When I was younger and didn’t get enough sleep before school, my mom (a nurse) used to tell me to just keep eating throughout the day to keep my energy levels up. Now, she wasn’t trying to encourage me to be a chronic snacker, but she had a point. Food can be the best energizer.
The foods and drinks we consume boost our energy in three ways: they provide calories (energy), deliver stimulants (like caffeine) and push our metabolism to use “fuel” more efficiently.
But not all fuel is created equal. When we feel a dip in our energy during the day, many of us may reach for another cup of coffee, grab a candy bar or reach for an energy drink. However, most of these common fixes are temporary, and will cause you to come crashing down after your sugar (or caffeine) high ends.
Instead, reach for these super-energizing foods, and you might just find you can keep going and going and going…
Carbs are often touted as the enemy, and of course, that sugary candy bar is a carb. But that’s not the kind that will give you lasting energy. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel, because they tend to turn into energy the fastest.
Eating 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and fiber-filled cereals is better than white bread and sugars because the body absorbs the whole grains more slowly, keeping energy levels stable and sustained, unlike a sugar high (and subsequent crash). These foods also boast fiber, which slows digestion so your body gets a steady supply of energy.
Cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are not only rich in long-lasting, tummy-filling protein like all nuts, they have minerals that make them particularly good at boosting energy. While a scoop of peanut butter on your apple is a healthy way to fill you up, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts contain high levels of magnesium, a mineral that helps convert sugar into energy. A lack of magnesium actually drains your energy.
Fructose – the good kind
All those energy drinks have high levels of fructose corn syrup and other sugars, but consuming foods with natural fructose is a perfect energy booster. Fresh fruit is the best way to get this spike in blood sugar that will jolt you awake. Fructose is a simple carbohydrate that is easily broken down into energy by the body, so they might be your best bet if you need an instant boost. Grapes, peaches, bananas, mangoes, watermelon and citrus have particularly high levels of fructose, so they might give the best boost.
Combining foods from two of these groups might be the best way to spike your energy levels. Have an apple with almond butter for an instant energy boost (from the fructose) that is long lasting (from the protein and magnesium). Now that your energy levels are up and at ’em, who knows what the day can bring.