Food for more energy

Eating to boost energy

The tried-and-true advice for healthful eating also applies to keeping your energy level high: eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils. Taking a daily multivitamin will ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but taking extra amounts of individual nutrients won’t give you more energy. In addition, eating certain types of foods in particular amounts can help prevent fatigue.

Because different kinds of foods are converted to energy at different rates, some — such as candy and other simple sugars — can give you a quick lift, while others — such as whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats — supply the reserves you’ll need to draw on throughout the day. But limit the refined sugar and white starches to only occasional treats. While you may get a quick boost, that feeling fades quickly and can leave you depleted and craving more sweets.

Eat small, frequent meals

Where energy is the issue, it’s better to eat small meals and snacks every few hours than three large meals a day. This approach can reduce your perception of fatigue because your brain, which has very few energy reserves of its own, needs a steady supply of nutrients. Some people begin feeling sluggish after just a few hours without food. But it doesn’t take much to feed your brain. A piece of fruit or a few nuts is adequate.

Smaller is better, especially at lunch

Researchers have observed that the circadian rhythms of people who eat a lot at lunch typically show a more pronounced afternoon slump. The reasons for this are unclear, but it may reflect the increase in blood sugar after eating, which is followed by a slump in energy later.

Avoid crash diets

If you need to lose weight, do so gradually, without skimping on essential nutrients or starving yourself of the calories you need for energy. Poor nutrition and inadequate calorie intake can cause fatigue. A sensible goal is to try to lose a half-pound to a pound per week. You can do this by cutting 250 to 500 calories a day from your usual diet, and exercising for 30 minutes on most days. Don’t cut your food intake below 1,200 calories a day (for women) or 1,500 calories a day (for men), except under the supervision of a health professional.

Use caffeine to your advantage

As a stimulant, caffeine can increase or decrease your energy level, depending on when and how much of it you consume. Caffeine does help increase alertness, so having a cup of coffee before going to a meeting or starting on a project can help sharpen your mind. But to get the energizing effects of caffeine, you have to use it judiciously. It can cause insomnia, especially when consumed in large amounts or after 2 p.m. (or noon if you’re caffeine sensitive).

Limit alcohol

For people who drink alcohol, one of the best hedges against the midafternoon slump is to avoid the sedative effects of drinking alcohol at lunch. Similarly, avoid the five o’clock cocktail if you want to have energy in the evening to pursue a hobby or spend time with your family. If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so at a time when you don’t mind having your energy wind down. A glass with dinner is a reasonable choice. And stay within the limits of moderation: no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.

Drink water

Water is the main component of blood and is essential for carrying nutrients to the cells and taking away waste products. If your body is short on fluids, one of the first signs is a feeling of fatigue. Sports drinks combine water with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes — substances that help regulate body processes. But these extras won’t give you extra energy for ordinary, everyday activities (see box below).

To maintain your energy level during a workout, drink an 8-ounce glass of water before you start and another after you finish. If you’ll be exercising continuously for longer than 30 minutes, drink small amounts every 15 to 30 minutes.

Do power bars or energy bars pack an extra energy punch?

It’s impossible to walk into a drugstore or supermarket without seeing shelves lined with “power bars” that claim to boost your energy. The manufacturers of such products claim that they’re superior to candy bars because they contain an “ideal ratio” of simple to complex carbohydrates, along with protein and fat. However, there’s no proof that such an ideal ratio exists.

An Ohio State University study compared the glycemic index of typical energy bars with other sources of carbohydrates. The power bars were no better than a candy bar at providing sustained energy.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Best Foods to Eat for All-Day Energy

Does this sound familiar? You drag all day wishing for a nap instead of a meeting or workout only to get your second wind around bedtime that prevents you from getting the sleep you know you need. If this is you, it’s time to examine your diet. Eating the wrong foods at the wrong times may actually be to blame for daytime sluggishness and amped-up evenings.

