Takeaway: If our body is an engine, food is the fuel our body needs to perform properly. It is important that we fuel our bodies with nutrient dense foods, and never let our tanks go on empty. Here is a list of 13 foods that provide the sustained energy you want to help you remain productive for the entirety of the day.
It is very common for many of us feel tired and beat halfway through the workday. This can be attributed to a lack of nutrients and energy in our diet. Because we know that not all calories are created equal, it’s important to choose foods that give you energy.
What is Energy Density?
Understanding energy density can be useful if you’re trying to minimize or maximize your calorie intake. Energy density is the amount of energy or calories per gram of food.
Studies have shown that people tend to consume about the same amount of food each day in terms of weight, but not necessarily the same amount of energy (calories). Foods with a lower energy density provide fewer calories per gram than foods with a higher energy density.
For the same amount of calories, a person can consume a larger portion of food lower in energy density than a food higher in energy density. This is because the composition of foods influences energy density values. Water, for instance, lowers the energy density of foods because it has an energy density of 0 kcal/g and contributes weight but not energy to foods.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have fat. Fat is the most energy-dense component of food, providing more than twice as many calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein.
What are Energy-Dense Foods?
Foods are divided into three categories of energy density. There are low-density foods, which include foods with lots of water and fiber, but are low in fat. Foods with low energy density are typically very filling. These foods include fruits and vegetables, low-fat soups, yogurt, and legumes.
Many studies have confirmed that consuming a lower energy-dense diet can be an effective way to control hunger and reduce your calorie intake. To maintain a healthy weight, a diet consisting of low energy-dense foods is recommended.
The medium energy density category has a wide range of foods. It is important to incorporate some of these food items into a well-balanced diet plan. Foods in this category include salmon, low-fat cheese, and lean red meats. Pizza, fried chips, and pastries are also considered medium energy-dense foods that should only be consumed every so often.
Foods in the high energy density category tend to be high in fat and have low water content. High energy-dense foods include bread, butter, cheese, oil, and condiments such as mayonnaise. When consuming a low energy density diet, you can still eat foods from this category, but in small portions and not too often.
Energy Density Has Nothing to Do with Nutritional Value
“Energy density” and “nutrient density” are phrases that are mistakenly seen as interchangeable but in actuality describe completely different aspects of food. Energy density has nothing to do with the actual nutritional value of any one food item.
Nutrient density refers to how much nutrition a food provides per calorie. It is most useful as a way to compare two food items. If a food item provides more nutrition for the same amount of calories or fewer calories, then it is more nutrient dense than the other food item.
Keep in mind that energy density doesn’t take the nutritional value into account at all. Because nutrient density takes both nutrition and energy (or calories) into account, it’s probably a better guide for overall nutrition.
The great thing about foods with low energy density is that they often are also nutrient dense providing a lot of nutrients per serving size. Many types of fruits, berries, and vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.
How Does Food Give You Energy and Stamina?
The energy in our body is a direct correlation of the energy in the food we eat. The food we eat provides units of energy in the form of calories that give our bodies fuel to perform all necessary functions from breathing to walking to any challenging form of physical activity. These macronutrients are broken down and digested to provide our body with fuel to get through the day.
The acids and enzymes in our stomach break down our food for digestion. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Fat is a major source of stored energy and is held in our body until we need it, and fat is actually the preferred source of energy for the heart. Protein is a long-lasting form of energy that is broken down slowly. It is primarily used as energy when the body has a low number of carbohydrates to obtain energy from, and total calorie intake is too low.
Energy and Physical Activity
During physical activity, the body uses calories from all three sources of macronutrients. High-intensity activities require energy derived from primarily from carbohydrates. During moderate, more extended physical activity, the body burns mostly fat with a slight use of carbohydrate and protein energy.
Every piece of food we eat supplies calories for energy, but not all calories are created equal. Certain foods provide more vitamins and minerals for the amount of energy they supply, which is why choosing nutrient-dense foods to fuel the body with the daily energy it needs is so important.
Foods high in sugar and low in nutrients are broken down quickly and don’t supply sufficient energy. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, provide a more steady release of energy throughout the day. Lean proteins are also a good source of energy for our body. Chicken breast, beans, and healthy fats are all examples of lean protein.
13 Foods That Give You Energy
Generally speaking, all of the food we consume is suppose to give us some form of energy. But, some foods are better at providing the sustained energy we want to help us remain productive for the entire day.
Try munching on some of these energy boosting foods to keep you alert throughout your busy day:
Eggs are high on our list of foods that give you energy. They tend to score high on the satiety index and provide plenty of power to fuel your day. A single egg has just 70 calories and is packed with 6 grams of protein. They contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids to help you stay energized and prevent overeating.
