It’s 3 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and I’m slumped over at my desk counting the minutes until I can crawl back under my covers and take a nap. Sound familiar?
You’re not alone. Millions of us suffer from the “midday slump” phenomenon. We’ve been up since 6am, working for 6 hours and functioning off of 6 hours (or less) of sleep. We just can’t seem to keep our eyes open — now what? It’s time to refuel and recharge! Aside from being delicious and providing pleasure (that’s right) to the senses, food is the key to providing ENERGY to all living beings.
But just like humans, no two foods are exactly alike. Some foods will nourish and energize you while others will drain you and wreak havoc on your body, which may be the reason why you’re in this low energy mess in the first place. Finding balance with what you eat will give you the energy you need to avoid the midday slump and eat healthier!
You may have heard “Food is Fuel” and if you’re eating the right ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fat then you are definitely fueling up your body. Typically getting “55% of our calories from carbohydrates, 15% of our calories from protein, and 30% of our calories from fat” will do the trick, but these are general numbers and they change depending on individual circumstances. It can be hard to find the time to track and calculate these numbers — believe me I understand! So a great solution to this would be to stock your fridge and pantry with essential foods that are healthy, all-natural, unprocessed and packed specifically with protein, healthy fats and unrefined carbohydrates. That way you only have quality foods to choose from and to grab when you’re in a hurry. Listed are some of my favorite energy boosting foods that give me prolonged energy and endurance while I’m sitting at my desk or working out at the gym!
Energy Boosting Foods
- BANANAS – They’re filled with fiber, B vitamins and potassium that help sustain energy and muscle function. When paired with a high protein food, these are great as a pre- or post-workout snack or a balanced breakfast.
- ALMONDS – High in magnesium and B vitamins, 1 ounce of almonds every day will give you a boost of energy and help you get through a workout too.
- GREEK YOGURT with HONEY – This is a powerhouse of protein and with the added natural sweetener that is honey, you’ll fuel your muscles and stimulate your brain.
- PEANUT BUTTER – With a healthy balance of fats, protein and fiber, peanut butter keeps your blood-sugar levels stable and offers a great deal of balanced energy.
- APPLES – Did you know that eating an apple has been compared with drinking coffee? The energy boost that an apple offers is incredible! Because it is high in fiber, an apple will give you prolonged energy.
- SPINACH – Because spinach is an excellent source of iron (when paired with vitamin C), it's sure to increase energy production in the body.
- EGGS – They are an energy powerhouse because they contain the highest complete form of protein and all of the essential amino acids that your body needs.
In moments of desperation, I’m guilty of reaching for cookies or potato chips (or both) for energy. Little did I know (until only a few years ago) that these were NOT the best foods to turn to. If you eat sugar-, salt- or caffeine-laden foods, you may get a boost of energy, but that boost doesn’t last very long. It quickly fades and you’re left craving more, and so begins the cycle of unhealthy snacking and possible weight gain. Here are a few foods that you may want to steer clear of the next time you need sustained energy.
5 Energy Busting Foods
- SUGAR – This is a pseudo-energy boost because eating foods that are high in sugar will actually make you more tired. Your blood sugar will rise higher than normal, which means it will fall lower than normal, and then you’ll definitely need that nap.
- COFFEE – Caffeine will definitely give you an energy boost. Your mind and body get tricked into thinking there’s energy there to be used; however, once the caffeine rush wears off, your body has nothing to use for energy and exhaustion and hunger may set in.
- SODA – Prepare to meet the fate of sugar AND caffeine in one convenient bottle. Need I say more?
- ALCOHOL – You may feel happy and energized after a few drinks, but the after affects could disrupt your sleep and cause lots of fatigue the following day (aka hangover central).
- PROCESSED SNACKS – These guys will keep you coming back for more because they contain little to no vitamins or minerals and your body never gets the message that its hunger is satisfied.
If you’re racking your brain for ways to organize your daily food (and drink) intake, I recommend keeping a food journal. Once I started writing down what I ate (and drank) in a day, I began to see patterns. For example, when I ate a protein bar that had more sugar than protein in it for breakfast, I felt great…for a short time. I didn’t feel satisfied and I was craving more and more foods. On the other hand, when I had two eggs, a slice of whole-wheat toast and a banana for breakfast — boy, did I feel AMAZING! What a difference. The beautiful thing is that you have the power to control what you eat and once you notice the poor food choices that you’re making, you make necessary changes. Goodbye midday slump and hello stimulating energy!
Note: If you feel exhausted and/or lethargic, you should consult your doctor as this may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that may need further treatment.
Monica Sellecchia is a Certified Chef & Health Enthusiast.