Food is fuel, but there are times you may find yourself having your own personal energy crisis. Don’t be surprised if it turns out those are the days you accidentally skipping snacking on any foods that give you energy.
Calories, the basic units used to measure the energy we get from food, may be created equal, but different macronutrients are broken down at different rates, so the cumulative effect of what you’re putting into your body could yield drastically different results. Optimizing the ratio of quick-burning carbs to slower-digesting protein and fats is key to keeping your internal cruise control set.
Instead of looking for a 3 p.m. sugar rush via nutritionally empty snacks of a hit of chocolate, “there are foods that can provide slow, steady energy without a sugar rush or a high,” says Keri Glassman, RD, a New York-based nutritionist. Load up on these foods that give you energy, and you’ll find yourself experiencing the opposite of a food coma.
5 Go-To Foods that Give You Energy
1. An apple with peanut butter
A medium apple has about 25 grams of carbohydrates and four grams of fiber. The latter stabilize the effect of all those carbs on blood glucose levels, which means digestion happens at a steady rate, doling out a constant supply of energy. A little protein and fat from the PB ensures you’ll have some in reserve, too, says Glassman.
2. A smoothie
This is one of the best bets for foods that give you energy fast because blending has already started to break the food down for you. Calories get into your bloodstream faster than they would with solid foods that need to be chewed and digested. Just make sure your smoothie has a decent balance of protein and carbs, says Glassman.
3. Whole-grain bread with almond butter and banana slices
B vitamins fuel your mitochondria, which, as you may recall from middle school biology, are the powerhouses of cells. Whole grains are a great source of several, including riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and folate. And bananas have a good amount of potassium, a nutrient that, with too low levels, can cause fatigue.
4. Chia pudding
Tiny chia seeds pack loads of power. Besides delivering protein, fiber, and omega-3s, research has found that consuming them before a 90-minute workout can enhance performance in a similar way to sugary energy drinks. They also absorb liquids incredibly well, which means you can meal prep a healthy snack option by stirring them into oat or almond milk and letting them rest overnight and bringing them with you the next day.
Oats are complex carbs and low on the glycemic index, so they provide exactly the kind of slow, steady digestion that gives you all-day energy. They’re also packed with other beneficial nutrients. Just avoid instant packets that have added sugar and skimp on fiber.
Bonus: Caffeine is a stimulant with proven ergogenic properties, which means it can boost your performance. “It isn’t energy, but feels like energy,” says Glassman. So long as you’re not relying solely on it for your energy needs and it doesn’t interfere with your sleep, an afternoon cup of joe (milk, no sugar) isn’t a bad idea.