30 Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels
Forget the coffee. For a long-lasting kick, focus on your diet.
Sure, you might be dragging because of lack of sleep or not keeping up with your workouts, but there's one common culprit you might be overlooking: your diet.
While filling your body with junk can make your energy plummet, eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods will do the opposite, allowing you to maximize your energy levels and conquer every task on your to-list.
Read on for 30 foods (and drinks!) that will put some pep in your step, no second cup of coffee required.
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OK, water isn't exactly a food, but it's the most important nutrient for your well-being—especially when it comes to amping up your energy. While not getting enough can leave you feeling fatigued, drinking the right amount (about eight glasses a day) can fuel you, helping you accomplish all your goals.
Next time you're about to reach for a snack, try taking a few sips of water first. "Sometimes we think we're hungry when we're really just thirsty," says Michelle Cady, an integrative nutrition health coach and founder of FitVista.com. "A glass of water can be the magic ticket to a renewed dose of energy to tackle your next task."
Ginger's anti-inflammatory effects and ability to boost the immune system have been used for years, but that's not the root's only benefit. According to a 2011 study published in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, it can also improve your circulation, which helps deliver oxygen around your body, making you feel more energized.
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There's no reason to be afraid of carbs. In fact, if you're avoiding them, that could be why you're feeling so lousy in the first place. Since they're the body's main source of fuel, use them to your advantage—particularly whole grains like brown rice, which will give you long-lasting energy.
The healthier rice choice is also a great source of manganese, which helps your brain function properly, enabling you to think more clearly.
When it comes to energy, you can't go wrong with vitamin C. The next time you're feeling a little low, add some citrus like oranges into your diet. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the fruit will give you lasting energy that doesn't result in a crash like your go-to sugary snack would.
Iron is responsible for helping the cells in your body produce energy, and spinach has a whole lot of it. But don't worry—you don't have to pull a Popeye to reap the benefits. If you aren't up for eating it plain, sneak a handful into your morning smoothie, or mix some leaves in with the rest of your salad so you won't notice them.
One of the easiest things you can do to amp up your energy is grab a jar of almond butter. Stock-full of protein, potassium, and healthy fats, you'll get a mental and physical boost as you go about your day: "They contain fats that will provide you with sustained energy and satiation," Cady says.
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Protein is a known major energy source, and eating plenty of beans is an easy way to reap all the benefits, meat-free. Just one cup of black beans, for instance, contains a whopping 39 grams that will leave you walking with a pep in your step for hours. Or, try a cup of kidney beans for an even bigger bang at 43 grams per cup.
If you're looking for the ultimate energy-boosting grain, look no further than quinoa. Not only does it contain iron that can help boost your metabolism, it's also full of energy-producing magnesium and manganese. There's a reason why ancient Incas considered it to be sacred—and we should, too.
Are pistachios not the perfect snacking food? The little green nuts are packed with protein (25 grams a cup!) and healthy fats that will load you up with enough energy to deal with whatever comes your way, whether it's annoying bosses, the office lunch thief, or a long commute home.
Yes, you officially have an excuse to order extra guac. Healthy fats and sugar are super important in your diet, making you feel more energized—and avocado is one of the best types to eat. Plus, aside from making you feel like the Energizer Bunny, they can also help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. (You know, just in case you needed another reason to indulge.)
When you're looking for foods to help maximize your energy levels, fiber is another great place to start, says the Mayo Clinic. Sweet and juicy pears are a perfect high-fiber snack with six grams each: Eating one on those afternoons you're feeling a little slow will help you perk up—and the effect will last for hours.
Chocolate definitely has a place in your diet when it comes to giving your energy a boost. But sorry—that doesn't mean it's a free-for-all. You have to make sure you're reaching for the right kind.
"Real dark chocolate is actually considered a health food, as long as you aim for 70 percent or more cacao," Cady tells Best Life. "You're going to get a good combination of fats to even out your blood sugar and give you a couple hours of energy until your next meal."
Coffee is great for energy—as long as you don't go overboard. A 2012 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found one cup is all you need to become more alert, but the Cleveland Clinic makes it clear that drinking too much can make you more tired later on and even affect your sleep schedule.
Like pears, plums are another great source of energy-boosting fiber you can simply stick in your bag and eat whenever you're in need of a little pick-me-up.
