It’s no secret that certain foods are excellent for boosting your energy levels – “super” foods and low GI grains, certain nuts and fruits, healthy sources of caffeine, and many other foods are all known for their energy-boosting potential. So before you reach for sugary energy drinks or multiple cups of foamy coffee, try looking to food to give you lasting energy throughout every day.
Slow-release Energy vs. The Quick Fix
Considering the immediate energy benefits of a huge cup of coffee, or a chocolate croissant, it’s understandable that most of us choose these “quick fix” options to get through long, stressful days. However, foods and drinks high in caffeine and sugar, and low in complex carbohydrates, only give you a drastic energy spike, which inevitably ends in an energy crash (post-coffee slump seem familiar?) that leaves you feeling exhausted, ill, and irritable. The only cure to this crash is another dose of instant energy, and so we get caught in a rollercoaster of energy spikes and dips. This constant swinging between extremes can have a detrimental effect on your mood, leaving you feeling helpless and frustrated.
Slow release energy, in contrast, keeps your blood sugar stable throughout the day by regulating how much energy is released at any one time. Certain foods contain complex carbohydrates (e.g., oatmeal) that are broken down by the body much slower than simple carbohydrates (e.g., pastries). So, a slower release of energy is better for long term energy, and feeling awake all day.
This one is pretty obvious, as it is the fuel of a great many people to get through daily work or studies, but you can get better results from your daily caffeine intake with a few simple tweaks. Opt for dark coffee (no dairy or sugar) to cut unnecessary calories and sugar, and limit yourself to 4 cups or less per day. Black, white, and green tea also contain caffeine, and are also best without dairy or sugar.
- Smart Carbs
Not all carbs are bad for you! In fact, some are essential for sustained energy levels. Swap the pastries and biscuits for smart carbs such as whole grain bread, oatmeal, sweet potato, rye, and brown rice. It can be hard to switch at first, as our bodies naturally crave instant “comfort foods” (simple carbohydrates) as they release the feel-good hormone serotonin. In the long run, however, it’s healthier to have a slower release of serotonin from slow-release carbs.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein and magnesium (a mineral that is necessary for the conversion of food into energy), and they are a tasty snack that you take with you when on the go. Almonds are exceptionally good for an energy boost, as well as cashews, brazil nuts, and hazelnuts. Choose raw, unsalted nuts to get their full nutritional benefits.
- Lean Meats
In general, a plant-based diet is preferable for increased energy, but if you do eat meat, make sure that it is lean meat. Game meat, and red meat such as ostrich, has many health benefits, and very little fat.
There are many other foods that are great for energy, such as salmon, legumes (beans), berries, and fresh fruit. Changing your diet to include some of the above foods can have substantial results in increasing your daily energy levels!