If you’re struggling to stay awake at your desk by the time the afternoon rolls around, it’s time to re-think your diet. To maintain your stamina throughout a busy workday, you’ll need smart foods for lots of energy.
Small changes to what you’re eating might make all the difference, since a variety of well-balanced foods can stabilize your blood sugar and iron levels to prevent a mid-day lag.
“Eating a combination of protein, fat and healthy natural carbs helps maintain energy via vitamins and minerals,” says Valerie Goldstein, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at the Center for Balanced Health.
That’s the reason you feel depleted when you’re running on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. “The crash is the end result of a domino effect when we are eating less than optimal nutrients,” Goldstein says. “It’s important to provide yourself with good fuel that your body can use all day long.”
Here are the eight surprising foods that will keep you running steady.
- NORI SEAWEED
- GRASS-FED BEEF
- Eating to boost energy
- 10 Healthy Foods That Boost Energy
- 10 Foods for All-Day Energy
- Stop Eating “Lazy Foods” and Get More Energy
- How Does Your Metabolism Change After 50?
- What Nutrients Do Adults Need?
- How Does the Body Process Food?
- What Foods Should I Avoid to Have More Energy?
- Loaded Chicken and Zoodle Soup Recipe
- 8 Power Foods to Boost Your Stamina Instantly
- 30 Best Foods for All-Day Energy
- Cottage Cheese
- Steel Cut Oats
- Greek Yogurt
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Tuna with Whole Wheat Crackers
- Dark Chocolate
- Whole Wheat Bread with Ricotta
- Sweet Potatoes
- High Fiber Cereal with Milk
- Homemade Trail Mix
- Brown Rice
- Hummus and Whole Wheat Pita
- String Cheese and an Apple
- Rice Cake with Sliced Turkey
Seaweed is packed with the energy-producing mineral, iodine.
“Iodine helps create energy through its biochemical reactions and its role with the thyroid hormones,” says Goldstein. Try noshing on seaweed snacks throughout the day.
Related: 6 Power Foods You Should Be Eating
Almonds contain the vitamin B7, commonly known as biotin, which “helps your body convert food into energy,” Goldstein notes. Biotin aids in the metabolism of carbs, fats, and protein, she adds.
Grabbing a handful of almonds (like these) for an afternoon snack will put some pep in your step.
Related: 6 Reasons to Eat a Handful of Nuts Every Day
Lean beef is a prime source of iron and keeps fatigue-causing anemia at bay. “Your body uses iron to hold on to oxygen in your blood and transport it to your tissues. At the cellular level, iron is used then to make energy,” says Goldstein.
One serving of beef contains roughly 12 percent of your daily requirement.
Related: 24 Protein-Packed Foods That Will Help You Build Muscle
Dried oatmeal can be a great addition to yogurt or simply prepared in a bowl by itself. It’s a natural carbohydrate that contains three energy-boosting staples: calcium, fiber, and protein. One serving can quell hunger and fill you up for hours.
Protein-Boosted Oatmeal With Berries:
Mussels are packed with the energy-producing vitamin, B12. Just 3 (oz) s of mussels provide more than 100 percent of your daily requirement. Because B12 plays a key role in your body’s nervous system and metabolic process, it’s an important part of a regularly balanced diet.
“B12 is required for energy metabolism and the body cannot create on its own,” Goldstein says. “That vitamin is essential for turning the food we eat into energy.”
Related: The Best Supplements For Men
Eggs provide basic nutrition staples such as protein, iodine, vitamins B6 and B12. Goldstein suggests skipping a second cup of coffee and instead opting for a serving of eggs. They’re a great way to build energy while getting an adequate serving of protein.
(Looking for delicious ways to use your favorite protein-packed foods? Check out the Metashred Diet from Men’s Health.)
Related: 14 Best Ways to Eat An Egg
Chomp on some chicken for an extra shot of CoQ10, a coenzyme that is needed to help facilitate 95 percent of the human body’s energy. It’s also needed for healthy organs, being most crucial to organs with the highest energy requirements, including your heart, liver, and kidney.
