If you're reaching for a double shot latte every day at 3 p.m., you may not be getting the nutrients you need for sustained energy. Here's what you should opt for instead.

Jamie Vespa, MS, RD
October 09, 2017

If you find yourself snoozing your alarm clock in the morning or relying on several cups of coffee to stay awake at work, you should probably take a closer look at what you're eating—or what's missing from your diet. For long-lasting energy, turn to these whole foods that are packed with necessary nutrients. 

Adequate Calories—and the Right Kind

Eating insufficient calories ultimately decreases metabolic rate (read: calories you burn at rest) as the body tries to conserve energy. To keep energy levels high and metabolism revved up, it’s important to meet your minimum daily calorie needs. Maximizing nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains will help maintain high energy levels.

Magnesium

The National Institute of Health says magnesium is involved in over 1000 enzymatic reactions in the body, and it's crucial for providing our cells with energy. Spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and almonds are all great sources of magnesium. 

B Vitamins

B vitamins help your body convert the food you consume into glucose, which helps give you energy. Foods rich in B vitamins include eggs, milk, cheese, shellfish, poultry, and soy-based beverages and meat substitutes. Whole-grain and enriched-grain products including bread, rice, pasta, tortillas and fortified cereals, are also great sources.

 

Iron

This study linked iron deficiency to a disturbance in cognitive function, low energy levels, fatigue, and even depression. If you have anemia or you're feeling extra foggy or tired, you may need some extra iron — red meat, tofu, dark leafy greens, oats, eggs, beans, and some nuts are all great sources.

Water

Staying hydrated is super important if you're trying to keep your energy levels up. Tufts University found that mild dehydration — a loss of just 1 to 2 percent of body weight as water — was enough to impair thinking and cause fatigue. Coming up with a one-size-fits-all water recommendation is difficult because our need for water varies based on age, size, activity level, and even the temperature; but you should try to drink at least 1 cup every few hours.

Protein

Protein takes longer to break down in your body than carbohydrates, which means it's a longer-lasting source of energy (and helps keep you fuller, longer). You can find protein in meat, fish, beans, nuts, dairy, and eggs.

Caffeine

Ok, this one seems obvious, but caffeine functions as a stimulant to give you a quick hit of energy. Just be weary about the additives that sometimes come in caffeinated beverages — cream, syrups, or sugar can sneak into coffee and energy drinks and add up quickly. Typically 400 mg of caffeine a day is safe for most adults, but always talk to your health care provider for advice concerning your caffeine consumption.

A sample day on an energy-boosting diet plan could look something like this:

Breakfast: Breakfast Bowl with Tomato, Avocado, and Egg

Snack: An apple with 2 tbsp. peanut butter

Lunch: Black and Blue Steak Salad

Snack: Greek yogurt sprinkled with almonds, pumpkin seeds, and a drizzle of honey

Dinner: Rigatoni with Kale Pesto