For starters, research shows not getting enough sleep may encourage poor food choices that zap energy during the day and disrupt sleep at night, setting you up for a vicious cycle. And a new study found eating fattier foods caused people to feel sleepier during the day while eating more carbs made them more alert. “Food choices you make day in and day out have a tremendous impact on your energy level,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, New York City–based dietitian and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. “They can either sap you or support you to get through your daily to-do list.” Zied says carefully timing your meals and distributing your nutrients can prime you for energy that holds steady all day.

“Look to food before any supplement to boost your energy,” says Zied. “Food—especially nutrient-rich foods—provide energy in the form of calories as well as nutrients that help your body use the energy.” But you have to gas up at the right times and the biggest challenge may be having the right foods on hand at the right times.“Planning ahead is a great defense against that sapped, listless feeling that can strike midday or anytime you’re not as nourished as you could be,” she says. Here’s how to plan for energy—and bring out your inner early bird.

Your Meal Plan
“I recommend people eat small frequent meals that are high in protein and fiber with a small amount of added fats—approximately every 3 hours—to keep their energy even throughout the day,” says Sarah Mirkin, RD, a dietitian in Beverly Hills, CA. “The combo of protein and fiber will digest slowly so that there aren’t blood sugar highs and lows that cause spikes and crashes in energy.” Zied agrees with this rule of thumb. Fiber is readily available in all kinds of healthy carbohydrates—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes—which digest more slowly than processed white flour and sugar-laden treats, keeping you fuller longer and your energy levels steadier. “When people eat meals or snacks with only carbs they will have instant energy due to a blood sugar spike and they will usually feel fatigue and hunger after an hour or so,” Mirkin says. “The only time this may be beneficial is in the evening before bedtime.” Since fats are tough to digest, Mirkin recommends keeping them low in the evening for a good night’s sleep.

Eat for Energy
Mirkin and Zied suggest the following sample menu options for steady energy and sound sleep. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and then a snack or meal every 3 hours:

  • Breakfast: Omelet with 1 egg yolk, 4 whites, and whatever vegetables you have with 1 slice of whole grain toast OR peanut butter on whole wheat toast with a glass of low-fat milk
  • AM Snack: 6 ounces Greek yogurt, any kind of fruit, 2 tablespoons of nuts OR 1 slice cheese and 3 whole-grain crackers
  • Lunch: Large salad with grilled chicken breast, avocado, garbanzo beans, tomato, pepper, onion, 2 teaspoons of olive oil plus vinegar OR tuna on a whole wheat English muffin with fruit
  • Afternoon Snack: 1/4 cup almonds and 1 piece of fruit OR 1 cup veggies dipped in 3 tablespoons hummus or black bean dip
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon with vegetables and a baked sweet potato OR a big salad with avocado, chicken or turkey breast, and a whole grain roll
  • PM Snack: 1 graham cracker and a glass of fat-free milk OR 18 pretzels OR 3 cups popcorn

23 Best Foods for Energy

Maybe you had a bad night’s sleep or are approaching the afternoon slump, but the bottom line is that you need an energy kick—stat! Well, skip the Red Bull because there are better and healthier sources of energy that won’t drive you into a sugar coma.

Generally speaking, all food supposedly gives you energy. But some foods are better at providing the energy kick you need to conquer the world. Try noshing on any of these picks—and go from 0 to 10 on the energy scale. And for more inspiration for getting fired up to make big things happen, don’t miss these 20 Foods Successful People Eat.



Packed with more protein than any other grain, plus rich in amino acids, quinoa makes the perfect energy boost mid-day. “It is also high in folate, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, making it a nutrient-packed source of carbohydrates for long-lasting energy levels,” says Dr. Lindsey Duncan, celebrity nutritionist. For plenty of ideas on how to enjoy quinoa, save this list of 30 Quinoa Recipes for Weight Loss.



Lentils are a food that gives you a bang of nutritional value for barely a buck. Its high fiber content stabilizes blood sugar levels, keeping you energized all day.


