Morning lull? Afternoon slump? Evening fatigue? It’s all too common in today’s go-go-go world. And on those days when you lack time and energy, grabbing a coffee or candy bar to keep going can be a quick fix that catches up with you later.
After all, food is fuel and it affects your energy levels. Eating the right food throughout the day can help keep your energy levels up in a sustained way, not in the “spike and crash” manner often caused by caffeine and sugar.
Read on for five healthy foods that can help ward off fatigue and make you feel more alert and powerful throughout your day.
A staple food around since 3500 BC, chia seeds were in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans. In fact, chia got its name from the Mayan word for “strength.” Long ago, chia seeds were almost considered to be magical because of their ability to increase stamina and energy over long periods of time.
In the past few years, chia seeds have regained their superfood limelight. Their fatigue-fighting powers may come from their nutrient-rich composition -- one tablespoon of the seeds contains 5 grams of protein to help keep blood sugar stable, and a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids to help fight inflammation and keep muscles feeling fresh. In addition, chia seeds offer magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to help with athletic performance and recovery. Try adding them to your yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, pasta sauce or baked goods.
Grabbing a bowl of oatmeal in the morning may boost your energy for hours. Oatmeal contains quality carbohydrates that are stored in the body as glycogen and provide fuel for your brain and muscles. A whole grain cereal, oatmeal also provides soluble fiber, which slows down carbohydrate absorption to help keep your bloods sugar levels stabilized.
If you get bored repeating the same bowl of oatmeal every morning, switch it up. Dried fruit, fresh berries, a fried egg, chopped nuts, shredded coconut flakes, and cinnamon applesauce are all energy-boosting toppings that will enliven the taste in your steamy bowl of oats. For added flavor, sprinkle on some ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, or apple pie seasoning.
Slightly more mature than white mushrooms, crimini mushrooms are browner in color and have a firmer texture, making them perfect for stews and soups. They are a great source of energy-boosting B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, and are a good source of thiamin, folate, and vitamin B6. B vitamins are essential for energy production.
For example, pantothenic acid helps fight fatigue during times of stress by supporting the adrenal glands, and riboflavin is important in aerobic energy production and protects the cell’s energy storage from damage. For an added energy boost, try adding crimini mushrooms to your stir-frys, soups, chili, and salads.
Unlike coffee, tea (black, white, oolong, and green) contains the amino acid L-theanine, which provides an alert yet calm state. Successfully used for the treatment of anxiety and improved concentration and focus, L-theanine passes through the blood-brain barrier within 30 minutes. Research shows the amino acid can generate creativity and increase the ability to ignore distractions during complex tasks.
Plus, with tea you’ll get a little boost from caffeine. Of all brewed teas, black tea provides the most caffeine. Just make sure you don’t drink it too close to bedtime – if the caffeine affects your sleep your energy levels will definitely drop. Also avoid sweetened teas, which can be loaded with sugar and cause an energy crash.
A great energy source, eggs provide iron, zinc, and a lot of protein. A recent research review found that protein not only helps build muscles and keep you full, but it provides sustained energy as well. The six grams of high-quality protein in an egg helps keep your blood sugar levels stabilized and includes the amino acid leucine, which is an important part of protein synthesis, a factor in muscle growth and recovery.
For added protein, have one whole egg and one or two egg whites – an egg white provides 3.6 grams of protein. In addition, the B vitamins in eggs aid energy production in the body. Don’t just think of eggs for breakfast, try adding them to your stir-fry dishes or add sliced hardboiled eggs to your salads and sandwiches.
Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes." Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.