On the most exhausting days when you’re in need of a serious energy boost, it can obviously be tempting to continually reach for a cup of coffee throughout the day. And while a few cups in the morning are perfectly fine for most people, coffee doesn’t often provide you with long-lasting energy, and you may instead find yourself feeling sluggish later on. Instead of loading up on too much coffee, you can try snacking on foods that give you energy all day long.
But what types of food give you lasting energy? Naturally, all food provides your body with some level of energy because of the way it’s converted into calories, but some are more energizing than others. For starters, carbohydrates give the most energy to your body, but it doesn’t mean you can load up on cupcakes and expect to be energized. Refined carbs (think added sugar and white bread) will spike your blood sugar quickly and actually lead to more fatigue, but complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, whole grains) take a lot longer to digest, therefore more gradually raising your blood sugar and giving your body more sustainable energy.
Along with carbohydrates, healthy fats like omega-3s have been found to provide lasting energy, and protein-rich foods can sustain energy levels by taking away hunger and leaving you feeling full for longer periods of time.
According to Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, Greek yogurt can be an excellent snack to help give you energy throughout the day. “A perfect food to keep you energized, Greek yogurt contains protein to keep you satisfied for hours,” says Best. “I suggest 2% instead of the fat-free kind for helping keep you full. You can also add fiber-rich berries and slivered almonds, which contain healthy fats, for a healthy breakfast or well-balanced snack.”
Morgyn Clair, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author at Fit Healthy Momma adds that because most yogurt naturally contains carbohydrates, “it offers the boost of energy from carbs with a sustained effect from the protein, because protein helps digest carbs more slowly, ensuring a steady stream of energy.”
If you’re looking for a lunch dish that will help sustain your energy levels, our dietitians suggest salmon. “This fish is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids to help keep blood sugar steady and prevent fluctuations,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, registered dietitian, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, and member of our Medical Expert Board.
According to the National Institute of Health, omega-3s provide your body with helpful energy, as well as benefits for your heart, eye, and brain health.
Speaking of omega-3 fatty acids, if you’re looking to get more of this nutrient with fish but aren’t in the mood for salmon, tuna is another great choice. “Fatty fish like salmon and tuna can give sustained energy throughout the day due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” says Best. “Also, these healthy fats help to regulate insulin levels and reduce inflammation in the body, which can help maintain energy levels and improve overall physical and mental health.”
Beets are an earthy-tasting root vegetable that you either love or hate. Those who love them are in luck because these are full of helpful nutrients and antioxidants—even ones that will help sustain your energy levels. According to a report published in Food Science & Biotechnology, beets contain high levels of phenolic compounds, antioxidants, and nitrate, all of which have been found to help with exercise performance and energy levels. Also, beets contain complex carbohydrates, which again means that your body will digest them more slowly and provide more sustainable energy levels.