What Do I Eat to Increase My Energy?

Is there anything that I could add to my diet to stop me from napping each day? I seem always to be lacking energy. I eat well, exercise daily -- either walking two miles or swimming. How do I increase my energy level?


Proper diet certainly contributes to a good energy level (and I list suggestions here), but you may also want to approach the problem by looking at all areas of your life. The causes of fatigue can be physiological (such as thyroid hormone levels), emotional (too much stress) and lifestyle related (hours of quality sleep at night). So, along with making some dietary adjustments, be sure to check those out too.


Foods to Avoid when Looking for Energy:


Cookies, baked goods, candy bars, sodas and fruit drinks. These foods, loaded with simple sugars, cause a quick energy boost and, because of rising insulin levels, just as quick a decline, often leaving you more drained than before.

Caffeine. Although it is an effective short-term solution for some, it can also have a negative rebound effect. If you do have a caffeine habit, work on slowly eliminating it from your diet, so that you can be in touch with your more natural energy.


Foods That Contribute to Drowsiness:

Carbohydrates can alter the level of serotonin in your brain and bring on feelings of calm and relaxation. That can make them a good before-bedtime snack, but less good in the middle of the day. One lunch trick to help you overcome the temptation to nap is to eat pure protein. Protein is broken down into its amino-acid building blocks during digestion. One amino acid, tyrosine, increases the production of the chemicals that are also released when you are under acute mental or physical stress and are well known for their ability to increase levels of alertness and energy levels.For maximum effect, eat only protein, as carbohydrates will interfere with its effect.Suggestions:

  • Broiled fish and a few veggies
  • Sliced turkey breast rolled around celery sticks
  • A hard-boiled egg and tuna salad
  • Eat some whole-grain carbohydrates later in the day, once you're "over the hump."


Now, for what you should do:

Get Enough Iron. Many women lack energy because they lack iron in their diet. If you are still in your reproductive years and menstruate regularly, you lose iron each month. Unless it is replaced in your diet or with supplements, you will suffer some of the unpleasant symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia -- chronic fatigue being one of them. If you don't already take an iron supplement, you should.

Get a Boost from Herbs. Although not scientifically proven, some herbs popularly touted as having energy-enhancing effects are ginseng and ginkgo biloba. Perhaps a tea made from one of these would help.

Go Natural! Eating only whole, natural, minimally processed foods is important not only for overall health but also to maximize energy levels. Be sure you are eating a balanced diet, meeting all your needs from each of the levels of the food pyramid.

Exercise. It often works to do your exercising at lunchtime to help boost your metabolism and keep your engines running on high for the afternoon. If you can switch your schedule so that you can exercise at noontime, that may help.

Consider Embracing the Urge to Nap. The desire for an afternoon nap can be the result of natural biorhythm patterns, and often it is best to just give in to it if you can. Take a quick 15- or 20-minute nap -- instead of spending an hour or two fighting it -- and then move on, refreshed and ready to go. Naps are becoming more and more popular, and some workplaces have even established a napping room, recognizing those natural patterns and knowing that workers can work more effectively if allowed to have a brief nap.


Experiment with the various suggestions to see which has the most energizing effect -- and good luck!

by Sue Gilbert