“CoQ10 plays a vital role in the process of cellular energy creation,” Goldstein says.
As your age, your body produces less amounts of CoQ10, so it’s important to incorporate it in your daily diet. A 3 oz serving of chicken has 1.4 milligrams, which will help move you towards your daily goal of at least 30 milligrams.
Related: 10 Most Delicious Ways to Eat a Chicken Breast
One cup of raw spinach is loaded with magnesium, a mineral necessary for our bodies in the energy process, Goldstein notes. Popeye was right about this green vegetable, but instead of canned spinach try organic.
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).
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.
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.
Want healthy snack ideas that will keep you going like the Energizer bunny? Watch the video.
There’s a reason why having free coffee at the office has basically become a human right—some days, it feels impossible to get through the day without it. Ditto a vending machine full of snacks that will give you a quick hit of sugar. (Sure, you may need a nap later, but for the 45 minutes after you eat that cupcake, you’ll be on fire.)
The only way to break the cycle of coffee-sugary snack-repeat is with…better snacks. Fortunately, You Versus Food host Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, has your back. In the latest episode of Well+Good’s food-centric YouTube series, Beckerman shares the best foods for energy that will keep you going like the Energizer Bunny.
Her first pick: eggs. “They’re packed with protein, which is a steady source of energy because it does not cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin,” Beckerman says. She also points out that eggs contain a nutrient called leucine, which stimulates energy production.
Another energy-boosting food on her list: bananas—which just happen to be so trendy right now. “They’re a great source of high-quality carbs, potassium, and vitamin B6,” she says, adding that the nutrients are natural energy boosters. While they’re still sweet, the sugar is natural, not added, and the fruit’s fiber means the body won’t get experience that rollercoaster high and low with other sugary carbs.
Check out the full episode for four more energy-boosting foods. It just may change what you reach for later. Happy snacking!
Looking for more You Versus Food brilliance? Check out her list of the best vegetarian protein sources, plus her recommendations of what to order at Chipotle.
10 Healthy Foods That Boost Energy
When your energy is low, you might instinctively reach for a cup of coffee or a handful of candy to provide a quick boost. The desire to reach for caffeine, chips, or cookies when we want a pick-me-up is understandable. But too much caffeine can deliver the opposite of a jolt. And quickly digesting carbohydrates, such as sweet beverages, white bagels, pretzels, and candy — which give a quick hit of pleasure because they boost serotonin, the brain chemical that helps regulate mood — will cause your blood sugar to spike and give you a short-lived high that ends in a crash.
“What’s more,” says Kari Kooi, RD, of Houston Methodist Weight Management Center in Texas, “the subsequent drop in blood sugar increases cravings for more energy-zapping foods.” She says that energy boosting snacks are those that are rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. “When you eat this combination,” she says, “the energy from the food is like a time-released capsule that’s slowly being released into the bloodstream and steadily keeping you fueled for hours to come.”
That’s the main building block of a healthy, energy-boosting snacking strategy: foods with zero or hardly any additives. Foods like nuts, plain yogurt, and whole grains will keep your snacks low in calories and high in satisfying fuel.
Protein in particular increases the production of a brain chemical that regulates concentration. “Protein improves focus, making you feel alert and on top of your game,” says Kooi. “When the mid-afternoon energy slump strikes, a well-timed, protein-packed snack can provide an instant pick-me-up and keep you satisfied for hours.” She suggests pairing proteins and fiber-rich carbs for what she calls “power snacks that will perk you up when there’s no time for a power nap.”
Smart snacking doesn’t just improve your day-to-day functioning, it can be part of a plan for a longer, healthier life overall. Better daily choices can curb cravings, which can help keep your weight down, which in the long term can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Scientists also think that improving your nutrition — even if you’re taking baby steps toward it — may help protect you against the risk of Alzheimer’s. By snacking smart you’ll be giving your body the nutrients it needs to function — and function optimally.
