorie snacks," says Carrie Wiatt, a Los Angeles nutritionist who has worked with Fergie.

The perfect snack, she says, is 60 percent complex carbohydrates (they're stored in the muscles as glycogen, the body's main fuel source) and 40 percent lean protein (it takes the body longer to digest, so it helps keep blood sugar and energy levels steady). A few favorites that fit the bill: half a grapefruit with a boiled egg, 2 ounces of deli turkey with fresh tomato slices, and a blueberry-flaxseed shake (a favorite of singer Nicole Scherzinger).

According to a recent study from Australia's University of Tasmania, people who added chili paste to their lunch experienced steadier blood sugar levels throughout the afternoon than those who didn't spice up their meals. A substance in peppers called capsaicin helps metabolize food, making it readily available to the body as energy, say researchers.

In fact, hot peppers have traditionally been used for this purpose in the Caribbean. Barbados-born Rihanna often revs up before concerts by eating a super spicy chicken soup with habañero and Serrano peppers, says Ameera Leguex, a Los Angeles chef who creates fiery dishes for the singer. An easy way to add heat: "Sprinkle air-popped popcorn with cayenne pepper and paprika."

Although you might assume that pop stars subsist on green salads, that's not the case: Nelly Furtado and Miley Cyrus are known to regularly dine on steaks and burgers.

"Vegetables alone won't give you sufficient energy to perform," says Koff, who advises loading up on whole grains, beans, and lean red meat. Beef is a good source of nutrients that are essential for energy, such as iron, protein, and zinc. According to a Cornell University study, even a slight iron deficiency can cause fatigue.

Nearly half of women don't consume enough iron, so be sure to get at least 18 milligrams (mg) a day from beef (3 mg per 3-ounce serving), as well as eggs (1 mg each) and lentils (7 mg per cup).

One caveat: Wagyu or Kobe beef (or any other marbled cut, like rib eye or New York strip) can leave you feeling lethargic. "High-fat meats are energy zappers," cautions Wiatt. "Because they take a long time to digest, you feel heavy and sluggish after eating them." She serves Fergie lean cuts, such as flank steak and sirloin.

Gwen Stefani and Alicia Keys request that their dressing rooms be stocked with nuts, and for good reason: In addition to being good protein sources, they're chock-full of magnesium, a mineral the body uses to activate cell enzymes that produce energy.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women who got only about half the daily quota for magnesium tired out more quickly during a jog than those who consumed sufficient amounts.

"Most women need 320 milligrams of magnesium daily, but when you're feeling overextended, I recommend increasing to 500 to 1,000 milligrams," says Koff. Besides cashews (83 mg per ounce) and almonds (76 mg per ounce), other top magnesium sources include spinach (157 mg per cup, cooked) and roasted pumpkin seeds (156 mg per ounce).

The next time you have a sugar craving, head for the fruit bowl instead of the candy jar. "Fruit contains simple sugars that are easily converted to energy," says Leguex. But unlike sweets, it also has fiber to tame blood sugar spikes and make that fuel last longer.

What's more, researchers from the University of Illinois found that the soluble fiber in citrus fruits and apples gives fatigue a one-two punch by reducing inflammation and bolstering the immune system.

If you're bored with those picks, opt for a piece of tropical fruit. "Mango, papaya, and pineapple wake up your taste buds and make you feel like you're indulging in an exotic, special treat," says Leguex, who notes that mangoes are Rihanna's fave. An entire fruit has 135 calories, 76 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, and enough flavor to help tame even a raging sweet tooth.

"If my clients drink caffeine, I advise them to do so strategically—about 20 minutes before a workout or midway through a long day," says Koff. At least three studies have shown the stimulant can boost endurance and fat burn during workouts. "But relying on it consistently as a bandage for fatigue won't work," she says. A caffeine jolt (like the kind you get from a Red Bull) gives you a temporary surge but can leave you feeling exhausted later. Plus, large doses can lead to anxiety and insomnia.

If you need a pick-me-up, order a nonfat latté or cappuccino. "The milk provides protein, which can help fend off a caffeine crash," says Pasternak. Country crooner Taylor Swift's coffee drink of choice, for example, is an iced caramel latté. As an alternative, try green tea, which has about half the caffeine content of coffee as well as L-theanine, an amino acid that has a stress-relieving effect on the brain. Lady Gaga and Alanis Morissette keep bottles of green tea backstage, while Koff's star clients drink matcha, a concentrated form of green tea. One brand to try: DoMatcha ($10 for 12 bags; domatcha).

Heading out for a night on the town? Look for pubs that offer a wide array of eats. "Pairing your drinks with real food helps curb the depressant effect of alcohol, so you feel less tired," says Koff. Split a few appetizers with friends, like crostini topped with hummus and veggies, and grilled chicken strips dipped in guacamole (bonus: Avocados are high in potassium, which counteracts alcohol's dehydrating effect).

Keep in mind that even one cocktail can cause you to toss and turn at night, leaving you exhausted the next day. "Alcohol can cause drowsiness at first, but afterward it boosts the production of a stress hormone called epinephrine," explains Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., a celebrity nutritionist in New York City. "This stimulates the body and increases your heart rate, which can wake you up." Aside from the occasional Champagne toast, Jennifer Lopez avoids alcohol entirely. So if you have a big day ahead, consider skipping that mojito altogether.

"The first thing I tell clients is to make sure they're drinking enough water," says Jackie Keller, a nutrition expert who has worked with Ashlee Simpson and Barbra Streisand. In fact, researchers at Tufts University found that even a 1 to 2 percent dip in hydration—the point at which you start feeling thirsty—can make you sluggish. "Your cells rely on water to make and use energy," says Keller, who recommends drinking at least half a cup every hour, or 8 cups throughout the day.

But if you're super active, the plain stuff may not cut it. "For fluids to fully penetrate and hydrate cells, you need electrolytes like sodium and potassium," says Koff. The solution: coconut water, which comes from the young, green fruit.

Try Vita Coco ($24 for a pack of 12;, a favorite of Madonna and Jessica Simpson. One 11-ounce container has nearly 20 percent of your daily potassium needs for a mere 60 calories. "The mineral is also important for muscle and nerve function, which is key for performers and exercisers alike," says Koff. Sip the slightly sweet beverage during workouts. Or get your fix by chugging water and nibbling a potassium-rich snack, such as a banana—you'll notice that your energy hits a high note!

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