Tuna Fish

While it doesn’t have the most pleasant smell, eating tuna fish for lunch can perk you up. Loaded with protein and vitamin B, eating type of fish can provide a great source of energy says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.N. A piece of advice: go for the light canned tuna which is one of the 6 Best Fish for Weight Loss. And to really get a better understanding of your most nutritious fish options, take a look at our exclusive report on the 40+ Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition.



Not only will beans keep you feeling full and satisfied, but they can also prevent you from feeling sluggish midday. “The protein helps keep blood sugar levels steady to keep you energized, plus the complex carbohydrate provides energy for the brain and body,” says Zied.



They’re the number one breakfast food for a reason! “Eggs provide high-quality protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and help stay energized and prevent overeating,” says Elisa Zied, R.D.N., C.D.N., author of Younger Next Week and Food, Fitness & Fiction blogger. (Psst! Find out What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Eggs!)


Whole Grain Cereal

There is nothing bland about whole grain cereal! And eating this in the a.m. is a great way to pump up your energy. “High-fiber whole grain cereals slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream which ultimately translates to more consistent energy levels throughout the day,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group.


Chia Seeds

Sprinkles these healthy seeds into your yogurt or smoothies and you the energy you need to fuel your day. “Chia seeds give you stable energy because of their great ratio of protein, fats and fiber combined with the fact that they’re low-carb,” says Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at Foodtrainers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “They won’t cause spikes and drops in blood sugar or insulin levels, preventing cravings and overeating later.”


Green Tea

More of a tea drinker? Then trade the java for a some green tea; we’re such big fans at Eat This, Not That! that we created The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. Much like coffee, green tea naturally contains caffeine, but it also has a compound called thymine that keeps you focused and alert without feeling jittery. Meanwhile, its powerful properties help burn more belly fat—which is why test panelists for the cleanse lost up to 10 pounds in a week!



“Yogurt is a great source of high-quality protein to fill you up and provide basic energy for the brain, says Zied.” The best part about this food is it pairs well with pretty much everything. Add some granola, nuts, or fruit to amp up its flavor.



Oranges contain high levels of vitamin C, which can make you less tired two hours after intake. For more smart snacks, try these 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim.



Most nuts like almonds, peanut butter, and cashews are booming with nutrients, healthy fats, and are an excellent source of protein. Past studies have found that their nutrition content can help sustain energy levels. Plus, they’re easy to take wherever you go.


Wild Salmon

Caroline Attwood/Unsplash

There’s nothing fishy about this! Not only is wild salmon great for muscle de is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which can help you maintain those high energy levels. It’s also one of the 20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin.


Pumpkin Seeds

“Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, healthy fats and fiber, keeping you feeling full and energized longer,” Dr. Duncan says. “They also contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which provide additional energy support to maximize gym time.” Add them on to your salads or eat them alone during lunch to perk you up for the rest of the day.



With its high abundance of vitamins and minerals, an apple is basically the poster child for healthy food. It’s also made up of simple carbohydrates, which can offer a quick burst of fuel.



One of the easiest and cheapest foods for an instant pick-me-up. Bananas contain glucose which provides a great energy boost to help you crush your workout. Plus noshing on this fruit gives you a load of benefits. Check out 21 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat Bananas.



The all and mighty powerful leafy green just got mightier. Spinach gets its gold star for energy due to its amino acids and tyrosine, a compound that has been known to improve alertness. Not a fan of greens? Toss it in your smoothie. We promise you won’t taste it!



Snacking on these powerful berries can help you beat that post-lunch slump. They’re low in sugar, but high in fiber, a powerful combination to keep your body humming with energy. The best part is that you can throw in anything: salads, yogurt, smoothies, or just enjoy them on their own. Bonus: They’re one of the 15 Most Antioxidant-Packed Fruits & Veggies.