Here are 10 great options for healthy, revitalizing small bites. Some are great as on-the-go snacks, while others are smart choices for a lunchtime meal that will power you through the afternoon.
Additional reporting by Carlene Bauer
10 Foods for All-Day Energy
Put down that third coffee! Yes, we’ve all had days where we feel tired. However, it might be time to rethink what you’ve been eating and drinking. While everything we consume gives us some kind of energy, some energy sources are better than others.
Try these energy-packed foods that boast nutrients to keep you going all day long. Here’s what to have the next time you’re dragging to help prevent that afternoon slump.
A study found that women who were mildly dehydrated reported feeling fatigued. When you’re dehydrated, body functions can be slowed, leaving you sluggish and tired. Drink plenty of water during the day and before, during and after you work out. Do so even if you’re not tired. That will help ensure you’re energized and fight off fatigue. If you’re not a fan of plain water, squirt in some fresh lime or lemon. Or throw in mint leaves or cucumber slices.
A study in Appetite found that cottage cheese’s filling effects are similar to those from eggs. Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and low in calories, too. It’s packed with nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium. It’s a great no-cook way to get some energy. Looking for a low-fat snack? Try this Sweet Cottage Cheese recipe. Or whip up this Whole-Wheat Vegetable Lasagna. Veggie lovers will enjoy the fact that it has plenty of vitamins, protein and other nutrients thanks to its mixture of vegetables and cheeses.
Iron-rich spinach is great if you need an energy boost. When you don’t have enough iron, you have less oxygen flowing to the brain. And that can leave you tired. Add spinach to your morning smoothie or omelet. Eat a spinach salad at lunch to help prevent an afternoon energy slump. Try Spinach-Stuffed Chicken for dinner; double it to serve at a dinner party. Make a side salad for a complete meal.
Avocados boast fiber (which helps maintain steady energy levels) and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They provide more energy than most produce because they’re digested slower than simple carbs. And they can be stored in the body and used as an energy source. This nutritional powerhouse also offers protein and potassium. Avocados are versatile enough to be incorporated into any meal. Use them in your omelet, as a salad topper, sandwich filler or as the main ingredient in guacamole. Drink your avocados, too—they give smoothies a creamy consistency. Sip on this Cucumber Avocado Smoothie that will replenish needed nutrients at breakfast, lunch or post-workout snack. The healthy fats and protein in the avocado and yogurt will keep you feeling full for hours.
Sure, eating asparagus does make your pee smell. But get past that. This green vegetable is high in B vitamins. That turns your carbs into glucose, or fuel. Plus it contains filling fiber and is packed with minerals and vitamins like A, C, E and K, plus folate, iron, copper, protein, calcium and fiber. Start off your day with some asparagus courtesy of an Asparagus Omelet. Serve this omelet with a thin slice of ham or prosciutto and fresh fruit on the side for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Almonds boast fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats plus minerals and vitamins like copper, riboflavin and magnesium. Manganese and copper help keep energy flowing through the body. And riboflavin helps with energy production. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids to keep you satisfied and help your heart, too. This Harvest Rice Dish boasts energizing slivered almonds.
There’s a reason athletes often eat a banana before a big game. One study showed that eating a banana before a 75-km cycling trial was as efficient as downing a carbohydrate drink for improving the performance of endurance athletes. Bananas offer carbs, vitamin B-6 and potassium, all which can help boost your energy levels. They’re made mainly of sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose) and fiber, making them an ideal energy source. Make a loaf of Banana Bread the next time you’re looking to use up ripe bananas.
Get all-day energy by starting your day with eggs or snacking on a hard-boiled egg. Eggs’ protein and healthy fats will help stabilize blood sugar levels. That helps prevent afternoon slumps. They’re also rich in B vitamins, with enzymes that help break down food for energy. Eggs also have leucine, which is an amino acid that helps stimulate energy production. Eat this versatile and nutritional powerhouse any time of day to reap its energy benefits. Prepare these tasty Italian Baked Eggs for brunch. Your guests will never guess it’s a healthy recipe. Or whip up this egg-white breakfast quesadilla, a flavorful and tasty way to start your day. Learn more about why you should eat eggs.
