We lead busy lives. We get up early and go to bed late and spend the hours in between somehow making it through the day, despite being totally drained of energy by about 10am. A good night’s sleep helps a great deal in ensuring you have enough energy for the next day, as does exercise, although it won’t feel like it at the time! And of equal importance is food. Eat crap and you’ll feel like crap. Eat right and you’ll feel a lot less like crap. To help you survive from climbing out of bed to climbing back in, without feeling totally fatigued, we’ve compiled a list of foods that are proven to effectively fuel your body.
Probiotics (the good bacteria) found in yoghurt assist in digestion and help to keep your gut healthy, allowing your body to properly utilise the food being consumed. Probiotics also help boost the body’s immune system, so you feel less fatigued. Choose natural options like goat’s milk yoghurt, rather than those with added preservatives, and enjoy it on top of granola for breakfast, with a serving of berries or with salad for lunch. A serving of natural yoghurt is a great source of calcium too.
The biggest benefit of mushrooms (apart from their taste, of course!) is their iron content. Iron is essential for boosting the blood cells ability to transport oxygen around the body. Healthy levels of iron keep our organs functioning as they should and prevent you from feeling lethargic. Anyway, just one cup of mushrooms contains 50% of your daily iron intake.
Spinach, like mushrooms is an excellent source of iron. It’s also rich in magnesium, which helps the body break down glucose into energy, and potassium, a mineral that’s essential for nerve signal transmission and muscle function. A diet without magnesium and potassium will leave you feeling weak and drained, especially during physical activity. Hence the reason, Popeye was always quick to chow down on a handful of raw spinach. If you don’t fancy eating it raw, try adding spinach to salads, omelettes, soups and pasta dishes.
Mash ‘em, steam ‘em, roast ‘em, bake ‘em – cook sweet potatoes however you like, just make sure they regular feature in your diet. Sweet potatoes are perhaps most associated as a great source of carbohydrates – the body’s main source of energy and fuel for the brain, muscles, heart and kidneys. They’re also high in vitamins A, C and D, all of which play an important role in keeping energy levels topped up.
How do like your eggs in the morning? That’s a rhetorical question. You can like them however you like, as long as you do, in fact, like them and eat them regularly. Pound for pound, no other food contains as much protein as eggs. 97% of the protein in eggs is absorbed by the body and a single egg provides 30% of your daily protein. They’re also high in amino acids that help to repair muscles. The ultimate post-exercise food!
Far from the most appetising food on its own, but brown rice works lovely as a side dish alongside fish or chicken. The biggest advantage of brown rice is that it’s rich in the mineral manganese, which is an important component in turning carbs and protein into energy. Brown rice also contains protein and is a slow-release carbohydrate – helping to keep energy levels consistent.
Bananas are a go-to snack if you’re seeking an extra boost of energy to see you through to meal time. Bananas contain three different sugars: glucose, fructose and sucrose. The former two are quickly absorbed in the blood stream resulting in a quick energy boost, while the latter acts slowly to prevent sugar levels from crashing – similar to how they would if you were to opt for a can of pop or chocolate bar instead. Fiber is prevalent too – helping to reduce fatigue.
Nuts are a great energy snack and they’re full of good stuff. They are high in calories, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t overdo it, but a handful of nuts – almonds and walnuts in particular – will provide you with plenty of fibre, protein and nutrients to get you through that mid-afternoon slump. The best way to eat nuts is by soaking them in water for a few hours to ‘activate’ them (kick start the sprouting process) and consuming them raw; however, if you’d prefer, spread some peanut butter on a slice of wholemeal bread and get your fix that way.
As well as having high omega-3 fatty acid content, which is great for skin and lowering cholesterol, a serving of salmon is ideal for revitalisation. Salmon is a wonderful source of protein and contains niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6 – nutrients that convert help the body convert food into energy. Enjoy salmon as part of a lunch salad or alongside vegetables for dinner.
The key energy boosting ingredient in crab meat is vitamin B12. This essential vitamin helps to keep maintain the health of red blood cells, allowing them to keep on pumping that oxygen to our brains. This, in turn, helps you feel more focussed and happier. Crab is low in calories and fat and just one 85g serving provides almost a third of your daily B12 requirement. Enjoy it as part of pasta and salad dishes.
