Who wouldn’t want a little more pep in her step or energy in her day? Not me! Part of the reason why we at FBG love working out is because it gives back as much energy as you put in. But working out is just part of the equation. Eating for energy (and for your overall health and general awesomeness) is a skill, but an easy one to master. Here are a few tips from the latest research on eating for energy and how you can pick the right foods to pump you up!
5 Tips for Eating for Energy
1. Go nuts. Besides the fact that a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that boosting nut consumption over time was associated with a .57 pound less weight gain over a four-year period vs. other snacks, nuts of all kinds are high in copper, magnesium, selenium and calcium, which help your body balance its energy levels. Not sure what kind of nuts to nosh on? We’re fans of plain unsalted raw almonds or Planters NUT•rition Omega-3 Mix, which include walnuts, cranberries and dark chocolate-covered soy nuts.
2. Get enough protein. You know how your body starts craving the sugary stuff at about 3 p.m.? Well, that’s because your body is in a natural energy lull and is pretty much freaking out that you’re asking it to do anything but take a siesta. Therefore, it tricks you into wanting quick energy, like that doughnut left over from the a.m. meeting. But your body is a sneaky beast because what it actually needs is protein—not sugar that’ll spike your insulin levels and leave you crashing later. According to a recent study in the journal Neuron, you should actually choose protein to boost energy as it helps keep you awake and burning calories. Sounds pretty sweet, right? We recommend eating for energy in the afternoon by packing a protein-rich hard-boiled egg, low-fat cheese stick or turkey jerky (plus, we like how that last one rhymes).
3. Don’t carb load (even when you’re training). We always preach all good things in moderation and this definitely applies to starchy carbs. In order to feel good, you need to eat a healthy and balanced diet the majority of the time. Sure, a splurge is good for the body (and soul—hello chocolate and red wine), but they should be more of a special-occasion treat than an everyday meal. So be sure to limit your consumption of starchy carbs like white breads, pastas, pastries, sugary cereals and other refined grains. Training for a big event? The same still applies, says Matt Hart, ultra-distance runner and coach at CoachingEndurance.com. “Eating a massive carb meal will leave you lethargic and likely running for the bushes shortly after the race start.” Yeah, that’s what we call not eating for energy. So skip the grains and rely on healthier and more nutrient-dense carbs like strawberries, sweet potatoes and carrots.
4. Slow down, chew and breathe. This goes without saying, but it’s hard to get any energy from your food if you scarf it down without tasting it, enjoying it or letting your teeth do the job they were put in your mouth to do: chew! Slowing down, chewing and breathing when you eat helps you to enjoy the eating experience more (and when you like things, you get energy!), enhance the absorption of more nutrients that boost energy and improve digestion, thereby not sending all that energy into your next bathroom session.
5. Drink water and eat often. You know how they say that eating mini-meals and drinking plenty of filtered water boosts energy? Well, they’re totally right. Your body and brain need fuel and the right amount of water to keep it functioning at its best. So eat when you’re hungry (every three hours or so is a good rule of thumb to shoot for) and drink that water regularly. Being properly hydrated can reduce fatigue and help with weight loss, and eating regular meals can keep glucose levels steady thereby helping keep energy levels strong. While there are many recommendations on how much water to drink a day, we say drink until your pee is a pale yellow color. It’s a pretty foolproof method to see how hydrated you are—plus it makes going to pee way more interesting.
Eating for energy never tasted so good! What are your favorite foods that boost energy? —Jenn