Dark Chocolate

Charisse Kenion/Unsplash

Researchers from Northern Arizona University had participants snack on chocolate with 60 percent cacao and found an increase in alertness and attentiveness. But that doesn’t give you the green light to devour the chocolate bar. A small piece is just enough to get you going but remember to choose a dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.


Trail Mix

This combination of nuts, seeds, and dried food makes this an epic snack when fatigue strikes. The fat found the nuts and seeds are a great source for long-lasting energy while the high fiber content slows down glucose-release so there’s a steady supply says Moskovitz. Just make sure to keep your portion control in check; you really only need a handful or two. Downing an entire bag (like you might find at the airport) is actually a calorie bomb for your belly.



Mike Marquez/Unsplash

We all know that caffeine can provide a much-needed jolt to get through the workday. But a study also found that drinking coffee pre-workout can improve your exercise. Men who drank about 5 milligrams of coffee (about 2-3 cups) and found that they were able to complete more reps of bench presses and leg presses than workout days sans java. Speaking of, here are 35 Things You Didn’t Know About Caffeine.


Lean Beef

Being a meat lover has its perks! Zied says that a piece of beef contains high protein and amino acids to sustain your energy levels and keeps you fuller longer. Pair it with veggies for a well-balanced meal.



Past studies found that dehydration is the culprit to why we’re so tired (or think we’re hungry). So, next time you’re feeling sluggish, guzzle down some H2O for a quick energy boost.


Yerba Mate

Never heard of Yerba Mate? Allow us to explain: it’s an all-natural energy drink derived from the mate plant found in South America. Like coffee and green tea, it has a natural source of caffeine, but its abundance of vitamins and minerals helps sustain your energy without the crash and burn. Need more convincing? Here are 10 Reasons People Swear By Yerba Mate.

Get the New Book!

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

30 Best Foods for All-Day Energy

If you can barely keep your eyes open during the workday or have a tough time making it through that dreaded afternoon slump, it might be time to rethink your diet. Instead of popping open a sugary, belly-fattening energy drink or pouring yet another cup of coffee, load up on these nutrient-rich, energy-sustaining foods that give you energy to keep you going all day long.

Foods rich in complex carbs and protein are the best picks for all-day energy, according to the registered dietitians and nutrition experts we talked to. The goal is to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid those drastic spikes and dips that will leave you feeling starving and sluggish. So stock up on these powerful foods that give you energy, and keep your energy levels up from breakfast through dessert.


Cottage Cheese

“One cup of cottage cheese contains 25 grams of protein, and a study published in the journal Appetite shows that the satiating effects of cottage cheese are similar to the satiating effects provided by eggs. I love how cottage cheese is a no-cook way to add protein to a variety of different meals and snacks.” — Chelsea Elkin, MS, RD, CDN



Salmon filet

“One of my favorite energy-boosting foods is salmon. Chock-full of nutrients, salmon is a food that contributes to many positive health benefits, including energy levels, thanks to B vitamins, particularly B12 which may help boost energy and fight fatigue naturally. Additionally, salmon is one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which may also help combat fatigue, causing you to feel more energized.” — Rima Kleiner, MS, RD


Steel Cut Oats

“Steel cut oats raise blood sugar less than rolled oats and have more health benefits due to the way they are processed. Steel cut oats are never cooked and start from the whole grain that is passed through sharp, steel blades that cut the oats into thin slices. This helps the oats retain more fiber and protein and provides a dense and hearty texture, so I find them more satisfying than a bowl of instant or traditional oats.” — Chelsea Elkin MS, RD, CDN

For an easier on-the-go breakfast, check out our overnight oats recipes for weight loss.


