Feeling sluggish? Aren’t we all. What with the fast pace of modern life, and the go-go-go mentality in our culture, it’s no wonder we’re all exhausted. We’re living in an information age, which fatigues the mind. And most of us have so many responsibilities, it feels like there’s never enough time to get it all done. We could all use more energy.
Unfortunately, many of us are reaching for an energy drink or a venti caramel macchiato instead of turning our focus where it really belongs: our diet. Some foods give you energy, while others leave you feeling drained.
Ever notice how you feel after making a nutrient-dense smoothie in the morning, compared to how you feel after eating pancakes laden with maple syrup, or chocolate croissant? Chances are, the smoothie gives you lasting energy, while the carb-heavy, sugar-laden foods leave you feeling sluggish after the sugar spike brings you up, and then back down. All foods are simply not created equal. Some give you slow, steady, sustainable energy. Others give you an energy rush only to crash shortly thereafter.
Take a look at 24 foods that can give you more energy, so you can start incorporating them into your diet to feel brighter, clearer, and more focused!
Clean water is the healthiest drink on Earth. Hydration equals energy. Dehydration makes us cognitively sluggish. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, pour yourself a glass of cold water and drink up. Not only will it give you an energy boost, you’ll also burn calories in the process.
Ah, coffee. Who doesn’t love a morning cup (or two) of joe? We’re addicted to it, and for good reason. Its caffeine content gives us more energy than most beverages, and it’s a drink we’ve become accustomed to and love dearly. While coffee’s gotten a bad rap, it’s not all that bad for you as long as you drink it in moderation. And try to stick to black coffee or coffee with just a little bit of cream, rather than the syrup-laden and whipped-cream topped flavored drinks from your local coffee shop.
Apples really are a fruity godsend. Their dietary fiber provides us with steady energy. So do the treasure trove of antioxidants found in each delicious bite. But don’t expect to get the same benefits from juice, which will spike your blood sugar and then cause a rebound. So, eat your apples whole, and enjoy every bite down to the core.
Did you know that eating one orange takes care of your recommended amount of vitamin C for the day? And vitamin C is a true energy source. What’s more, their antioxidants shield us from oxidative stress, which is intricately linked to low energy and fatigue. Women who drink orange juice before working have been shown to increase their energy and exercise performance, while also decreasing sore muscles and fatigue.
Like oranges, one cup of strawberries provides you with more than your recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Strawberries are a natural energy booster thanks to their naturally occurring sugars, fiber, vitamin C, and carbohydrate content. What’s more, they too contain loads of antioxidants, which provide energy by protecting you from oxidative stress.
This whole grain works as a steady source of energy because it contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One particularly interesting ingredient in oatmeal is a soluble fiber known as beta glucan. When you eat this fiber in the form of oatmeal, it makes a kind of gel that our digestive system likes because it slows glucose absorption. A 2008 European Journal of Nutrition study delves deeper into the process and explains why this creates steady energy.
Any food with protein helps slow carbohydrate absorption, and therefore sugar absorption into the bloodstream, thereby supporting the steady release of energy. Yogurt is one such food. It also feeds our bodies with B vitamins — B2 and B12. These two B vitamins enhance the functioning of our cells, which makes us feel more energetic and less tired.
Eggs are an excellent protein source. Protein fuels the body because it promotes balanced insulin and blood sugar levels. What’s more, eggs contain an amino acid called leucine. This amino acid is known to boost energy in many ways. Eggs are also full of B vitamins, which provide energy by supporting various enzymes in doing their primary job — converting food to fuel.
9. Brown rice
Like sweet potatoes, brown rice is loaded with manganese, a mineral that helps convert nutrients into energy for the body. Brown rice also contains plenty of nutrition, and with its low glycemic index, it’s a grain that actually helps keep blood sugar levels steady, rather than spiking them.
10. Fatty fish
Why are fatty fish so good for you? First of all, their omega-3 content fuels the brain and reduces inflammation in the body. Not only is inflammation a precursor to many common diseases, studies also show that people who are chronically fatigued have higher levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein. Anti-inflammatory measures are key to getting your energy back.
Bananas are an excellent energy source for exercise. They’re even recommended for performance athletes. You can thank their B6, potassium, and complex carbohydrate content for providing us with an optimal energy source in the form of these sweet, tropical fruits.
12. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a reliable source of slow, steady energy because they’re loaded with fiber and complex carbohydrates. The fiber slows carbohydrate digestion, which gives you that steady fuel. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of manganese, which helps the body transform nutrients into fuel.
13. Dark chocolate
How can such a treat be so good for you? Truly dark chocolate — the kind with a cocoa content upwards of 75% — has so many health benefits it’s considered a superfood. First off, dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, which give us more energy by protecting our cells from oxidative stress and damage.
14. Yerba mate
Ever heard of yerba mate? It’s a popular tea throughout South America. A cup of yerba mate contains about the same amount of caffeine as a small cup of coffee. So, you don’t need to drink both. However, a 2010 study explains how the caffeine in yerba mate is different from the caffeine in coffee, chocolate, and other stimulants, because it doesn’t impact heart rate and blood pressure.
15. Green tea
You’ve probably heard all about the health benefits of green tea by now. But, did you know this hot beverage also gives you more energy? Green tea fuels the body with huge amounts of antioxidants, caffeine, and a compound known as L-theanine. Unlike drinking caffeine alone, which can result in the jitters, drinking caffeine with L-theanine helps balance the effects of caffeine. So, if you’re looking for a smoother form of energy, as well as mental alertness, you might opt for green tea over coffee at times.
Quinoa is one of the healthiest carbohydrate sources available because it’s low on the glycemic index, and full of nutrients that provide energy. Quinoa offers the full trifecta—plenty of protein, lots of dietary fiber, and a good amount of complex carbs. The protein and fiber ensure the sugar in the carbs is released slowly. This slow release provides more energy over the long run. Make quinoa salads, eat it as a side dish, or enjoy it with almond milk, berries, and a drizzle of honey for breakfast.
The primary ingredient is hummus garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas. These beans give the body energy with their complex carbohydrate and dietary fiber content. Hummus also contains tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, which is an energy source just like any other nut or seed. Like tahini, the olive oil found in hummus is a healthy fat, which helps slow carbohydrate absorption, a key factor in steady energy.
18. Leafy green vegetables
Many of us experience fatigue when we’re low on iron. This is where dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards come into play. They’re packed with iron, as well as a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that can give you more energy. Vitamins A, C, E, K, and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium all give the body what it needs to fight fatigue. Yet another way leafy greens give you more energy is in their ability to support the creation of nitric oxide, which may enhance blood flow throughout the body.
Avocados are one of the healthiest fat sources on the planet. These unsaturated fats are often used as stores of energy when needed. Avocados contain so many health benefits, they’re deemed a superfood, and all superfoods give us more energy. Add avocados to smoothies, salads, and protein bowls. They’re like apples: an avocado a day keeps the doctor away.
Lentils are an all-around wonderful food. They’re packed with both protein and vitamins that provide the body with energy. The complex carbs and fiber in lentils can help slow the increase of your blood sugars. What’s more, lentils are a good source of zinc, folate, manganese, and iron. These nutrients promote cellular energy. Enjoy lentils in soups, salads, main dishes, and side dishes.
21. Black beans
Beans aren’t just a great protein source, they’re also a great source of slow, steady energy. Our bodies naturally digest beans slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable. The antioxidants found in beans also provide energy. Black beans deliver all sorts of nutrients to the body — magnesium, manganese, folic acid, and iron. These nutrients are also energy boosters. There are all sorts of creative ways to eat black beans. And you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Nuts are excellent energy sources because they’re a good source of all three macronutrients — healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. They pack a real punch when it comes to nutrition and sustained energy. Their antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acid content gives you more energy by protecting your cells from damage and inflammation.
Do you like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia, or flax? If so, you’re enjoying energy-enhancing foods that also provide a protein punch to your diet. Seeds are one of the healthiest snacks you could ever eat. They’re also high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, proven to support cellular function. Healthy fats like these are also some of the healthiest sources of energy. Add seeds to your salads, smoothies, side dishes, and snacks.
Beets are really good for your circulation. We could all use a healthy dose of circulatory enhancement, given the many cases of heart disease these days. And with improved blood flow comes increased energy and more stamina. Beets give us a sustainable energetic boost with their complex carbohydrates, naturally occurring sugars, and fiber. Enjoy beets in salads, roasted, boiled, and even blended in smoothies. They’re one of the healthiest root vegetables on the planet.
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight-loss difficult. If you need help with a dietary plan — one that will help you increase your energy in a healthy way — contact us today to schedule your free consultation!