Baked beans, black beans, kidney beans, even beans that aren’t called beans like black-eyed peas and chickpeas – they are all great. They’re a low-fat source of protein and come loaded with calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and iron to have you feeling all fresh and energetic. With 18g of protein for every 200g serving, chickpeas are most nutritious bean, but feel free to serve up any type you like in salads, soups, pastas, stews, or just on toast.
Apples, like bananas, give you a sustained energy boost whenever you’re feeling sluggish. They’re packed full of fibre, iron, potassium and B vitamins, all of which work in different ways to help keep the body strong and healthy and ensure you feel energetic. One of the lesser spoken about benefits of apples is the moisture that helps you stay hydrated. Dehydration is a huge energy sapper.
100g of lentils contain more protein than an egg and more than a quarter of your recommended daily intake of fibre. And the good stuff keeps on coming, because lentils are also a complex carbohydrate, giving you plenty of slow release energy, and have virtually no fat. Chuck some lentils in soups and salads to ramp up the protein content.
When you’re not reaching for a banana or an apple, pick up an orange. Oranges are high in vitamin C (containing more than the recommended daily intake for men and women), potassium, fibre and carbs. Energy release is staggered to keep you fuelled for longer, rather than crashing after a quick sugar rush. Also, because they are high in fibre and water and low in fat and calories, an orange will fill you on less calories than other foods.
Whole wheat pasta, bread, cereals and pancakes and wheat germ are essential to a nutritious, balanced diet. Wheat is packed full of carbohydrates, protein and fibre, all of which leave you feeling satisfied for longer and give you increased stamina. A good serving of wheat is best enjoyed for breakfast to set you up right for the day.
Brocolli works in much the same way as spinach – providing plenty of iron to keep energy levels high. There’s a lot of vitamin C in broccoli too, which keeps you strong and healthy. Now you know why your mum continued to force it on you when you were a kid! Add broccoli to casseroles and soups or dip it into hummus for a tasty lunchtime bite.
Open sesame! Now go ahead and pour some seeds in there. That’s right, pour them in, as many as you can handle. Wonderful! Prepare to feel full energised. Let us just reel off the good things that sesame seeds are high in: iron, fibre, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin BI and vitamin B6. Now some of the things that sesame seeds are a source of: potassium, protein, vitamin B2 and vitamin B3. Individually and together, these vitamins and minerals keep your organs functioning correctly, regulate your blood pressure, keep your bones strong and ensure you feel clear in mind and healthy in body.
A 50g serving of sesame seeds contains 53% of your daily recommended iron intake, 62% of your daily recommended calcium intake and 82% of your daily recommended vitamin B6 intake. The same serving also provides you with 7g of protein. Add sesame seeds to noodles, hummus, cookies, banana bread and salad dressings to fight off tiredness and fatigue.
Before you go running to the cinema for a large bucket of sweet and salted, it's the air-popped and low-fat microwave popcorn that's best for you. The cinema servings of popcorn have way too much oil, salt and calories to offer any real benefits. Choose make-it-yourself kernels, though, and you’ll benefit from a good serving of fibre with little fat. Popcorn has three times more fibre by weight than sunflower seeds and contains vitamin B to keep energy levels nicely topped up.
Green tea is rich in the amino acid, L-theanine, which helps to keep you alert. A study by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that consuming L-theanine helps to fight against the common cold – an illness that’s guaranteed to knock the wind out of your sails.
‘Wait a minute! Water has no calories, so how can it give you energy?’ We're glad we pretended you asked us that question. Drinking water provides energy indirectly. The obvious way it does this is by keeping you hydrated. There’s nothing like dehydration to tire you out, and most of us are continually dehydrated. Try meeting your daily quota of two litres of water and see how much better you feel. Water also helps to convert food and body fat into energy, increases levels of alertness and provides oxygen to the brain and cells to improve concentration. In short, it’s a must.
Eat crap and you’ll feel like crap. Eat right and you’ll feel a lot less like crap. To help you survive from climbing out of bed to climbing back in, without feeling totally fatigued, we’ve compiled a list of foods that are proven to effectively fuel your body.