Greek Yogurt

“One of my favorite foods that give you energy is plain, Greek yogurt because it has 18 grams of protein per 6 oz serving. I like to add fresh fruit on top and a tablespoon of chopped almonds. This is a great afternoon snack and can also serve as an on-the-go breakfast. As an added bonus, Greek yogurt provides calcium to help strengthen bones – extremely important for anyone who might not get enough calcium during the day or for those at risk of osteoporosis.” — Chelsea Elkin MS, RD, CDN



“Almonds are a great go-to snack for a quick satisfying pick me up to give you a boost of energy. They are full of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats to keep you satisfied along with minerals and vitamins such as manganese, copper, riboflavin, and magnesium to help support energy production.” — Jen Flachbart, MS, RDN


Roasted Chickpeas

“Instead of crackers, chips, or pretzels, I like to roast chickpeas in Thrive culinary algae oil. Half a cup of chickpeas provides 15 grams of protein which helps to hold me over until my next meal, and algae oil provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. You can also add roasted chickpeas to a salad in place of croutons for some extra crunch.” — Chelsea Elkin, MS, RD, CD


Tuna with Whole Wheat Crackers

“While it’s important to eat simple and easy to digest carbs, you don’t want to do so without complementing them with a little protein and fat. This will prevent a sugar spike and then crash, which makes us tired and moody.” — Rebecca Lewis, MS, RD, Head Dietitian at HelloFresh



“I’m an RD in private practice. For all-day energy, I love my matcha latte. Matcha has a significant amount of caffeine and is a great alternative for folks who hate coffee or put horrible things in there (creamers!). Take 1 tsp chef grade matcha powder and stir it into foamed/warmed unsweetened cashew milk. Tons of EGCG, an antioxidant implicated in weight loss and cancer control.” — Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N, founder of Essence Nutrition


“Everyone needs a little chocolate fix! Aim for dark chocolate with a cacao content of 75% or more as this indicates a higher amount of flavanols are present. Pair with a cup of tea for a nutritious, satisfying treat that will give you that extra boost of energy you need to get through your day.” — Chelsea Elkin, MS, RD, CD


Whole Wheat Bread with Ricotta

Judy Barbe, RDN, likes to combine protein and fiber to feel fuller, longer. She enjoys her whole wheat toast topped with ricotta and jam or sliced fruit. “Ricotta has 14 grams protein in 1/2 cup,” she says. Plus, the fiber from the whole wheat bread fills you up and keeps your blood sugar stable.



“Avocado is full of fiber and healthy fats, both of which are digested slower than simple carbohydrates, and provide more sustainable energy.” — Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN


“Eggs, the whole egg, with the yolk, are my top pick for foods that give you energy. Starting your day with eggs, or choosing a hard-boiled egg as a snack are two easy ways to get lasting energy. The protein and healthy fats in the whole egg help to keep blood sugar levels stable. This is absolutely key to preventing afternoon slumps and sugar cravings which tend to come after carbohydrate dense foods are eaten. Eggs are so versatile and can truly be eaten any time of the day. People shouldn’t miss out on this nutritional powerhouse or the energy benefits they can get.” — Courtney Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN


Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes on a wooden surface

“One of my favorite foods that provide lasting energy is sweet potatoes because they contain fiber and complex carbohydrates. Plus, sweet potatoes contain vitamins A and C for an immune boost too.” — Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN


Quinoa has more protein than any other grain, which pairs nicely with its natural carbohydrates for lasting energy. This superfood is also packed with folate, magnesium, and manganese, which gives you a much-needed boost. For inspiration on how to make this powerful grain, check out our quinoa recipes for weight loss.



“Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids which will keep you satisfied and energized.” — Lauren Manganiello, MS, RDN, CPT


High Fiber Cereal with Milk

Andy De Santis, RD, MPH, recommends combining a high-fiber cereal, such as bran cereal, with a protein, like milk. “When you are looking for sustainable energy, what you really want to look for is foods that are high in dietary fiber and rich in slowly digested carbohydrates,” he says. “Carbohydrate is the primary source of fuel for your brain and body.”


