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Restore Energy

8 Foods That Can Drain Your Energy (And 5 That Boost Yours)

Written by Trish Hannah
Integrative Nutrition Health and Wellness Coach, Personal Trainer and Founder of the Lose Weight Easily Program.
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Doesn’t it just seem like there is never enough energy to get through the day? You could be sleeping seven to nine hours per night and still feel drained all the time.

But did you know it could be what you are eating that is zapping your energy and making you feel depleted? Some popular foods may be unexpectedly draining your energy, and you don’t even notice it.

If you’re looking for an answer to your zapping energy, our list below can probably begin to explain why. Let’s get right into it.

8 Foods That Drain Your Energy

Here are eight popular foods that can unexpectedly drain your energy levels.

1. Processed Grains and Other Simple Carbohydrates

While a bagel for breakfast might be your go-to morning option, this early dose of simple, refined carbohydrates could be the direct link to your low energy.

White flour bagels and bread, white potatoes, white flour tortillas, white pasta, and white rice all contain simple carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar only to cause it to drop a couple of hours later. This can leave you feeling drained.

But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly, providing more stable blood sugar levels.

Healthier carbohydrate choices include whole-grain or sourdough bread, brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, sweet potatoes, bran cereal, bulgur, and whole oats. These alternatives won’t have the same effect on your blood sugar and can give you longer-lasting energy.


Another excellent option I recommend to my clients is to pair a carbohydrate with protein and healthy fat for sustained energy.

For example, have a whole-grain bagel with an egg and some avocado instead of eating the carbohydrate alone.

2. Orange Juice

Orange juice is often marketed as a healthy morning beverage, and it may give you an initial energy boost. But that fades pretty quickly as your blood sugar levels drop, leaving you drained of energy.

The reason is the same as with processed grains. The simple carbohydrates—otherwise known as sugar—are digested quickly, which causes a quick rise and fall in your blood sugar level.

A lot of orange juices have high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and artificial colors and flavors added in. You can swap these sugary beverages for water.

There are many ways to make water more enjoyable. You can add berries, lemon, lime, a few cucumber slices, or mint to give water some flavor. Also, you can try freezing berries into ice cubes and adding them to your water.

Artificially sweetened beverages are not the best alternative either. According to WebMD, studies done on mice and humans suggest that artificial sweeteners could raise your blood sugar levels more than if you indulged in sugar-sweetened sodas and desserts.[1]


3. Processed Foods With Added Sugars

Many foods available today are laden with added sugars, which can deplete your energy when ingested too frequently.

Breakfast cereals and snack bars are great examples of common processed foods that are loaded with added sugars.

Most breakfast cereals contain very little fiber yet significant amounts of added sugars. In fact, sugars make up as much as 50% of the total weight of many popular breakfast cereals, and these are marketed toward children![2]

This combination of high sugar and low fiber content can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to a rise in energy and followed by a crash, zapping your energy and expanding your waistline.

4. Coffee and Energy Drinks

There’s no denying that the caffeine in coffee and energy drinks can provide you with a short-term energy boost, but of course, later you may experience a potential energy crash.

This up and down cycle can really take a toll on your energy levels. Over time, you will need more and more caffeine to get any effect, if it will still work for you at all.

Energy drink manufacturers include a mix of stimulating ingredients in their formulations, such as ginseng and ginkgo biloba. However, researchers attributed most energy-boosting effects to the sugar and caffeine these drinks contain.[3]

When it comes to sugar, many energy drinks contain ridiculously high amounts of it, and in some cases, as much as 10 teaspoons (52 grams) per container.


As mentioned previously, consuming large quantities of sugars can cause your energy to spike and then drop sharply, potentially causing you to feel more tired than you did before consuming the drink.

Caffeine can also cause dehydration, which can further rob you of energy.

To cut out caffeine from your diet gradually, first, switch to coffee that’s half-caffeinated and half-decaffeinated, or switch to caffeinated tea, which has less caffeine. Then, switch to herbal tea and aim to drink 64 ounces (8 cups) of water a day.

5. Red Wine

Wine is often used as a stress reliever or even a sleep aid for some people. What they don’t realize is that any form of alcohol can make your sleep less restorative.

Sleepers who consume substantial amounts of alcohol before going to bed are more likely to experience delayed sleep onset, which means they take longer to fall asleep. As liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol during the night and the blood alcohol level decreases, these individuals are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreases in sleep quality.[4]

Instead of an alcoholic beverage, try sparkling water with muddled berries and a twist of lemon or a glass of kombucha, a fermented tea. Calming herbal teas like chamomile are a great addition to your bedtime routine to help you unwind and relax.