Hundreds of types of beans are out there, but they’re all nutritious and rich sources of fiber, protein and carbohydrates. Since they’re digested slowly, high-fiber beans help maintain stable blood-sugar levels and provide steady energy. Popular varieties include black beans and black-eyed peas, which are also good sources of iron, folic acid, manganese and magnesium. Kick things up a notch with this Herbed Rice and Spicy Black Bean Salad.
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, carbs, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C. They also offer manganese, which helps break down nutrients to produce energy. Your body digests the potatoes’ fiber and complex carbs slowly, giving you a steady energy supply. Sweet Potato Hummus is a light, healthy snack is bursting with flavor, spice and color. Because of its high protein content, the recipe will help control your appetite and mood. Pair it with Herb-Infused Ranch-Style Sweet Potato Chips for the perfect blend of protein and carbs.
Stop Eating “Lazy Foods” and Get More Energy
Are you eating the same foods you always did, but feel as if you are dragging through the day?
Food gives your body energy, but some foods sap energy and make you feel tired. These are the “lazy foods” we all love to eat. We get a quick boost of energy but end up feeling tired.
How Does Your Metabolism Change After 50?
Your metabolism converts food into energy, but three factors change with age:
- Physical Activity. When you move throughout the day you burn energy. Reduced physical activity is the biggest factor that can change your metabolism.
- Muscle. The more muscle you have the more energy you burn. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Muscle loss is often part of the aging process.
- Digestion. Older adults have a decreased ability to absorb and use the nutrients in food. The digestive system moves food more slowly through the colon. Muscles in the digestive tract also become weaker, stiffer and work less efficiently. Your body gets less energy from food.
Prescription drugs and ongoing health conditions also slow your metabolism.
One of the best ways to safeguard your health is to make sure that you are eating a diet that is high in nutrients. This improves your:
- Physical condition
- Brain function
- Bone strength
- Immune system
What Nutrients Do Adults Need?
Nutritional needs change as we pass 50. Adults 50+ should include these nutrients in their diet:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamins B6, B12 and E
Protein is an essential building block in your diet as you age. When you eat enough protein, you are able to maintain your muscle mass. Muscle is important for every activity, from getting out of a chair to running a marathon. More muscle improves better function and increases metabolism.
Focus on getting enough of these important nutrients every day. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, beans and healthy fats like olive oil. Then you will have less room for foods low in nutrition.
How Does the Body Process Food?
Your body transforms simple carbohydrates into glucose before it enters your bloodstream. This spike in blood sugar signals the pancreas to release insulin.
Insulin returns your blood glucose levels to a normal range. Insulin lets your body know that energy is available. The body uses the carbs for a quick burst of energy. But that energy burns out quickly. Then you feel exhausted.
What Foods Should I Avoid to Have More Energy?
Cutting out these five types of food will provide you with more energy.
1. Processed Grains
Foods that are white, sweet and come in a bag are usually highly processed grains. Grains are a source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a form of energy best eaten with the naturally occurring fiber, but these grains have been stripped of fiber during processing.
Foods that contain processed grains include:
- White bread
Processed grains will cause a temporary spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. You get the momentary boost of energy quickly followed by an energy crash.
Processed grains contain few nutrients and vitamins to sustain your body. Over the long-term, you will find yourself feeling more tired. Your energy levels will be more even if you avoid foods that cause spikes and crashes.
Health Tip: Try cauliflower rice instead of regular rice or snack on fruit instead of cookies or cakes!
2. Breakfast Cereals
Is a bowl of cereal part of a well-balanced breakfast? Not necessarily. Breakfast cereals are one of the easiest foods to eat but can set you up for a vicious energy spike and crash.