Most of the nutrients are found in the yolk of the egg, which is filled with antioxidants and all 9 essential amino acids. The protein in eggs gives you a steady and sustained source of energy because it doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels in the body when digested.
Leucine, one of the most abundant amino acid in eggs, can help cells take in more blood sugar, stimulate the production of energy in the cells and increase the breakdown of fat to produce energy. The vitamin B in eggs also helps enzymes in the body perform their role in the processes of breaking down food for energy.
With its high abundance of vitamins and minerals, apples are also a food that gives energy and stamina. Apples are made up of simple carbohydrates, which can offer a quick burst of fuel. They score very high on the satiety index, at around 200.
An apple contains about 25 grams of carbs, 19 grams of sugar and up to 4 grams of fiber. Due to their rich content of natural sugars and fiber, apples can provide a slow and sustained energy release.
The antioxidant content in apples can slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, so energy is steadily released over an extended period of time.
When it comes to foods that give you energy, quinoa is a great go-to. One cup of quinoa provides 39 grams of carbs, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of protein and a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. Because quinoa has a low glycemic index, the high number of carbohydrates in it is absorbed slowly and can provide a sustained energy release.
This complete protein source is processed by enzymes in the body to produce energy. The protein and fiber content of quinoa can increase the feeling of fullness and help you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
4. Green Tea
Green tea has also made it to our list of foods that give you energy.
Green tea contains caffeine which can increase energy levels. It also contains a compound called L-theanine. L-theanine can eliminate some of the adverse effects of caffeine such as anxiety and the jitters.
Research has shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in green tea can increase focus, alertness and mental concentration. Green tea also produces a smoother boost of energy than coffee. And, an added bonus- its powerful properties help burn belly fat!
Yogurt is a high energy food. The simple sugars in yogurt (lactose and galactose) provide instant energy when broken down. It is also a great source of high-quality protein to fill you up and provide essential energy for the brain.
Yogurt contains an abundance of B2 and B12. These vitamins aid the formation of cells in the body. The best part about this food is it pairs well with pretty much everything and keeps you feeling full for an extended period of time.
Legumes such as beans and lentils are loaded with fiber and plant-based protein, yet have a relatively low energy density. They are very filling and will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Legumes are digested slowly, which helps you maintain stable blood sugar levels and gives you steady energy.
Beans are a good sources of folic acid, iron, manganese, and magnesium, all of which are involved in the production of energy and help with the delivery of energy to all cells in the body. Legumes are rich in nutrients and a great source of natural energy.
Avocados are also part of our healthy foods to eat. Avocados are considered to be a super food because of the many benefits that provide. They are filled with healthy fats and fiber which come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These healthy fats promote optimal blood fat levels and help your body better absorb nutrients. They are also stored in the body from time to time and later used as a source of energy. The fiber in avocados helps maintain steady energy levels.
8. Chia seeds
Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds are all goods that give you energy. The fatty acids in seeds are an important source of stored energy and help your cells function properly. They can also reduce inflammation and fatigue.
Chia seeds provide stable energy because of their high ratio of protein, fats, and fiber. They are low in carbs and won’t cause spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels.
Berries are also a group of foods that boost energy. One cup of strawberries provides 12 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar. They provide antioxidants to your body and help fight inflammation and fatigue which may help give you energy.
They’re perfect if you want something sweet without the sugar rush or midday crash that comes from eating a doughnut or candy bar. This vitamin C rich fruit pairs well with many recipes, smoothies, and yogurt snacks.
This complex carbohydrate is one food that gives you energy and stamina. Oatmeal is a whole-grain food that could provide you with long-lasting energy. It also scores high on the satiety index, ranking 3rd overall.
It contains beta-glucan, which slows down the digestive process in the body and can help you feel full for an extended period of time. Oatmeal’s power to keep you feeling full comes from its high fiber content and its ability to soak up water.
Nuts like almonds, peanut butter, and cashews are bursting with nutrients, healthy fats, and protein! They are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants that can increase energy levels and help with inflammation and antioxidant protection.
Nuts provide a good ratio or carbs and fiber which can deliver a steady and sustained energy boost. Nuts are also the ultimate on-the-go snack.
When we think energy, we typically reach for a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The caffeine in coffee makes it a great pre-workout option and helps enhance energy for the duration of your workout. Coffee is recommended early in the morning or midday, as taking it too late in the evening can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
At two calories per cup, coffee is the most low-calorie way to get the jolt of energy your body needs. It can help you stay alert and focused while you get work done.
13. Dark Chocolate
Research shows that snacking on dark chocolate can increase alertness and attentiveness. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa will give you the energy boost you need. The antioxidants in cocoa have proven to increase blood flow throughout the body helping the delivery of oxygen to the brain and muscles.
Dark chocolate is a great pre-workout snack that has been shown to enhance mental energy and mood.