“I find dehydration can quickly sap a person of energy and have us reaching for food and often caffeinated beverages. Choosing foods such as citrus, frozen berries, cucumbers and fresh herbs can add a burst of flavor to water and release some of the nutritional benefits within those foods while providing hydration and therefore sustained energy.” — Liz Blom, RD



“Watermelon and cantaloupe have a high water content (about 90%) which can help you stay hydrated and feeling your best. When we’re dehydrated, we may feel extra tired or fatigued.” — Lauren Manganiello, MS, RDN, CPT


Homemade Trail Mix

“One of my favorite consumable items that help sustain energy is homemade trail mix. I can control what goes into it keeping it nutrient dense as well as balanced in the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It’s also travel-friendly. My favorite mix includes raw almonds, dried cranberries or cherries, and dark chocolate chips. If I am craving a more savory mix, I will choose lightly salted pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and sunflower seeds, and possibly toss in a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.” — Liz Blom, RD



One quick way to get the ideal mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is with a smoothie. Pick energy-sustaining ingredients like almond butter, leafy greens, low-fat milk, fruit and even your favorite protein powder. For healthy options, check out our smoothie recipes for weight loss.


Brown Rice

“A versatile ingredient, brown rice is a great food to have if you are running low on energy. It is rich in manganese, a mineral that helps your body produce energy from the carbs and protein that you consume, leaving you feeling energized for longer.” — Frida Harju, nutritionist


Hummus and Whole Wheat Pita

Pita chips with hummus

“Including a protein with carb source extends energy and satiety,” Sara Colman, RD, says. “Longer acting carbohydrates with fiber are digested slower, extending energy.” She recommends a serving of whole wheat pita for the fiber and hummus for the additional fiber and complex carbs.


“Bananas are great if you need an energy boost. Bananas are made up from three different types of sugar (fructose, glucose, and sucrose) which get absorbed into your blood at different speeds, meaning that you will get a quick boost of energy and won’t suffer a slump as the sucrose will keep your blood levels steady.” — Frida Harju, nutritionist


“Rich in iron, spinach is essential if you are craving an energy boost. A lack of iron in the body can decrease the oxygen flow to the brain, leaving you feeling fatigued. To avoid an energy slump add some spinach to your lunch, or alternatively, if you aren’t a fan of salad, add a few spinach leaves to your morning smoothie.” — Frida Harju, nutritionist


Ashvini Mashru, MA, RD, LDN recommends dried beans for their high fiber count that will stabilize blood sugar. “A high insulin response to foods can lead to a sugar drop in the blood. This drop leads to tiredness and a loss of energy,” she says. “Soluble fiber increases transient time in the gut, therefore decreasing digestion and absorption time and leading to a sense of satiety longer.”


String Cheese and an Apple

Michelle Stewart, RD, MPH and CDE likes the combination of protein from the string cheese, and fiber and carbs from the apple. “You want to choose snacks that satisfy your hunger and supply important nutrients. Including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can help add missing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber that you might miss at mealtime,” she says. ” When carefully chosen, they help keep your metabolism revved, your blood sugar steady and your energy at its peak.”


“A common cause of diet-related fatigue is iron-deficiency anemia. Iron is important for making red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron also helps the body make energy; if you do not consume enough iron you will likely feel tired and lethargic. Dried beans, peas, and lentils are good sources of iron as are lean meats, iron-fortified cereals, liver, green leafy vegetables, poultry, fish, whole grains and dried fruits. Vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron from some foods.” — Diana Cuy Castellanos, PhD, RD



“Maca is a native Peruvian plant that grows in the Andes resembling a small rough stone the size of a walnut. Maca has a positive effect on energy and mood as studies have shown that it can support continued exercise because it increases glucose in the bloodstream. While rich in amino acids, phytonutrients and a variety of vitamins and minerals, maca functions as an adaptogen thus aiding in adrenal function to increase energy, reduce stress and create an overall revitalizing effect. I usually take maca in my pre-exercise shake or as a shot mixed with coffee in the afternoon before I continue work.” — Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD author and founder of Whole Body Reboot



Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, and the Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa likes edamame for the plant protein, which she says keeps her full and energetic. Plus, it has the perfect combo of protein, carbs, and fat to keep blood sugar stable and give you an energy boost.


