Feeling like you’re constantly tired? Most people are so busy with their day-to-day lives, they can end up feeling like they’re running on fumes a lot of the time. Well, instead of chugging down another espresso or energy drink, there are some better options that will actually help your body have more energy and feel less run-down – without added caffeine or unhealthy ingredients. Plus, if you’re struggling with a chronic illness (such as Lyme disease), you’ll need all the help you can get to keep your body functioning at its best. So, here’s some info on how you can naturally boost energy levels.
The first thing to remember when you’re running out of gas: scarfing down lots of empty carbohydrates (chips, pretzels, candy, etc.) will get you nowhere. Sure, these foods can give you a quick boost since they increase serotonin in your brain, but they’ll eventually cause your blood sugar to spike – meaning your brief high will result in a crash. Also, that drop in blood sugar will only trick your body into thinking you need more of those same exact foods, as unhealthy as they might be. Instead, consider incorporating healthier snacks that are full of protein, fibre and complex carbs into your diet. These foods will release their positive effects slowly into your bloodstream, so you’ll have fuel for longer (and no nasty crash at the end!).
Here are eight ideas for foods that can kick your energy up a notch.
Nuts in general are a great snack, and almonds are considered a ‘superfood’ for a reason. They contain healthy nutrients like magnesium, vitamins B and E and iron, which can increase your energy and lessen that pesky tired feeling. Nuts are also often high in omega-3 and omega-6, showing beneficial ratios of both. Plus, they contain carbs and fibre, so you’ll experience a steady energy boost. One serving (about 23 nuts) is enough to give you extra energy while still keeping your calories at a reasonable level.
Pick up a banana for a snack that gives you a healthy dose of carbs, fibre, vitamin B6 and potassium – all of which can increase your energy. There’s even a study showing that eating a banana before a cycling race was as effective in terms of endurance as drinking a carbohydrate drink. So snack on a banana before your next workout (or when you just need a pick-me-up), and you’ll see an increase in your energy levels.
Skip the toast or cereal, and start your morning off with yoghurt – a food that can fuel you for the whole day. The carbs in yoghurt are simple sugars (like lactose and galactose), so when these break down, they offer energy to your system. Plus, since yoghurt has lots of protein, the energy release is slow and steady. Even more impressive is the fact that yoghurt has large doses of vitamins B2 and B12, which help form the molecule ATP – your cells then use that for fuel. Just make sure when you’re buying your yoghurt that you stick with plain or Greek varieties to avoid additives and extra sugar. If possible, delicious yoghurt can even easily be made at home!
Beans are a great way to introduce energy boosters into your meals. They’re good sources of carbs, fibre and protein, and because they’re digested slowly, they can help give you stable blood sugar levels and more energy. They also typically contain antioxidants that boost energy levels and reduce inflammation. For added sources of folic acid, iron and manganese, try adding black beans or black-eyed peas into your diet to improve energy levels.
Add a little Mediterranean flair into your diet with a healthy serving of hummus. Made from pureed garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice, this dip has a perfect blend of fibre and protein, which stabilises your blood sugar and elevates your energy levels. You can pair it with good-for-you veggies for an easy snack, or use it as a sandwich spread in lieu of fatty condiments like mayonnaise.
Leafy Green Vegetables
When your parents told you to eat your veggies, they knew what they were talking about. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale are high in iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Along with folic acid, fibre and antioxidants, they can help fuel your body in many different ways. Kale even has the amino acid L-tyrosine, which can give you a mental boost. Try sauteeing these veggies as a side dish, adding them to soups, or including them in a pasta dish to get all of their benefits in your diet.
You’ve probably been hearing more about quinoa these days, as it’s starting to become a more popular pantry staple. Quinoa is a tasty, ancient pseudo-grain and has been used in South America for centuries. It has a high protein count, as well as lots of fibre. Additionally, it’s high in carbs but has a low glycaemic index, which means the carbs are absorbed slowly for a steady energy release. On top of that, quinoa also has manganese, magnesium and folate – nutrients that all help your body naturally boost energy levels.
If you’re not in the mood for eating, green tea is an ideal beverage choice to help fuel you, minus the unhealthy ingredients found in sodas or energy drinks. Green tea does contain caffeine, but it also has L-theanine, which can help soften its effects, so you’ll have a more even (and less jittery) boost of energy. The drink can also lessen fatigue by encouraging the breakdown of fat and releasing the hormone norepinephrine, which can give your system a boost. Just stick to a cup or two to make sure you’re not amping up your system too much.
There’s a whole host of other foods that can bring your energy levels up, including everything from oatmeal and dark chocolate to eggs and sweet potatoes. Just try to be more thoughtful about what you’re putting in your body – steer clear of foods that will only make you crash later! – and add more healthy foods into your diet to naturally boost energy levels.