The foods you eat have a tremendous impact on your energy level throughout the day. Many people turn to caffeine or sugar when they are low in energy (sound familiar?). While this can provide a short-term energy boost, it eventually backfires. The sugar and caffeine wear off quickly, and your body realizes that it has nothing to use for energy leaving you exhausted and hungry (and much more likely to overeat). The key to all day energy lies in the makeup of your food. Protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber slow down digestion, releasing a slow and steady stream of energy. Include these foods throughout the day, and limit the sugar and refined carbs, and you’ll have plenty of energy all day long.
Four Steps to All Day Energy
- Eat a balanced breakfast. This means Including complex carbs, protein and fat and skipping processed foods like donuts, pastries and bagels (which will just cause a blood sugar spike and subsequent energy crash) for healthier options. Try whole grain cereal or oatmeal with nuts and fruit, an omelet with veggies and cheese, or Greek yogurt with berries.
- Don’t overdo it on carbs. While carbohydrates provide quick energy, too high of a carb load (with not enough protein and fat) causes a drop in blood sugar and low energy. Focus on balancing fiber, protein, and fat at each meal to slow the release of sugar into the blood and help prevent energy crashes.
- Make sure you’re eating enough. Getting enough calories and protein ensures that you are fueling your body for energy. When you eat less than you need for basic biological function your energy levels suffer. You will also break down precious, calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy, something no one wants to do.
- But don’t overeat. Overeating puts the body in overdrive, channeling large amounts of energy to digest and absorb all that food, so all you want to do after is lie down and sleep.
Next time you get a mid-afternoon energy slump, avoid hitting the vending machine, or reaching into the office candy bowl yet again, and grab one of these seven energy boosting foods instead.
7 Energy Boosting Foods
- Nuts and Seeds. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, brazil nuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds…you name it, they’ll give you an energy boost. Toss nuts or seeds Greek yogurt for breakfast, sprinkle on salads at lunch, enjoy a handful as an afternoon snack, or mix with quinoa and grilled veggies for a plant-based dinner.
- Blueberries. Boost the antioxidants in your meal with these super fruits. Throw a handful into a smoothie, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for a protein-packed breakfast or snack, or enjoy as dessert with a sprinkle of walnuts and a dollop of whipped cream.
- Avocado. Full of healthy fats, adding avocado to a meal or snack will help keep your energy levels stable for longer. Mash and spread on whole grain toast with a sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of olive oil, slice over a grain and veggie bowl, mix with Greek yogurt for a creamy vegetable dip, add to smoothies for extra creaminess, or add on top of an omelet.
- Quinoa. This whole grain is technically a seed, making it a good source of protein and healthy fat, in addition to fiber. Use quinoa instead of oats for a hot cereal at breakfast, add on top of leafy green salads for added crunch, mix with scrambled eggs or yogurt parfaits, toss into soups, or add to homemade meatballs or burgers.
- Beans and Lentils. These plant-based proteins are packed with protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates which all help stabilize your energy. Use beans or lentils as a salad topper, mix with whole grains and veggies for a quick weeknight dinner, or make a vegetarian chili.
- Greek Yogurt. This thick yogurt is a good source of protein, fat, and complex carbs. Try making a breakfast parfait with yogurt, berries, and nuts, or toss into a smoothie for a protein boost. Greek yogurt works well as the base of pasta sauces or dips and a marinade for chicken or fish. Or simply enjoy it on it’s own as a high-protein, high-energy snack.
- Salmon. This fatty fish is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids. These anti-inflammatory fats help protect your brain cells and can even boost brain function. Add salmon, or other fatty fish, to your diet at least two to three times per week to see benefits. Other sources of omega-3’s include walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
While you’re at it, avoid these energy sapping foods.
Energy Draining Foods
- Bagels. Equivalent to four slices of bread, bagels are a big load of refined carbs that will cause your energy levels to crash soon after eating.
- Pastries. Doughnuts, croissants, cakes, cookies – these are made of the energy draining trifecta: sugar, fat and refined carbs.
- Fried and Fatty Foods. Very high-fat foods take a while to digest and require more blood, and will leave you feeling sluggish.
- Energy Drinks. These work in the short term with a boost of sugar and caffeine, but ultimately your blood sugar levels drop lower than before, leaving you drained. Reach for plain or sparkling water plus an energy boosting food instead.
- Sugary Foods. Granola bars, juices, smoothies, fruit-flavored yogurts, candy and desserts often contain more than 5-6 teaspoons worth of added sugar. This will give you an initial energy spike, but you’ll crash hard soon after.
- Skipping Meals. Ok so this isn’t a food per se, but it certainly will have an effect on your energy level. Skipping meals deprives your body of calories it needs for energy and can result in a low blood sugar, leaving you fatigued and drained.