To get through the morning (and most of our day) many people rely on the power of caffeine, usually by having multiple cups of coffee a day. But is this enough or the best way to keep our energy levels going at a constant high?
If you think about it, one cup of coffee at 8am isn’t going to keep you lively and awake until 5pm. However, having several cups of coffee can have the opposite effect and keep you up all night long. Could there be an alternative to caffeine? Could we consume something else to sustain energy levels? Stop accepting fatigue as a price for having a full life – change your morning, afternoon and evening routines with foods that will keep you awake and ready for your day!
When we think about improving our energy levels, we automatically link sugary foods with staying awake and keeping energetic. However, sugar can also slow your body down after its temporary rush and can even leave you feeling even more tired and hungry. Discovering energy in foods and drinks isn’t always about trying to get that one-off super food or sugar fix, but consuming healthy options throughout the day. But what foods are guaranteed to put that spring back in your step? You would be surprised with some of the foods we’ve found!
How we can kick start our energy levels
Rebecca Williams, Practising Dietician at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council says one of the best ways to kick start the day is to have breakfast and to choose a balanced combination of quality grain foods and protein.
“This might look like a bowl of high fibre breakfast cereal with yoghurt or a piece of whole grain toast with eggs. Research shows that Australians who ate breakfast cereal had higher intakes of nutrients such as fibre, folate, iron and magnesium which are known to help fight fatigue, unlock metabolism and even out energy spikes and dips,” Rebecca explains.
“For most people regular meals and healthy snacks throughout the day will help to reduce fatigue and keep energy levels steady. People who skip meals may report feeling tired as our body’s needs energy from food to function.”
“Having a healthy, balanced breakfast and lunch with a mid-morning snack in between will help to keep your blood sugar levels steady and provide the energy you need to fuel your morning.”
“For long lasting energy choose low glycemic whole grain foods such as wholemeal bread or oats. These foods are rich in fibre so they break down more slowly and give you a steady energy release rather than a quick burst,” Rebecca points out.
“Eating foods that are rich in B vitamins may also help to boost energy levels as B vitamins are involved in creating the energy that our cells run on. Other minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc may also help to support an active mind and reduce the feeling of tiredness.”
“Good sources of these vitamins and minerals include whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fish, lean meat, beans, nuts and seeds,” Rebecca explains.
“Additionally, one of the signs of dehydration is fatigue so aim to drink water consistently throughout the day. This may mean carrying a water bottle with you or having a glass of water sitting on your desk.”
5 foods that raise your energy levels sky high
We all know the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it turns out that apples also have the natural power to keep sleepiness away too. Packed with natural sugar and fibre, apples are a fantastic way to wake up and are much healthier for you than your 5 cups of coffee! If you’re heading into school, university or work early this morning and need to be on top of your game, grab an apple on your way out.
“Fruit is rich in dietary fibre and a variety vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and magnesium) to help keep you healthy and feeling energised,” Rebecca explains.
“The majority of the fibre in fruits such as apples and pears is found within the skin, so opt for the whole fruit rather than putting it through the juicer.”
This piece of fishy advice is a good one to take on board. Eating salmon is very high in essential omega-3 fatty acids and are mainly needed for energy production, brain activity and circulation. With a dose of salmon during the week, you’ll not only be maintaining your heart health and feeling better health-wise, but your brain and energy levels will be rising.
Whether scrambled, poached or fried, eggs are amazing for your body and energy levels. They’re high in iron and protein so your energy isn’t short lived and can carry on right through till the end of the day. Choline is also found in eggs which is a type of B-vitamin that’s needed for the brain to function.
“Eating eggs for breakfast has been shown to increase satiety and promote steady blood sugar and insulin levels. As well as being a good source of protein, eggs contain omega 3 as well as eleven different vitamin and minerals,” Rebecca explains.
“Eggs are a versatile food that can be enjoyed in many different ways, but don’t forget to pair them with a source of good quality carbohydrate such as wholemeal toast,”
Whatever your favourite whole grain may be, the complex carbohydrates, fibre and B-vitamins and iron and will keep that energy high until you have your next meal. Pretty crazy how grains can do that! If you’re wacky about wheat, over the top about oats or just really like your rice, you’ll have your daily routines more energised and less sluggish.
“Whole grains contain more than 26 nutrients and phytonutrients which help to boost energy levels and maintain health,” Rebecca says.
“Opting for whole grain or high fibre grain foods has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” Rebecca explains.
“While bread often gets a bad rap, a recent comprehensive audit of grain foods on shelf by the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council showed that the vast majority white and wholemeal bread loaves (95%) contained less than a teaspoon of sugar and 81% were a source of plant-based protein.”
“Bread is also one of the leading contributors of fibre in the Australian diet and whole grain varieties contain slowly digestible carbohydrate which will help to keep your energy levels steady,” Rebecca points out.
“A bowl of whole grain or high fibre breakfast cereal with low fat milk or yoghurt is another great way to increase your intake of dietary fibre, carbohydrate, protein, B vitamins, iron and calcium, and give you the energy you need to get through the morning.”
“Research also shows that people who eat breakfast cereal regularly have a better nutritional status, lower BMI and reduced risk of overweight and obesity”.
Feel like fighting your weak immune system and the tiredness that has your eye lids drooping? A tub of yoghurt can solve all your troubles! Yoghurt contains probiotics which are known for playing a key part in a healthy digestion system and also for their ability to fight a weak immune system. Improve your energy, digestion and immunity through some delicious yoghurt, super simple!
“Dairy foods such as yoghurt are packed with nutrients including calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, riboflavin and vitamin B12 which are important for good health and vitality,” Rebecca says.
“Yoghurt is also a source of protein, which will help to provide the energy you need to take on the day. Opt for plain, low sugar varieties and add your own flavour and sweetness with chopped fruit or berries.”
3 foods that make your energy levels crash
Here’s a food I’m sure you never guessed depleted your energy levels: cherries. That’s right, cherries and even their juice has been known to work well as a natural sleep aid due to their high levels of melatonin. The little red fruit can actually help regulate sleep so it may be a bad decision to eat these as a midday snack (unless you feel like a midday nap of course!) They still remain a healthy snack option to munch on but you might want to save these delicious fruits for a bedtime snack instead.
Muffins, Biscuits and Pastries
When you are looking for that mid-morning pick me up it can be easy to reach for the biscuit jar or pick up a muffin with your morning coffee. While these foods can provide that jolt of energy we are looking for, they don’t go the distance and may leave you feeling tired only a short-time later.
“Processed or discretionary foods, such as cakes, muffins and pastries are high in sugar and unhealthy fats and lacking in important energy-sustaining nutrients such as dietary fibre and B vitamins,” Rebecca explains.
“For sustained energy levels throughout the morning, ditch the croissant or muffin at breakfast and opt for a source of good quality carbohydrate and protein such as rolled oats with yoghurt or a piece of whole grain toast with eggs,” Rebecca says.
We’ve all heard that if you want a good night’s sleep, warm milk before bed will do the trick. However, this is the truth with any dairy product you eat such as cheese, its calcium properties help to trigger sleep so maybe put those cheese and crackers away! Calcium helps your brain use tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture melatonin. The next thing you know, you’re sleeping soundly! Keep the diary products as a night time treat only to avoid falling asleep at your desk.
So how do you get yourself up in the morning? Which foods are your main sources of energy to kick-start that long work day? If you have extra suggestions we haven’t already mentioned then head to our Facebook page and share some ideas on how to keep awake all day long.