Breakfast cereals are usually highly processed grains such as:
Often the secondary ingredient in breakfast cereals is sugar. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and low in protein and fiber will set you up for sugar cravings all day. The high amount of carbohydrates are burned through quickly. Without the presence of protein, fats or fiber, your body is left without any nutrient stores. By lunchtime you are starving and ready for a nap.
Health Tip: Try eggs for breakfast to increase your protein in the morning.
3. Sugary Drinks
Drinks that contain added sugars offer a quick pick me up but will slow you down later. The added sugar results in a high-calorie content. Some examples are soda pop, fruit juices, flavored milks and even smoothies.
Some drinks, like soda pop, are completely void of nutrition and fill you up on empty calories. Fruit juice, milk and smoothies may provide some nutrition but the sugar content might outweigh the benefit of the nutrients. The sugar content without the fiber of the fruit will provide a similar crash and burn effect.
Health Tip: Mix fresh fruit into your water for healthy flavoring.
4. Coffee and Energy Drinks
We all have days that start with “I just need a coffee!” When you drink coffee in moderation, there are positive physical and mental effects. Relying on coffee for that short-term mental boost in brain function can be dangerous. It means you are not giving your body the proper fuel (and rest!) it needs to function.
Caffeine, from coffee or energy drinks, can stay in your system for 5-15 hours. Caffeine travels from your bloodstream into your brain, where it reduces your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
The caffeine you drink to keep you awake will also interfere with your ability to sleep later. You will be more tired and drained the next day.
Health Tip: Avoid caffeine before bed and set a sleep routine so you wake up refreshed in the morning.
Alcohol is another drink that can interfere with the quality of your sleep. If you are drinking a high-calorie alcoholic drink, such as orange juice with vodka or beer, then you get a double hit to your metabolism. Poor sleep quality slows down your metabolism. The empty calories also spike your sugar levels and then you crash.
Health Tip: Drink sparkling water with lemon instead of a vodka soda so you can still enjoy the bubbles without the negative effects.
There are many changes to your metabolism and lifestyle that happen after you turn 50. You will benefit by focusing on meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Cut these five lazy foods from your diet. Instead, replace them with healthier choices so you can enjoy increased energy and a faster metabolism. The next time you’re thinking about what to eat, try the recipe below!
Loaded Chicken and Zoodle Soup Recipe
Nothing is more comforting than a rich bowl of chicken noodle soup. There are many ways to make a soup but starting with a protein-rich bone broth is the foundation for nutritional success. You can make your own using a leftover chicken carcass or purchase one that has at least 9 grams of protein per cup.
The collagen found in bone broth can strengthen bones and teeth and build immunity. Bone broth is also rich in the following:
- Protein (a macronutrient)
- Vitamin A (which is good for healthy skin and eyes)
- Vitamin K (which helps with blood clotting and bone metabolism)
- Manganese (which helps with blood sugar regulation)
- Zinc (which helps fight colds and inflammation
- Calcium (think bone health)
Most chicken soup recipes call for diced carrots but grating them is actually easier and provides
a smooth preparation process. Carrots add a slightly sweet flavor as well as a fair amount of vitamin A.
Traditional pasta noodles usually make up the second half of the soup but since one of the keys to good health is a diet full of an abundance of vegetables, zucchini noodles or “zoodles” have taken its place.
A little miso paste adds the full-flavored umami, which is the delicious, savory taste that is predominant in cooked meats and broths.
It also adds beneficial bacteria, which are good for gut health. Studies increasingly show that better health and diversity of your gut microbes can help prevent and treat conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and inflammation (many which are associated with autoimmune diseases).
Preparation: 45 minutes
Yields: 4 Servings
1 tbsp olive oil
¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about ½ of a medium onion)
¾ cup grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
¾ cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks of celery)
1 tsp chopped garlic OR ¼ tsp garlic powder
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp white or yellow miso paste
1 tsp poultry seasoning
8 cups chicken bone broth
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 cups spinach leaves
4 cups zucchini noodles
2 tsp grated lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large ovenproof pot, add the olive oil and heat over high heat until shimmery.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté for one minute.
