Maximize Your Energy With These High-Octane Foods
Have you ever looked at your schedule and wondered if you’ll have the energy to do it all? With constant technological pings, a heavy workload, an ambitious workout schedule, and a busy social calendar, it’s no wonder you’re always tired and tempted to hit the snooze button every. single. morning.
You’re not alone: A whopping 85 percent of Americans wake up feeling poorly rested, according to a recent survey. In fact, lack of energy is one of the more common complaints that doctors hear.
Sure, aiming for eight hours of shuteye is a great start to tame the tiredness, but daily stress can deplete us beyond what proper rest can restore at times.
As someone who has struggled with punishing fatigue, I used to reach for quick fixes like caffeine and sugar when I was tired, but quickly learned that these only offer ‘borrowed energy’ — and what we borrow, we must give back!
Food is our fuel. Calories are literally units of energy, but they are not all created equal. When we opt for nutrient-dense foods, we are literally fueling our cells. Our body’s output and performance is a direct correlation of the quality of what we fuel our cells with.
Discovering these nutrient-dense foods that have a high 'return on investment' was a game-changer for me. Here are 8 foods that will maximize your energy…
Add a serving avocado to your menu when you’re running low on energy. In addition to pantothenic acid, a B vitamin that helps your cells turn food into fuel, avocados are rich in healthy fats and fiber. Their fat helps enhance the absorption of nutrients in the foods you eat and their fiber slows the rise and fall of blood sugar after a meal or snack, thereby promoting more steady energy levels.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are high in iron, calcium, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, vitamins A, C, E and K. The iron and vitamin C in leafy greens work synergistically to enhance the production of red blood cells for the efficient delivery of oxygen to your cells, which is known to fight fatigue and help prevent anemia, which is a major cause of fatigue—especially in women. But you don’t need to down spinach like Popeye to score all the strength benefits. Fight fatigue by sipping a green smoothie in the afternoon or opting for the side salad over fries at lunch.
3. Sweet Potato
The perfect pick-me-up carbohydrate: Sweet potatoes. They’re a great source of energy-rich complex carbohydrates and the high-fiber content slows the rate of digestion so that their energy is released in a slow and steady way. They’re all a good source of manganese, which is important for the breakdown of other energy-uplifting nutrients.
The blood-red root vegetables can’t be beat when it comes to a nutritious and sustaining fuel source. Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates and antioxidants which are thought to increase blood flow and oxygenation of your brain and muscles. As with leafy green vegetables, nitrates are compounds that help increase nitric oxide and improve blood flow throughout the body, allowing more oxygen delivery to tissues. This has the ability to increase energy levels, especially for athletic performance.
5. Dark Chocolate
Sugar can zap energy. When you’re exhausted, you might find yourself turning to sugar as a crutch and a quick fix, but it gets absorbed quickly into your bloodstream and causes a blood sugar and energy roller coaster. For a more sustainable answer, seek out a dark chocolate bar with 75 percent or more cocoa. This low-sugar option is a good source of caffeine and theobromine, two naturally-occurring stimulants that can boost both energy and mood. It’s also high in antioxidants that may improve blood flow and thus oxygenation of the brain and muscles.
Quinoa is a seed popular for its high protein content. One cup packs 8 grams, along with a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. Even though this superfood is high in carbohydrates, it has a low glycemic index, which indicates that its carbs are absorbed slowly and can provide sustained energy release. Quinoa provides more than 20% of the RDI for manganese, magnesium and folate. All of these nutrients are used by enzymes in the process of producing energy.
7. Nuts and seeds
Nuts are not only rich in protein, but they also contain magnesium, a mineral that plays a vital role in converting sugar into energy. Research suggests magnesium deficiency can drain your energy. Opt for raw over roasted to get the most energy-boosting power!
Water is an essential component of blood, and your blood carries nutrients throughout your body. So, naturally, not drinking enough water may lead to dehydration, which can slow down body functions, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. While most experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day, your needs may vary depending on things like age, weight, activity level, and climate. Listen to your body’s signals that it needs more water, for example, thirst, fatigue, darker-colored (more concentrated) urine, dry skin, and mental fogginess. Rehydrate and reenergize!
Remember, eating isn’t the only way to get energy; daily activity like walking, jogging, or just getting outside for some fresh air can energize your body and your mind. So eat for energy, go on an adventure, and bring some friends along!
How do you fuel your cells? Share with me in the comments below!