Best Foods for Energy

Ever since we turned the clocks back, I’ve been hearing from friends, family and clients that their energy level throughout the day hasn’t been quite up to par. So, as any good nutritionist would do, I started to look into different foods that I could suggest they eat on a regular basis that perhaps could provide a little extra oomph to their day.

The following 10 foods are what I discovered to provide a boost of energy:

1. Coffee and/or tea.

2. Eggs.

3. Legumes.

4. Salmon.

5. Barley.

6. Spinach.

7. Raspberries.

8. Banana.

9. Pasta.

10. Peas.

[Read: Guide to Boosting Your Metabolism.]

10 Foods to Boost Energy

Coffee and Black Tea
Honestly, this is probably a no-brainer since we all know that caffeine can boost our energy levels. I would recommend though that added sugars and fats be kept to a minimum otherwise it would be counter-productive for one’s health. Also, I would be careful not to exceed more than four cups of coffee a day as this may cause unpleasant side-effects such as jitters, insomnia, upset stomach and dizziness.

Eggs are a good source of protein and leucine — two important nutrients that may help with that extra oomph. Protein breaks down slower in our bodies than simple carbohydrates, giving us a more sustained level of energy. Leucine is an amino acid that may be used by skeletal muscle to provide energy during exercise.

Legumes, such as black beans, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans, are good sources of B vitamins, fiber and protein. One of vitamin B’s major role in our body is to help convert food we eat into energy. Fiber, same as protein, breaks more slowly in our bodies providing more lasting energy.

Salmon, like most fish, is a good source of B vitamins, protein and healthy fats. This nutrient combo is perfect to aid in satiety from the protein and fat, as well as provide the metabolism benefit of B vitamins.

[Read: Foods High in Vitamin B12.]

One-hundred percent whole grains are another great category of food for energy. As opposed to simple carbohydrates, which may give you a short boost of energy and then a potential crash, complex carbohydrates, such as barley, have the potential to digest slower, therefore providing more lasting energy.

When many of us think of spinach we visualize Popeye the Sailor Man opening a can. OK, so maybe I’m dating myself. But spinach for ages has been thought of as the food to give us strength and energy. Besides the B vitamins, spinach is a good source of iron. And for those individuals lacking in this nutrient, they may develop anemia, whose side effect is often fatigue.

Of all the fruits out there, raspberries have one of the highest fiber amounts, with 8 grams per cup. Because fiber is a slow-digesting carbohydrate, it’s beneficial to include with meals for more lasting energy.

[SEE: How to Eat for Healthy Muscles.]

Another fruit that works well in boosting energy levels is a banana. It has less fiber than raspberries, only 3 grams for a medium sized banana, but overall it’s high in fast-acting carbohydrates for a quicker boost. However, to help sustain that energy, I would recommend topping the banana with nut butter, which includes healthy fats and some protein.

There’s a reason so many runners eat pasta the night before a big race. Carbohydrates that aren’t used immediately as fuel for our body are stored as glycogen in our muscles for later use. Of course, I’m not saying load up on bowlfuls of fettuccine Alfredo, but a dinner of grilled salmon tossed with sauteed spinach and linguine might go a long way.

Last, but not least, are peas. Maybe they are in this list because I simply think they are kept off of too many lists. I’m pea fan. They’re good sources of fiber, protein and B vitamins — therefore meeting my criteria for a food that provides energy. And since they’re easily available in a can, they are also a handy food to have in your pantry year-round. So, no need to waste any energy looking for them.

Bottom Line

A well-balanced diet that includes any of the above-mentioned foods may help in increasing one’s energy levels. But no one food is a miracle worker. It’s only part of the big picture. A person’s overall lifestyle is most important, and that also includes sleep habits, amount of physical activity and stress levels.

In addition, make sure to drink plenty of water. About 60% of our body is made up of water, so there shouldn’t be any surprises that our body performs best when hydrated. Dehydration the other hand can cause a person to feel tired. A simple formula to remember how much you should drink daily is to take an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, or a little more if temperatures or your activity levels rise.

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