Your body runs off what you feed it. The best way to get the most energy from your food is to make sure you’re giving yourself the best food possible.
Besides what you eat, when you eat can also impact your energy. Did you ever notice how you feel sluggish after a big lunch or dinner? That’s because your body is using its energy to digest that big meal instead of powering the rest of your body.
The easiest way to avoid the post-meal coma is to eat several smaller-portioned meals throughout the day. This will keep your body fueled regularly and may even help you lose weight.
1. Unprocessed foods
While a cheeseburger and fries might be comforting while you’re eating it, it’s nutritional value is low. Processed foods, such as some packaged or canned foods, candy, boxed meals, and precooked meats are typically full of preservatives, additives, sodium, trans fat, and artificial ingredients that may slow you down.
2. Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables
The fresher your food is, the more nutrients it will contain. Unlike processed foods that may be stripped of nutrients for a longer shelf life, fresh foods typically contain higher nutrients. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables means they ripened naturally.
3. Non-caffeinated beverages
Caffeine is OK in moderation, and it has been shown to have some health benefits. Although it provides a short-term boost, it doesn’t actually provide the body with energy. The first sips may give you a jolt, but if you’re not providing your body with good nutrition and balanced meals and snacks, you’ll eventually feel run down.
If you must have your fix, opt for black coffee or unsweetened tea. Sodas and energy drinks can be full of refined sugar and artificial ingredients that can cause you to crash, and lead to other health issues if overconsuming.
4. Lean proteins
Red meats marbled in fat adds saturated fat to your diet. Leaner meats, like chicken, turkey, and fish, still provide quality protein, but contain less saturated fat. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna, can add beneficial, heart healthy fats.
5. Whole grains and complex carbs
Just like processed foods, refined carbohydrates like sugars and white flour add little nutrition. Choosing whole grain foods and complex carbohydrates ensures that your body gets the full benefits of the hull of the grain that adds fiber to your diet.
6. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are some of the best foods to beat fatigue and fight hunger. Getting a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet can provide healthy nutrients and energy. Try almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Eating raw, unsalted versions is recommended. And they’re the perfect midafternoon snack.
Drinking water is essential for optimal functioning of the body. Although water doesn’t provide energy in the form of calories, it helps facilitate the energetic processes in the body, which is an energy boost in itself. Sip on water throughout the day, and try to swap out sodas, coffee, and other drinks for a glass of water. This simple change can make a big difference, and you’ll feel better before you know it.
8. Vitamins and supplements
If you’re not getting everything you need from your food, you may want to consider taking a daily vitamin. Consulting with a nutritionist or homeopathic doctor could get you started on a nutritional supplement regimen. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any and all nutritional supplements you’re considering.
Researchers compared bananas to carbohydrate sports drinks in cyclists who needed sustained energy for their long rides. They found that the banana offered just as much fuel to the riders as the drink. Bananas, right? Turns out, bananas are packed with potassium, fiber, vitamins, and the perfect amount of carbohydrates that provide you with a big boost of natural energy. Plus, bananas are often less than a dollar per fruit, and that’s a price you can’t beat for so much extra energy.
They’re not just for breakfast. A big bowl of oats packs a punch of filling fiber and even a little protein. Plus, it’s good for people who experience blood sugar spikes and drops with other processed breakfast cereals. Choosing the plain versions of instant packets of oatmeal, steel-cut oats, or old-fashioned oats is best as they aren’t filled with extra sugar. You can then have control of what you put in it such as milk, a little honey, and some mixed berries. Then you can be on your way with more energy to get you through the day.
11. Chia seeds
While you might not be training for an endurance exercise event, chia seeds may be an excellent source of prolonged energy thanks to carb content, healthy fats, and filling fiber. Two tablespoons of chia provide about 24 grams of carbs and a whopping 4,800 grams of omega-3s, which are heart healthy and anti-inflammatory. According to one small study that involved six endurance athletes, eating chia seeds offers just as much energy as carbohydrate sports drinks. For everyday purposes, sprinkling in a few tablespoons of chia seeds with your morning smoothie or adding a scoop to your afternoon yogurt may provide just enough of an energy boost for you to keep fatigue at bay.
Being mindful of what’s on your plate can be a healthy and effective way to keep your energy up. With regular exercise and good nutrition, you can maintain healthy levels of energy during depressive episodes.