How to boost your energy and feel awesome
Raise your hand if you’re tired most days of the week.
Whew! I’m glad it’s not just me over here struggling to get out of bed in the morning and fighting through that dreaded mid-afternoon slump. A lot of us are chronically tired because we work too much or too hard, sleep too little or not soundly enough, are stressed out, have sleep difficulties, or have a medical condition like anemia, thyroid disease, cancer, or diabetes.
Maybe you had a rough night because you were wound up about a big project at work, and consequently end up dragging your feet the next day. Enter your upper of choice: coffee, tea, sugar, maybe even all at once! Sure it keeps you going for a few hours, but once dinner time rolls around, you’re starting to crash and decide to enjoy a glass of vino or a cocktail to help you wind down from all of the winding up you’ve done during the day. Then the alcohol, caffeine, and stress unfortunately keep you up that night, and the cycle continues. I don’t have to tell you that the struggle for energy is real, folks. What I can offer you are some nutrition tips to help boost your energy on a regular basis:
- Before you even consider changing your diet, ask yourself “why am I struggling with my energy?” If it’s something you can change (e.g. how you respond to work-related stress, drinking caffeinated drinks late in the day, or staying up late with a laptop/phone), then it might be a good idea to start thinking about how you can change your reaction to stress, caffeine habits, or even switch up your nighttime routine.
- Eat regular meals. Not eating at least every 6 hours can make you hangry. Going too long without eating causes a drop in blood sugar which causes fatigue. Would you try to drive your car without any fuel in the tank? Didn’t think so! To prevent low blood sugar from making you feel sluggish, try to eat 3 meals a day and include some lean protein (eggs, meat, fish, beans, yogurt, etc.), healthy fats (nuts or seeds, avocado, olive oil) and quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains).
My top 4 foods for boosting energy:
- Quinoa contains the highest ratio of protein to carbohydrate out of the grain kingdom. That means that it possesses a unique balance of carbohydrates and protein that will slowly release as energy throughout your day. Stabilizing your blood sugar by eating whole, unrefined foods like quinoa will prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar, which is what happens when you eat white bread, white rice, and sugary snacks. Quinoa contains manganese, magnesium, and copper — all top nutrients for boosting energy.
- Almonds are my second favorite food for boosting energy. They stabilize your blood sugar with healthy fats and protein. They also contain B vitamins and magnesium which aid in the release of energy from carbohydrates and protein. B vitamins are coenzymes and without them, enzymes can’t work in your body to break down carbohydrates, fat, and protein into energy! So think of them as essential energy assistants. :)
- Green vegetables and green foods like spirulina are my third choice for increasing energy. Leafy green vegetables contain nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, carbohydrates, protein and fiber, all of which provide consistent energy throughout the day.
Green foods are also rich in chlorophyll, which is a molecule plants make from sunlight to create energy (in the form of ATP). Cool right? But what does it have to do with us humans? You guys, I am beyond thrilled to tell you that a team of researchers discovered that when animals and humans eat plants rich in chlorophyll, the chlorophyll was broken down and absorbed into their mitochondria, which increased cellular energy production (ATP). This means that by eating green foods rich in chlorophyll (kale, lettuces, spinach), we are able to derive energy directly from sunlight.
You can buy green powders to add to your morning smoothie to see if it lessens your need for caffeine, but make sure you choose a reputable company who tests for heavy metals and toxins and is verified by a third party.
- Fruits are my fourth top pick for healthy energy. Fruit gives us quick energy in the form of simple carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Fruits are perfect for energy because their fiber offsets their sugar content. Unfortunately there has been a lot of fear surrounding carbohydrate rich foods like fruit and whole grains, and whether they cause weight gain or type 2 diabetes. I plan to go into much more detail on carbohydrates in a future post. For now, I will say that most people can (and should!) enjoy 2–3 servings of fresh or frozen fruit a day for energy and overall health.
If you have any favorite foods or techniques to keep your energy up, feel free to let me know in the comments.