There are several factors that affect your energy level throughout the day. These include a lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and stress. One of the most important is what you eat and drink.
Your main source of energy is carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugars that enter your bloodstream to provide energy. Simple carbs such as processed foods and added sugars are digested very quickly and enter your bloodstream in as little as 60 seconds, causing your blood sugar to spike and then crash, resulting in a drop in energy. Complex or unrefined carbs, on the other hand, are digested more slowly to provide a consistent level of energy, They also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The second source of energy for your body is fat, which your body breaks down into fatty acids which can then travel into your bloodstream to be used for energy. It’s important to make sure you’re consuming healthy fats like those found in fatty fish and nuts instead of the unhealthy trans fats or excess saturated fats from meats and processed foods. Your body uses fat to make cell linings and hormones, and it also stores excess fat in the abdomen and under the skin to use when it needs more energy. (If you eat more than you’ll ever use though, those fat deposits stay and become visible body fat).
Protein is mainly used by the body to build and replace tissues, as in muscle, connective tissues, and skin. Protein is only used for energy if the body has not gotten enough carbs and fat. Because your body uses all three nutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to function, it’s important to make sure that you consume all of them in balance.
The best foods for providing energy throughout the day include:
- Almonds. They are high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, protein, and healthy fat. They stabilize blood sugar and are digested slowly to provide steady energy. A handful of any type of nut is a good option.
- Avocados. Healthy fats, B vitamins, and fiber for steady energy production and to keep your blood sugar balanced.
- Sweet potatoes. They are a fantastic source of fiber and complex carbs that are digested slowly. They offer vitamins A & C, iron, and magnesium, using vitamin C for transporting fat into the cells for energy production. They are also rich in potassium for electrolyte balance during exercise.
- Spinach. A great source of iron, which helps the body produce energy by delivering oxygen to the cells so they can perform properly. It’s also high in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron, and it’s rich in magnesium and potassium for muscle and nerve function.
- Oatmeal. This whole grain is digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable to maintain energy. It also provides B vitamins, iron, and manganese.
- Chia seeds. They are high in Omega-3 fats, fiber, and protein, as well as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Chis is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”. These seeds are tasteless and can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, or in plant milk to make chia pudding.
- Fruits, especially berries. These provide natural sugars that are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream for a quick boost. Because of the high fiber content however, they are digested slowly enough to prevent a blood sugar spike followed by a crash. Fruits are also excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidants, with bananas being high in potassium. Fruit juices are not ideal because they are minus the fiber and will cause your blood sugar to rise more quickly.
- Beans. They are rich in nutrients as well as excellent sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. They are digested slowly to keep blood sugar levels stable for long-lasting energy, and they also contain antioxidants that promote energy production.
- Green tea and coffee. The caffeine in both beverages provides an energy boost, and they also contain beneficial antioxidants. If you are susceptible to caffeine, green tea has less of it and also has L-theanine, which has a calming effect.
- Water. Dehydration is one of the main causes of low energy and fatigue, so make sure you stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.
For steady energy all day, eat balanced meals that include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Avoid foods that are high in sugar or processed and full of empty calories. Don’t eat too much at one time so that your body doesn’t have to expend extra energy just to digest what you ate. Also don’t go too long during the day without eating to avoid low blood sugar levels.