If you're looking for an even easier option, snack on a couple of their dried-up counterparts: prunes, which pack in close to a gram of fiber each depending on the size.
Oatmeal has a few things that will provide you with hours of energy: carbs, fiber, and a whole plethora of B vitamins. Make a bowl for breakfast, top it off with a handful of berries and a scoop of peanut butter, and your day will instantly be off to a great start.
You can't really go wrong with blueberries. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the little guys will give you loads of energy, whether you toss some into your oatmeal or stick them into a baggie and eat them plain on the way to work. They may be small, but don't let their size fool you: They're basically little blue powerhouses.
Listen up potato fans: This is the one type of potato you should always have in your kitchen, ready to devour. Cady says adding real-food carbohydrates from sweet potatoes into your diet is great for sustained energy. Plus, there's an extra bonus: If you've been having sugar cravings—from, say, cutting back on energy drinks—she says they'll help them go away.
Broccoli is easily considered one of the world's healthiest foods. There's 16 grams of energizing fiber per bunch that you can either eat plain, toss into pasta dishes to make them more hearty and filling, or even blend into a smoothie. Because of this, you can guarantee you'll not only feel full, but also super lively, for hours to come.
Matcha, a finery-ground powder made from green tea leaves, is a quick way to get a boost of energy, but it doesn't have the same effect as something jolting like coffee. While it definitely makes you more alert, a 2017 study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found the L-theanine it contains makes you feel super relaxed at the same time. It's basically the perfect combination.
Squeeze them into a glass of water, over your salad, and on your fish—or if you're really brave, simply suck on the sour fruit. Like other energizing citrus, lemons are full of vitamin C and can help you wake up when you're feeling sluggish, allowing you to show your day who's boss.
Like oatmeal, asparagus is jam-packed with B vitamins that contribute to upping your energy levels. Since eating it provides a slow burn, you won't have to worry about your newfound alertness just disappearing—it'll last for hours.
Chia seeds have been touted as a must-try healthy superfood, but not just because they're a great source of fiber, protein, and healthy fat. Because of their high nutritional value, they also provide all-day energy whether you're at the office or going for a jog.
"Chia seeds are a powerhouse for sustained energy," Cady says. "Ancient Aztec warriors used them for sustenance, and in the Mayan dialect, 'chia' means strength. Today, runners rely on chia seeds for sustained endurance energy for long training runs."
Eating some pineapple isn't just an easy way to feel like you've been transported to a tropical island. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the yellow stuff's high vitamin C content is also great for a quick energy boost without the crash, helping combat fatigue the right way.
Spinach isn't the only green that can help boost your energy. Kale, which is rich in fiber, calcium, potassium, and plenty of vitamins, should always be a staple in your diet. The taste can be hard to get used to at first, but with time (and dressing!) you'll start craving the important veggie.
Bananas are one of the best snacks around. Because they're naturally portable (hello, handy peel!) it's easy to keep one on hand when you're in need of some energy: Full of fiber, potassium, and plenty of B vitamins, they can keep you feeling peppy for hours.
Coffee and matcha are both great pick-me-ups, but green tea is a great option, too. According to Healthline, brewing yourself a cup can help boost alertness. And unlike drinking too much coffee, you won't feel a crash when it starts to wear off.
When it comes to getting a hearty dose of fiber, you can't go wrong with barley. One cup of the grain is packed with 32 grams, and that will provide a slow burn of energy throughout the day. Try adding it to your favorite soup to beef it up, or eating it for breakfast just like you would oatmeal.
People often forget about olives, but they make for a ridiculously energizing snack. Because they're a great source of healthy fats—like nuts and avocados—they serve as a solid source of fuel. Pack some up in a container to eat on the run when you're feeling depleted.
Strawberries are definitely a widespread favorite in the fruit department, and a 2020 study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that they can do your energy levels some major good. Researchers discovered the participants who were constantly tired had less anti-inflammatory bacteria in their guts, which is all the more reason why to add anti-inflammatory foods like this sweet red fruit into your diet.
Brain fog and fatigue may be less of a problem if you snack on a handful of walnuts. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found the Omega-3-packed nuts can do everything from improve concentration to up your processing speed, giving you just the jolt you need to make it through the day.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. If you have health questions or concerns, always consult your healthcare provider directly.
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