Feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and unfocused far too often? You might need to take a look at what you’re putting on your plate!
We all have low-energy days every once in a while, with issues like brain fog and a lack of motivation getting in the way of our ability to check off everything on our to-do lists occasionally. But when it’s happening all the time, one of the first places to look at is the quality of your diet. As the old saying goes, “food is fuel” … and that means that choosing the right foods can have a huge influence on how you feel!
Read on for tips on how to eat to give yourself a sustainable energy boost all day long.
Nutrients your body needs for energy
While it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods to get the most nutrition out of each meal, there are a couple of key nutrients that are especially important if you’re looking for long-term and sustainable energy.
A few of the most important nutrients and concepts you’ll want to consider when you’re building your plate or grabbing an afternoon snack for energy include:
You probably already know that protein is an important part of a balanced diet for keeping your muscles healthy and your appetite satisfied. But did you know that pairing your carbohydrates with lean protein can actually help balance your blood sugar levels, which can then keep you more alert throughout the day?
One of the most common nutrition deficits linked to low energy levels is a lack of B vitamins. Vitamin B12 in particular is an important nutrient that helps your body in the process of releasing cellular energy and forming red blood cells, both of which can have a major impact on your overall energy.
A lack of “sunshine vitamin” Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, and it has also been linked to both fatigue and depression.
This tiny-but-mighty mineral is essential for a ton of important chemical reactions in your body, including the reactions needed for producing cellular energy.
Your body needs iron to create healthy red blood cells and carry oxygen throughout your entire body -- which means that if you aren’t getting enough of it, you can suffer serious consequences including anemia and fatigue.
Even though carbohydrates get a pretty bad rap, they’re actually a crucial nutrient for keeping your energy levels up throughout the day. In fact, your brain really likes using sugar for fuel! The key is to make sure that you’re eating complex carbohydrates that come with plenty of other nutrients, and that you’re pairing them with adequate amounts of protein and other nutrients to slow their absorption and give you longer-lasting energy. Think starchy vegetables, and fruits, not grains or desserts.
In addition to these nutrients, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re eating the right portions to keep you fueled. Calories are essentially units of energy that your body needs to carry out its functions. So to eat for fuel, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting enough calories to keep you nourished and energized but not so much that you feel that dreaded “afternoon slump” afterward. For the best results, try eating small and frequent meals throughout the day to help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Healthy foods that can give you energy
If you’re looking for a better way to get your carbs, don’t underestimate the power of the naturally occurring carbohydrates in fruit! Bananas are an excellent option for a quick and easy energizing snack that really delivers on the nutrients. Not only do they contain natural fruit sugars, but they’re also a good source of dietary fiber, which helps keep you full, and potassium, which keeps you hydrated.
It’s no surprise that consuming a wide variety of veggies is a great way to give your overall nutrition a boost -- but when it comes to energy levels, you can take it one step further by adding starchy veggies like sweet potatoes into the mix! Sweet potatoes contain both starch and dietary fiber, which are crucial for keeping your blood sugar balanced, plus it’s also a rich source of energy-boosting nutrients like antioxidant-rich beta-carotene, iron, and magnesium.
Eggs are a true nutritional powerhouse of a food. Not only are they a rich source of protein, but they’re also chock-full of energy-boosting nutrients like Vitamins D and B12.
Nuts and seeds
Looking for a quick burst of energy out of your snack time? Add some nuts and seeds into the mix! Not only are these dietary staples an excellent and healthy way to get a good mix of protein and healthy fat, but they’re also a great source of essential minerals like magnesium and zinc. They’re satisfying and snackable, but without the carb-heavy crash from heavier midday snacks.
If you need an easy way to boost your Vitamin D levels, add some fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel into the mix! These nutritious fish also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential healthy fat that has been linked to better brain health.
Photo by Antoni Shkraba: https://www.pexels.com/photo/breakfast-smoothie-bowl-with-fruit-and-nuts-6823339/
For a satisfying serving of both protein and sweetness, consider adding Greek yogurt to your daily breakfast and/or snack arsenal. It has the sugar that you might be craving when you’re feeling a slump, but it’s also paired with ample amounts of dairy-based protein that will slow down the absorption of those sugars and help stabilize your blood sugar for the long run. Pair with your favorite fruits for even more nutritional benefits.
Beef red meat is one of the best sources of heme iron, a mineral that helps your blood transport oxygen throughout your body and thus has a huge effect on your overall energy levels. Stick to leaner cuts of grass fed beef if you’re concerned about the saturated fat content.
Foods to avoid that can drain your energy
But what about foods that you shouldn’t be eating if your intention is to boost your energy levels?
Simple sugars should be avoided, especially if you’re trying to conserve your energy. Even though sugar is infamously known for giving you a “sugar rush,” this burst of energy is just that: a burst. Simple sugars are absorbed very quickly into your bloodstream, which gives you that quick and immediate rush upon eating, but they can also leave your bloodstream just as fast, leading to those highs and lows in your blood sugar and subsequent energy level swings. Best to stick to complex carbs with plenty of fiber.
High-sodium processed foods
High-sodium processed foods are also a miss here. Many highly-processed “junk foods” contain a ton of energy-sucking ingredients like excess salt and added refined sugars which can leave you feeling more drained than ever. Instead, if you’re looking for healthy and convenient quick options, choose high-quality brands like Kevin’s Natural Foods, which are made with zero refined sugars, antibiotics, gluten, and soy.
The bottom line
The foods that you choose to eat can have a huge impact on your ability to function during the day. By filling up on these healthy energy-boosting foods, you can fight those flagging energy levels and stay focused and energized all day long without severe sugar crashes, brain fog, or excessive cups of coffee.
Photo by destiawan nur agustra: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-holding-iphone-while-eating-1034940/