- Add the garlic, miso paste, poultry seasoning and shiitake mushrooms and incorporate them into the carrot mixture for about 15 seconds then turn off the heat to the burner.
- Put the lid onto the pot and transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Cook the carrot mixture in the oven for 15 minutes. The mixture will be soft.
- Remove from the heat and add the chicken bone broth. Bring the broth up to a boil and add the salt, pepper and cider vinegar.
- Turn off the heat and then add the spinach and zucchini noodles.
- Sprinkle or zest part of the yellow rind of a lemon over each bowl of soup. Serve immediately.
Find nutritious recipes for people 50+ on our recipe channel
Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging
7 Foods that Drain Your Energy
Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats
How Nutritional Needs Changes as You Age
Changes During Aging and Their Association with Malnutrition
Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations
Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 19 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 108 mg
Sodium 786 mg
Potassium 350 mg
Total Carbohydrate 23 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Sugars 9 g
Protein 37 g
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.
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.
If you kept awake – again – all night fixing problems or devising strategies for your business, but you can not give yourself a break from your busy schedule, consider at least eating some “super foods” .
These will help you increase your energy and concentration level, as well as decrease stress. They are also much more nutritious than, for example, a soft drink and a donut, common snacks for entrepreneurs. Take note of seven super foods and improve your diet today:
This fish increases your lucidity. It contains high levels of Omega 3, substance related to the reduction of heart problems.
Salmon is a good source of protein that improves your alertness and performance, as well as overall brain health.
These nuts are high in fiber, protein and healthy fats that help reduce levels of anxiety and include Vitamin E which is good for the skin. They also improve heart health and reduce the risks of some types of cancer such as breast and lung cancers.
Almonds prevent drastic changes in blood sugar and insulin, which means having less ups and downs while working.
tea This tea is a good option to replace coffee. It has many antioxidants and catechin, components that help reduce the risks of heart disease.
It is a smart choice for a snack, because it is also believed that catechin helps improve mood.
This fruit helps increase concentration. It is beneficial because it contains healthy fats and lots of potassium. It also contains a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid that helps reduce cholesterol, and improves the appearance of hair and skin.
Fiber and fats help keep insulin levels stable, which allows for greater concentration.
Vegetables help prevent a sudden decrease in blood sugar. Among the most beneficial are cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress and cabbage, since they contain large amounts of nutrients. In addition, they have other components that offer protection against chronic diseases such as cancer.
The fiber in these crispy vegetables helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin, which prevents energy levels from going too high to very low.
6. Bitter chocolate
This delicious treat reduces stress. The flavonoids of bitter chocolate (the one that contains 70% or more of cocoa) help to maintain healthy blood vessels and reduce inflammation. In addition, the fat in dark chocolate does not affect cholesterol levels.
Eating this delight decreases cortisol, a hormone that influences stress and that is related to increased appetite and weight. This type of chocolate helps improve blood flow to the brain, thereby enhancing cognitive performance.
Blackberries help keep you focused on what you do. Blackberries, including raspberries and blackberries, have many antioxidants, as well as nutrients such as anthocyanins that lower blood pressure.
The berries also contain fiber and help keep you focused by controlling blood sugar and energy levels.
Healthy Energy Gels Picks for Endurance Sports
Are energy gels healthy? In recent times, sport nutrition was synonymous with chemical-filled “nutrition” shakes and gels. However, the food landscape is changing fast and healthy sportsmans seek for transparency and high quality ingredients at every bite. A study shows that nearly seven of 10 Americans are trying to increase plant protein consumption in order to hit their health-related goals. Sports nutrition is not an exception. Real-food and plant-based energy gels represent the new generation of healthy products for those who need immediate energy to keep up with their challenge. Our body uses two main sources of fuel to nourish your muscles during the race – fat and carbohydrate. In simple terms, energy gels are designed to replenish the carbohydrate stores that run out during the training or race. Made with natural ingredients such as seeds, fruit, vegetables, energy gels are still a part of the food armor of many runners, often playing the “prison free” card. Gels offer all the energy and resistance you need but they need to be tasty, easy to digest and portable. Energy shot provides instantaneous absorption of nutrients through the system, allowing for greater strength and shorter recovery times.