6. Fried/Fast Foods

Due to their high fat content, poor fiber content, and lack of vitamins, minerals, and other necessary components, fried fast foods can deplete your energy. Your digestion may become sluggish because of these factors.[5]


Consuming too many fatty foods at once may also make you feel bloated. This can sap your energy or motivation to do anything for the next few hours in some circumstances.

7. Low-Calorie Foods/Snacks

It was once believed that calorie restriction was the only way to lose weight. Some flawed research and subsequent marketing made the calorie restriction diet very popular.[6]

The problem is that our bodies are not a math equation. There is more to our health than calories in and calories out. But this constant restriction of calories or energy leaves your body in an energy-depleted state.

Calories are a unit of measurement used to estimate how much energy a food will provide your body once it is digested. Your body uses calories to sustain basic functions, such as breathing, thinking, and your heartbeat.

Regularly providing your body with substantially fewer calories than it requires can create hormonal imbalances and slow down your metabolism, leaving you feeling drained.

Eating too few calories at meals or snacks may also increase cravings. This can lead you to overeat at the next meal, leaving you feeling overly full and sluggish.


8. Low Iron Foods

Not getting enough iron in your diet may cause you to feel tired and weak and reduce your energy.

How much iron you need depends on your age and gender. Men need at least 8 milligrams daily, while women ages 50 and younger need 18 milligrams.

Iron, from the foods you eat, is absorbed in your small intestine. Conditions like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease can make it harder for your intestines to absorb iron.

Surgery, such as gastric bypass that removes part of your intestines, and medicines used to lower stomach acid can also affect your body’s ability to absorb iron.

You can add more iron to your diet by eating more iron-rich foods, such as:

  • Beef, pork, liver, chicken, turkey, duck, and shellfish
  • Leafy greens, such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, and collard greens
  • Peas, lima beans, black-eyed peas, and pinto beans
  • Iron-enriched cereals and other grains
  • Dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins

These eight foods can zap your energy, but there are some foods that you can start adding to your diet today that can surprisingly boost your energy.

5 Energy-Boosting Foods

Here are five energy-boosting foods that you can incorporate into your diet to help keep you feeling energized.

1. Eggs

Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamins B12 and B6—the B-vitamins that are essential for energy production.[7]

They are particularly high in leucine, an essential amino acid which helps in energy utilization and muscle recovery after exercise.


2. Bananas

There is no better food than a banana for a rapid energy boost. Bananas contain the natural sugars sucrose, fructose, and glucose, as well as fiber.

A banana gives an instant and sustained boost of energy in a simple portable snack. It’s packed with potassium, fiber, vitamins, and the perfect amount of carbohydrates that provide you with a big boost of natural energy.

3. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds may be an excellent source of prolonged energy thanks to the carbohydrate content, healthy fats, and filling fiber.

Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain around 24 grams of carbohydrates and 4.8 grams of omega-3s, which are both heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory.


For everyday use, a couple tablespoons of chia seeds in your morning smoothie or a scoop in your afternoon yogurt may provide just enough energy boost to keep lethargy at bay.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts give long-lasting energy, take up little space, and have a high calorie content mixed with fiber, which delays absorption and extends energy activity. These fruits include critical fatty acids like oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acid, which the human body cannot make and must get from the diet.

As a bonus, consuming nuts regularly helps improve your immune response to viruses and common infections and can boost your immune system to prevent various diseases.[8]

Like bananas, nuts are a great portable snack for on-the-go people. Try almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Eating raw, unsalted versions is recommended.

5. Avocados

Because they are so nutritious, avocados are quite well-liked in the health and wellness community. They’ve been associated with a number of health benefits and commonly referred to as superfoods.[9]

Avocados are high in fiber, good fats, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and folate. Avocado consumption on a regular basis will help to improve the overall quality of your diet.


Here are some ideas for how to incorporate more avocado into your diet:

  • Use avocado in place of mayo with Greek yogurt in chicken, salmon, egg, and tuna salads.
  • Toss frozen or fresh avocado chunks into smoothies.
  • Incorporate avocado into salads and grain bowls.
  • Whip up a dairy-free avocado chocolate mousse or pudding.
  • Smash avocado on top of toast or a half roasted sweet potato.
  • Use avocados in tacos and burritos.
  • Top your favorite burger with sliced avocado.

Bottom Line

The old saying, “you are what you eat” is still true to this day! By avoiding these eight energy-zapping foods, you can boost your energy naturally and gain other amazing benefits, such as clear glowing skin, improved blood pressure and cholesterol, and even a smaller waistline!

Featured photo credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya via unsplash.com


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