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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

13 Best Energy Boosting Foods to Help You Stay Sharp All Day

13 Best Energy Boosting Foods to Help You Stay Sharp All Day

Do you find you need a “pick-me-up” in the middle of the day? Or maybe your energy wanes just before it’s time to leave work? In these instances, energy foods can be a great solution.

Many of us feel fatigued at a certain point during the day – maybe you didn’t go to bed early enough, or maybe you’re a new parent and just not getting enough sleep through the night. You could be having trouble sleeping and possibly need to look at your sleeping habits.

What if there were some foods that could help increase your energy and are actually healthy for you?

Before we get into the actual energy-boosting foods that can help, let’s talk briefly about how to eat for optimal energy. People that stay energetic throughout the day do a few key things:

  • To maintain blood sugar levels and energy evenly throughout the day, it’s best to snack every 2-3 hours
  • Having a balanced mix of the macro-nutrients—protein, fats, and carbohydrates—helps to ensure a slow, steady release of energy throughout the day
  • Including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps to ensure we get required vitamins and nutrients

In addition to eating healthy, balanced meals and snacks spaced throughout the day, there are many foods that can help give a more immediate boost. Although we often crave junk foods when we’re tired, these will do a much better job of boosting stamina without the terrible sugar crash soon after. Let’s take a look at the best energy foods:

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1. Caffeine

Coffee (and some teas) not only promotes central nervous system stimulation and boosts brain function, but it is also a great source of antioxidants and may possibly promote a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and liver disease[1].

Caffeine is said to affect some neurotransmitters that could improve mood, reaction time, learning and vigilance, making it a great energy-boosting food for our list.

2. Mint Leaves

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition says peppermint is thought to increase ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, which can lead to an increase in energy. That makes this an excellent energy food. Add some mint leaves to hot water for a drink that will get you through the afternoon.[2]

3. Ginger

Ginger is said to reduce fatigue by improving blood circulation and blood sugar levels. This deliciously fragrant food may also offer help to migraine sufferers – comparable even to the drug sumatriptan and with less side effects.[3]

4. Quinoa

Discovered by the Incas and thought to increase the stamina of their warriors, this grain has been touted as the super grain of the future, and one of the best energy-boosting foods for long-term health.

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Quinoa is the most protein-rich grain available, as well as a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids needed by the body. Quinoa contains iron, among other things that can help boost brain function as the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. It also contains Riboflavin (Vitamin b2) which improves energy metabolism within the brain, helping create proper energy production in cells.

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which both help to boost energy levels – the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and more energy boosting potential it has. The next time you’re feeling a little lethargic, take a little chocolate break with this energy food.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt has a high amount of protein, which can help you feel full for longer, so hunger will not distract you from your daily tasks. The fat content in Greek yogurt also tends to be more satisfying. Add in some fresh fruit for an antioxidant boost as well!

7. Berries

Berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins. Specifically, Goji berries are known to have high concentrations of melatonin, which can improve sleep and give you more energy during the day.

Berries are also said to stave off cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The healthy natural sugar in these sweet treats help offer a quick boost in your day, making them some of the best energy-boosting foods.

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8. Lentils

Lentils are excellent at stabilizing blood sugar and, therefore, offer you a slow burning source of energy to keep you feeling full throughout the day. They also help increase your iron stores, which can help boost energy[4].

9. Walnuts

These nuts contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein, which prevents energy crashes and keeps your energy more level throughout the day. A handful of walnuts as a mid-day snack is a great idea if you’re looking to add energy foods to your routine.

10. Cherries

Cherries are also good sources of melatonin, which can help you to get a better night’s sleep to keep you fresh through the day.[5] They have also been shown to reduce inflammation, which can cause fatigue in the long-term. 

11. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are an excellent source of quick, usable energy that provide many essential nutrients, including Vitamin A, B-6, C, and D. If you’re looking for energy-boosting foods, a small bag of dried fruit can give you the push you need to finish all of your projects.

12. Salmon

Salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to improve brain function and reduce fatigue while also providing vitamin B and protein, which can help sustain energy throughout the day. Omega-3’s are also great at reducing inflammation in the body, which helps reduce sleepiness.

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13. Green Tea

This type of tea contains some caffeine, which we know boosts energy. This warm gem has also been associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk[6].

Learn more about the benefits of green tea here.

The Bottom Line

So many of the foods we eat can help boost our energy. Whether they include complex carbohydrates for readily available energy, or packed with fiber and protein for a slower energy release, they can help increase power and stamina.

As a bonus, a lot of these foods also contain significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which have been shown to play a role in the production of energy within your cells.

Incorporating these energy-boosting foods into a varied diet will definitely help increase energy levels throughout the day and help to stave off that mid-to-late-day slump.

More Tips on Increasing Energy

Featured photo credit: THE 5TH via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: The latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee
[2] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The effects of peppermint on exercise performance
[3] Phytotherapy Research: Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine.
[4] Harvard T.H. Chan: Lentils
[5] Medical Daily: Cherry Health Benefits
[6] World Journal of Clinical Oncology: Green tea compounds in breast cancer prevention and treatment

More by this author

Laura Barr

Laura is a registered clinical massage therapist & certified fitness consultant specializing in holistic nutrition, injury & weight management.