Rice Cake with Sliced Turkey

Michelle J. Stewart, MPH, RDLD/N, CDE likes combining a protein and a carb to sustain energy throughout the day, and brown rice cakes topped with deli turkey is one of her favorite ways to get both macronutrients. “It is very important to always include some protein when you eat a carbohydrate,” she says. “It helps to eat every three or four hours to ensure adequate energy.”

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

Let’s face it, we are in an energy crisis. We, as a society, are busy, stressed, need more physical activity and sometimes have poor eating habits — all contributing to low energy levels. One way to improve our energy levels is by eating better. The right combinations of food may help give you a boost. Follow these five strategies to maximize your energy.

Eat Regularly

Eating every three to four hours may help fuel a healthy metabolism and prevent between-meal hunger that can lead to unwise snacking or overeating at meals. If you only are eating one to two meals a day, this may be an adjustment. As you learn how to eat more frequently throughout the day, remind yourself that you will feel better and be more focused when you have fuel in your system on a regular basis.

Honor Your Hunger and Fullness Cues

Eating just enough, but not too much, helps to curb cravings and reduces chances of overeating. Keep in mind that portions often are too large. On a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is starving and 10 is painfully full), try eating to about a 6 level, where you are comfortably full but not stuffed.

Balance Your Plate

A balanced meal includes foods from multiple food groups: whole grains, lean protein, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Balance out your plate with all the food groups, along with a small amount of healthy fat, for sustained energy.

Snacks Are a Bridge

Snacks should have lean protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates to provide lasting energy. Grab an apple and a handful of unsalted nuts; carrots and string cheese; or low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh berries. Keep in mind that snacks are not intended to fill you up, but to bridge you from one meal to the next.

Remove Energy Zappers

Skip the foods and beverages with added sugars, such as regular soda, sugary coffee and energy drinks. These beverages may leave you buzzing for an hour, but likely will cause an energy crash. Instead, quench your thirst with water, fat-free or low-fat milk, low-calorie flavored water or unsweetened tea.

Eat These Foods for a (Caffeine-Free) Energy Boost!

Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee every time that you feel run down, grab one of these energizing foods.

Feeling energized obviously has a lot to do with getting the right amount of sleep at night, but there are some other, less obvious ways to perk yourself up. One of the easiest ways to give yourself a shot of energy is to have a snack. After all, when blood sugar is low, so is your pep. While one common strategy is to recharge with a caffeinated drink, there are lots of other caffeine-free foods that can give you the same boost.

  1. Nuts like cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts: Since they are packed with protein and magnesium, these three nut varieties are especially good at helping your body turn sugar into energy. In fact, magnesium deficiencies are known to make you feel drained.
  2. Spinach: Having low iron levels will make you feel exhausted—both physically and mentally. Iron brings oxygen to cells, keeping everything in your body humming along at optimal levels. Spinach is a great source of iron, as are beans and lentils.
  3. Eggs: These protein powerhouses are also full of B vitamins, which help turn the food that you eat into the energy that you feel. The key is not skipping the yolk—that’s where you’ll find all of the important B vitamins.
  4. Edamame: You may think that it’s just a random appetizer on sushi restaurant menus, but shelled soybeans are a great energy-boosting snack. They have B vitamins, just like eggs, as well as copper and phosphorous, which convert food to energy and transfer that energy into your cells.
  5. Fresh fruit: Sugar is great at giving you a quick burst of energy (that’s why so many people reach for candy bars in the afternoon), but it can also cause a just-as-fast dip in blood sugar levels. Counteract that by combining your sugar intake with fiber, which happens when you snack on fruit like apples. Pick a fruit high in vitamin C (think kiwi, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, mangoes) and you’ll also help your body turn fat into energy.

While you’re chowing down on these snacks, don’t forget to drink lots of water. Being dehydrated will make you feel sluggish, no matter how many of the above foods you eat.


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