We have selected our three favourite energy gels among dozens based on the quality of their ingredients and claimed performance.
Grab one of our suggested healthy energy gels and let us know what you think.
- HUMA CHIA
PER GEL (44g) – Strawberries: Total carbohydrates 22g, 100 calories, 105mg sodium, 14g sugar.
Huma Chia Energy Gel is a nutritional Gel for fast, continuous exercises such as running, cycling, triathlon and other long – term endurance activities. This Energy Gel is made with real food ingredients. Huma Chia Energy Gel is thought to guarantee a long lasting performance that consist of 2:1 Glucose (short and long chains) to Fructose ratio combined with all 9 essential amino acids giving you maximum boost. Finely milled chia seeds helps modulate energy uptake to ensure no flash crashes.
- Made from 90% organic sources.
- Gluten and dairy free which reduces stomach issues.
- Large assortment of flavours.
- No caffeine.
- It seems to contain added sugars.
- Note: Nutrition facts change significantly among flavours.
2. ENERGY MIND
PER GEL (30ml) – Neutral sweet taste: Total carbohydrates 23g, 90 calories, 105mg sodium, 18g sugar (no added sugar).
The world’s first nootropic gel made with 100% natural ingredients. Energy Mind provides an immediate clean energy boost to your muscles during exercise, reduces fatigue with its unique isotonic formula (105mg sodium, 55mg potassium and 15mg magnesium) and, furthermore, helps improving your focus thanks to the unique and proven efficacy tomato extract.
Energy Mind is concentrated (more energy in 30ml only), easily digestible and naturally tasty (no chemical flavours, additives or preservatives). Energy Mind’s formula is based on organic rice and agave syrups from which come its naturally sweet pleasant taste and texture. This energy gel is powered by cucumber extract and tomato extract which have clinically proven significant focus, endurance, strength and recovery improvements.
- No caffeine and no stimulants.
- Suitable for vegan and vegetarian as free from gluten, GMO, lactose, soy, added sugar.
- Free from additives.
- Nootropic action to restore focus and coordination.
- It comes with only one neutral sweet taste.
3. GU ROCTANE ENERGY GEL
PER GEL (32g) – Blueberry Pomegranate: Total carbohydrates 21g, 100 calories, 125mg sodium, 6g sugar, 35mg caffeine.
Created for demanding training and competition, GU Roctane Energy Gel stands out from original GU Energy Gel with more sodium, an electrolyte that aids in hydration, and even more branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) that reduce mental fatigue and decrease muscle damage than our original GU Energy Gel. The amino acid taurine helps maintain heart contractility and improve cardiac output during long exercise sessions, while the amino acid beta-alanine helps promote formation of the intramuscular buffer carnosine. The 100-calorie packets contain carbohydrates (maltodextrin and fructose) that use non-competing pathways to help maximize carbohydrate absorption and utilization while diminishing stomach distress.
- Contains three-times the amino acids and twice the sodium as original GU Energy Gel.
- It is gluten free, and kosher.
- This product is made with all vegan ingredients.
- Contains Caffeine (35mg).
- The consistency might be a bit tick for some.
8 Power Foods to Boost Your Stamina Instantly
Picture this: You are on a beautiful, long drive. The roads beckoning, the weather gods smiling. And then, your car runs out of gas. How frustrating! Well, that’s pretty much what happens with our bodies on a daily basis. There’s simply no stamina to go through the rigours of the day, day after day.
And the first casualty is the gym, for who has the energy for a workout? But, is there an easy remedy to tackle this problem? Absolutely. With the intake of the right foods you can increase your ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. Nutrients like complex carbohydrates, proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and vitamins are the energy boosters that help your body live up to the relentless challenges of life. Here’s a list of 8 power foods to keep you high on stamina, so that you don’t compromise on fitness.