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Last Updated on January 22, 2021

5 Simple Stretches to Boost Your Energy at Your Office Desk

5 Simple Stretches to Boost Your Energy at Your Office Desk

Everyone knows that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your body and your mind. Getting the blood flowing helps you stay fresh with creativity, boosts energy, and helps your body work more efficiently. Many of us don’t have the opportunity to get up and move around as often as we should, but simple stretches added in during the day can help.

Studies have found that prolonged sitting can lead to increased risk in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, deep-vein thrombosis, and metabolic syndrome. Sitting is also known to increase pain by tightening the hip flexor and hamstring muscle, as well as stiffening the joints. This can cause problems with balance and gait in addition to the obvious discomfort.[1]

One study found that “greater total sedentary time” and “longer sedentary bout duration” were both associated with a higher risk of death. Basically, those who moved around less were more likely to die from any cause[2].

While many of us have busy schedules that limit the amount of time we can exercise each day, doing simple stretches throughout the day at your desk can be a great option to encourage movement, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Here are 5 simple stretches you can do while sitting to improve your mind and body.

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1. Seated Twist

12 Chair Yoga Poses for Stress and Posture - PureWow

    Sitting in your chair while keeping a long, tall spine, place your right hand on the outside of your left knee. Use that hand as leverage to twist to your left, and place your left hand as far to the right as possible to have something to hang onto while you twist. Now join it with your breath.

    Exhale as you move into your twist, and inhale as you ease off. Repeat on the other side. Repeat for each side 2-3 times.

    This simple stretch is great to offer a release for your back, neck, and shoulders. The twist will also help rinse out your internal organs, giving you a little boost of energy.

    2. Chest/Shoulder Opener

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    Blog: Simple Yoga Techniques to Increase Effectiveness at Work

      Sitting on the edge of your chair, clasp your hands behind your back, opening up your chest and shoulders. Inhale/exhale several times, noticing that when you inhale your stretch increases. Release and repeat 2-3 times.

      This stretch, while aimed at the chest muscles, can also alleviate some upper back pain, as we often feel pain in this area when our chest muscles are tight. This will also open up your lungs, allowing you to take some deep breaths, which can help reduce stress.

      3. Seated Pigeon

      Yoga In The Office: 6 Chair Poses To Improve Your Posture

        I call this one Seated Pigeon as it is a cousin to the yoga pose called Pigeon, which is performed lying on the floor. Clearly this isn’t an option at work. This Seated Pigeon version might not work if you are wearing a short skirt or dress unless you have an office to yourself!

        Sit on the edge of your chair and place your right ankle over your left knee. Be sure that your left foot is directly under your left knee and flat on the floor. Sit nice and tall, imagining a string is pulling the crown of your head up towards the ceiling.

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        This one is great for releasing your gluteus medius and minimus muscles, as well as your piriformis muscles. These are your hip abductors. These are usually what aches when you sit so much! Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and repeat on each side 2-3 times.

        This will offer a great release in the hips, as well as create stability in the knee joint. Both of these will help you avoid pain once you get up to leave work for the day.

        4. Hip Flexor Stretch

        Self-Care | Stretching exercises, Hip flexor stretch, Exercise

          Sitting truly shortens and tightens your little hip flexor. This sits at the front in the crease of your hip. It runs through your pelvis to your back, so when it is tight, it often presents with an achy back.

          To lengthen this muscle while at your desk, sit at the edge of your chair, but shift to face to your left. Take your right leg and extend it behind you with as straight a knee as you can. Sit tall, and lift your sternum while trying to tuck your tailbone under, as this will deepen the stretch.

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          Repeat on the other side. Repeat for both sides 2-3 times.

          5. Hamstring Stretch

          The Best Hamstring Stretches for Sore or Tight Hamstrings | Shape

            This is an easy one to do either just before you sit down or just after getting up. While standing, soften your right knee and extend your left leg in front of you with your heel on the floor. On your left leg, draw your toes upwards, keep your knee slightly bent so you don’t strain your ligaments behind your knee.

            You want to feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle (that is, your mid-thigh, at the back of your leg) rather than behind the knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and switch to the other side. Repeat each side 2-3 times.

            Stretching out your hamstring can help relieve knee and lower back pain. It can also help increase your balance and range of motion. If you like to spend your free time running or jogging, your hamstrings will be grateful you took a moment to stretch them out at work as these muscles are notorious for tightening up quickly.

            The Bottom Line

            It isn’t necessary to do all of the stretches all at once. Take a stretch break every 45 minutes or so and choose a couple of different stretches. Next time, choose a different set of simple stretches. Ultimately, your brain and body will thank you for it!

            More Stretches for Your Day

            Featured photo credit: Keren Levand via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Harvard Health Publishing: The dangers of sitting
            [2] Annals of Internal Medicine: Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults

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