Many people feel tired or run-down at some point during the day. A lack of energy could affect your daily activities and make you less productive.
The fact is that the type and quantity of food you eat play an essential role in determining your energy levels during the day.
Even though all foods give you energy, some foods contain nutrients that could help increase your energy levels and maintain your alertness and focus throughout the day.
Here is a list of foods that have been proven to help promote energy levels:
One study showed that eating a banana before a 75-km cycling trial was as efficient as a carbohydrate drink for improving the performance of endurance athletes (1).
Additionally, bananas could provide a decent amount of tyrosine, an amino acid your body uses to produce dopamine and norephedrine. These hormones have been proven to improve mental performance and reduce fatigue (3, 4).
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are good sources of protein, fatty acids and B vitamins, making them great foods to include in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a common cause of fatigue (7).
Furthermore, vitamin B12 works together with folic acid to produce red blood cells and help iron work better in the body. Optimal levels of red blood cells and iron in the blood can reduce fatigue and increase energy (10).
Brown rice is a very nutritious food. Unlike white rice, it is less processed and retains more nutritional value in the form of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
One cup (195 grams) of cooked brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber and provides about 88% of the RDI for manganese, a mineral that helps your enzymes break down carbohydrates and proteins to generate energy (11, 12).
Additionally, thanks to its fiber content, brown rice has a low glycemic index. Therefore, it could help regulate blood sugar levels and help you maintain steady energy levels throughout the day (13).
Besides being delicious, sweet potatoes are a nutritious source of energy for those looking for an extra boost.
One medium-sized sweet potato could pack up to 23 grams of carbohydrates, 3.8 grams of fiber, 28% of the RDI for manganese and a whopping 438% of the RDI for vitamin A (14).
Thanks to sweet potatoes’ fiber content and complex carbs, your body digests them at a slow pace, which provides you with a steady supply of energy (15).
Sweet potatoes are also a great source of manganese, which helps in the breakdown of nutrients to produce energy (12).
Coffee might be the first food you’d think to consume when you’re looking for a boost of energy.
It’s rich in caffeine. This compound can quickly pass from your bloodstream to your brain and inhibit the activity of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that quiets the central nervous system (16).
In consequence, the production of epinephrine increases. This hormone stimulates the body and brain (17).
Even though coffee only provides two calories per cup, its stimulatory effects on the body can make you feel alert and focused (18).
Eggs are not only a tremendously satisfying food, but they can also provide energy to fuel your day.
Additionally, leucine is the most abundant amino acid in eggs, and is known to stimulate energy production in several ways (20).
Leucine can help cells take in more blood sugar, stimulate the production of energy in the cells and increase the breakdown of fat to produce energy (21).
Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world, and are a good source of carbs and fiber.
A medium-sized apple (185 grams) contains about 5 grams of carbs, 19 grams of sugar and up to 4 grams of fiber (24).
Due to their rich content of natural sugars and fiber, apples can provide a slow and sustained energy release (25).
Furthermore, apples have a high antioxidant content. Research has shown that antioxidants could slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, so they release energy over a more extended period of time (26).
Lastly, it is recommended to eat apples whole. Juices and purees, from which fiber is removed, are ingested faster and can only provide you with quickly digested energy (27).
Water is essential for life. It represents up to 60% of your body weight and is involved in many cellular functions, including energy production (28).
You can avoid dehydration by drinking water even if you are not thirsty. Try to drink water regularly throughout the day.
Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content than regular or milk chocolate.
The antioxidants in cocoa have been shown to have many health benefits, such as increasing blood flow throughout the body (30).
Additionally, the increase of blood flow produced by antioxidants in cocoa could help reduce mental fatigue and improve mood (34).
Yerba maté contains antioxidants and caffeine. A regular 8-ounce cup can offer about 85 mg of caffeine, which is similar to the amount in a small cup of coffee (36).
The caffeine in yerba maté promotes the production of the hormone epinephrine, which increases energy. However, unlike other stimulants, yerba maté does not seem to affect blood pressure or heart rate (37).
Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries due to their multiple benefits.
Goji berries are easy to enjoy mixed in yogurt, smoothies, baked goods and sauces. Or you can simply eat them raw.
Quinoa is a seed popular for its high protein content.
One cup of quinoa provides 39 grams of carbs, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of protein and a significant amount of vitamins and minerals (46).
Oatmeal is a whole-grain cereal that could provide you with long-lasting energy.
It contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that forms a thick gel when combined with water. The presence of this gel in the digestive system delays stomach emptying and the absorption of glucose into the blood (51, 52).
The combination of all these nutrients makes oatmeal a perfect food for sustained energy release.
Yogurt is an excellent snack to fuel up your day because it is a rich source of carbohydrates and protein.
The carbs in plain yogurt are mainly in the form of simple sugars, such as lactose and galactose. When broken down, these sugars can provide ready-to-use energy (53).
Additionally, yogurt is packed with protein, which helps slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, thereby slowing down the release of sugars into the blood (54).
Hummus is made with chickpeas, sesame seed paste, oil and lemon. The combination of these ingredients makes hummus a good source of energy (55).