1. Brown Rice
Although carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body, not all carbs are good. For better stamina, you need to increase your intake of complex carbs. They are known to release energy slowly into the blood, ensuring optimal energy levels through the day. Brown rice fits the bill perfectly. A great source of complex carbs, it is also rich in fibre and Vitamin B complex. Unlike white rice, brown rice has less starch, making it easier to digest. In other words, your belly will feel full for longer, giving you energy to brave the day.(Also read: How to Cook Brown Rice)Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. Photo Credit Istock
An essential nutrient for the growth and repair of muscle and body tissues, proteins are vital for building stamina. They not only help burn calories, but also kick in a sense of being sated. Eggs are counted among the best sources of protein on the planet, with the highest biological value. Packed with all the nine essential amino acids, an egg a day promises to keep the fatigue away!
An egg a day promises to keep the fatigue away.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the optimal functioning of the body and brain. But their deficiency is worryingly common and usually presents itself in the form of symptoms like chronic fatigue and poor memory. Of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids, two – EPA and DHA – are primarily found in fish, especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna. They are also rich in proteins and vitamin D. Did you know that 100 grams fish contains almost 50 per cent of the daily requirement of proteins for an average adult?
100 grams fish contains almost 50 per cent of the daily requirement of proteins. Photo Credit: Istock
4. Green Leafy Vegetables
The lack of stamina could very well be a symptom of iron deficiency. In the absence of adequate iron – needed to make hemoglobin – the body struggles to carry out its everyday functions, as there’s not enough supply of oxygen in the body. Green leafy vegetables are saviours. Packed with iron and fibre, they augment your RBC (red blood cells) count, aiding proper circulation of blood and oxygen to the body. What’s more, veggies like spinach act instantly to release short-term energy, thereby improving stamina. Now you know why Popeye swore by it!
The lack of stamina could very well be a symptom of iron deficiency. Photo Credit: Istock
5. Citrus Fruits
Nothing saps your energy like a bout of cold and cough. Infections, no matter how innocuous they may seem, always have a way of getting you down-and-out. The best way to beat the odds is to boost your immunity with generous doses of Vitamin C. Studies show that citrus fruits – rich in Vitamin C – help improve energy levels, by cleansing the body of toxins and improving immunity. Have a long day at work? Treat yourself to a fresh orange or lime juice.
Foods rich in Vitamin C help improve your energy levels. Photo Credit: Istock
Snacking can help fight fatigue, provided you do it right. Instead of gorging on those samosas or chips – which end up making you more sluggish – opt for a snack that’s high on energy and nutrients.
Bananas are considered the best pre-workout snacks. A rich source of potassium, complex carbohydrates and fibre, they are renowned for their energy-boosting powers. Besides, they also increase the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone in the body, to make the task at hand seem less exhausting.
(Also read: Should We Eat Bananas on an Empty Stomach?)Bananas are considered the best pre-workout snacks.
7. Peanut Butter
Another super snack that acts as a reservoir of energy is the good ol’ peanut butter. Rich in heart-healthy fats and proteins, peanut butter – when consumed with complex carbs – is known to keep hunger at bay, while boosting stamina in a jiffy. Now, that’s what we call power snacking!
Peanut butter is known to keep hunger at bay. Photo Credit: Istock
Whenever you sense your energy levels dipping, reach for some almonds. These nutrient-dense nuts help in boosting metabolism, thereby improving your stamina. The icing on the cake is that a handful of almonds – powerhouse of healthy fats – not only keep your brains and bones strong, but also aid in weight loss.
Almonds help in boosting metabolism. Photo Credit: Istock
Stamina and fitness go hand in hand. Give your body the nutrients it needs, work out regularly, and you’ll see how all that weariness becomes a thing of the past. Once the fuel is taken care of, you can enjoy the drive!
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.
“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
“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.
“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
“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 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.
“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.”
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!