In addition, sesame seed paste and oil in hummus contain healthy fats that can be stored and used as another source of energy. These ingredients are also helpful at slowing down the absorption of carbs, which helps you avoid blood sugar spikes (57, 58).
You can enjoy hummus as a dip for veggies or in combination with other dishes such as sandwiches or salads.
Edamame can be an easy and satisfying pick-me-up snack.
It is relatively low in calories, but offers significant amounts of protein, carbs and fiber. Just one cup of edamame can pack up to 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs and about 8 grams of fiber (59).
Additionally, it has high amounts of vitamins and minerals that can help increase energy in different ways. One cup of edamame provides 79% of the RDI for manganese and 121% of the RDI for folic acid (59).
Lastly, edamame contains great amounts of molybdenum, which acts as a stimulus for enzymes and assists in the breakdown of nutrients to use as energy (61).
Besides being a great and inexpensive source of protein, lentils are a good source of nutrients and help boost energy levels.
The fiber in lentils promotes slow stomach emptying and more controlled increases in blood sugar levels. Therefore, you will not only feel full for longer after you eat them, but you can also expect steady energy levels (63).
Additionally, lentils can increase your energy levels by replenishing your stores of folate, manganese, zinc and iron. These nutrients assist in the effective production of energy in cells and breakdown of nutrients for the release of energy (12, 60, 64, 65).
Avocados are considered to be a superfood because of all their significant health benefits.
For example, they’re rich in healthy fats and fiber. About 84% of the healthy fats in avocados come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (66).
Additionally, the fiber in avocados accounts for 80% of their carbohydrate content, which can help maintain steady energy levels (66).
Oranges are famous for their high vitamin C content. One orange can provide as much as 106% of the RDI for vitamin C (69).
Additionally, oranges contain antioxidant compounds that can provide protection from oxidative stress (70).
In fact, one study showed that 13 women who consumed 17 ounces (500 ml) of orange juice and did one hour of aerobic training three times a week for three months saw decreases in muscle fatigue and experienced improvements in physical performance (72).
Strawberries are another good energy-boosting fruit.
They can provide you with carbs, fiber and sugars that can enhance energy levels. One cup of strawberries provides 12 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar (73).
Additionally, this same portion will give you 149% of the RDI for vitamin C (73).
You can incorporate strawberries in many recipes, and use them in smoothies, parfaits or salads.
Seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds, could also increase your energy levels.
Beans are rich in nutrients and a great source of natural energy.
Even though there are hundreds of different types of beans, their nutrient profiles are very similar. They are a rich source of carbohydrates, fiber and protein (82).
Beans are digested slowly, which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and gives you steady energy. Additionally, beans contain antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and promote energy (83).
Black beans and black-eyed peas are among the most famous kinds of beans. These beans are good sources of folic acid, iron, manganese and magnesium, which are involved in energy production and help with the delivery of energy to every cell in the body (84, 85).
Green tea is famous for its long list of health benefits.
L-theanine can moderate the effects of caffeine, such as anxiety and the jitters, and it produces a smoother boost of energy. Research has shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in green tea can increase focus, alertness and mental concentration (86, 89, 90).
Nuts can be a great snack packed with nutrients to promote energy.
Most nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews are known for their high calories and abundance of proteins, carbs and healthy fats. These nutrients can provide you with a slow release of energy during the day (93).
Additionally, these nuts provide decent amounts of carbs and fiber for a steady and sustained energy boost (96).
Popcorn can be an excellent low-calorie, energizing snack.
It’s high in carbs and fiber, which can make it very satisfying and a good option for an energy-boosting snack (98).
A 100-gram serving of air-popped popcorn provides 78 grams of carbs and a whopping 15 grams of fiber, which makes popcorn one of the highest-fiber foods there is. Therefore, it could provide a steady release of energy (99).
Popcorn can be a healthy food when it’s cooked with wholesome ingredients using the air-pop cooking method.
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are excellent sources of nutrients that promote energy.
They are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Additionally, they are packed with folic acid, fiber and antioxidants that provide health benefits (100).
Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are excellent sources of iron to replenish your body's stores, and of vitamin C to enhance the absorption of iron in the body (101).
Iron enhances the production of red blood cells for the efficient delivery of oxygen to your cells, which is known to fight fatigue (10).
Beets have gained popularity recently due to their ability to improve energy and stamina.
As with leafy green vegetables, nitrates are compounds that help increase nitric oxide and improve blood flow throughout the body, allowing more oxygen delivery to tissues. This has the ability to increase energy levels, especially for athletic performance (103).
Additionally, beets are packed with carbs, fiber and sugar for a sustained energy boost.
One cup of beets (136 grams) could provide up to 3.8 grams of fiber and 9.2 grams of natural sugars (105).
There is an abundant variety of foods that can help boost your energy.
Whether they are packed with carbs for readily available energy, or fiber and protein for a slower release of energy, these foods can help increase your power and stamina.
Additionally, many of these foods also contain significant amounts of other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
All of these compounds have been shown to be involved in the production of energy within your cells, and they all provide many other health benefits.
If you want more energy, incorporating these foods into your diet is a great place to start.