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8 Foods that Give You Energy
By Ethan Boldt
January 4, 2023
Often when we simply feel sluggish and can’t even imagine working out, we turn to caffeine to give ourselves a jolt. But getting overcaffeinated is not the healthiest or most sustainable way to give you energy.
Instead, look to these natural foods that give you energy. Some you may not have heard of but when you hear about their benefits, in particular for helping to boost overall energy levels, you will want to toss them into your food basket when you’re next at the market.
After all, next to getting enough sleep and hydrating properly, the foods you consume are critical for sustaining healthy energy levels.
At the most basic level, food provides you energy in the form of calories, which are a measure of energy. But different foods impact your energy levels differently.
There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and protein. Carbs give the quickest energy source and are our body’s favorite source of energy.
Carbs come in two forms: simple and complex. Simple carbs like white bread, candy, fruit juice and refined grains cause an immediate rise in blood sugar levels but then that period is followed soon after by an energy “crash,” often leaving you feeling listless.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, usually contain fiber and take longer to digest. They produce a much slower increase in blood sugar levels and allow energy levels to be sustained for longer. Examples of complex carbs include legumes, oats and whole grains.
So what are some of the best individual energy foods? Here’s a great list to start with.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.
Maca is a type of cruciferous vegetable native to the Andes of Peru. They resemble radishes or turnips with green tops and roots that range in color from yellow to purple and black.
Those who regularly use maca powder note that it makes them feel more awake, energized and driven. Some studies indicate that maca may positively impact energy and stamina as well as memory and focus.
How to use:
Today, maca is consumed primarily in powder or capsule form. Make sure to buy maca from a quality harvester that ensures its 100 percent pure maca root powder. Ideally, including for maca extract, you should also look for a variety that is raw and organic.
It’s best to start out with about one tablespoon (in powder form) daily; however, you should always read and follow label directions for use. Many people like to take it before exercising to get a burst of extra energy.
Liver is an organ found in the abdominal cavity of both humans and many animals. Chicken and beef liver are the two most widely available types in many countries. Throughout history, people living all over the world have highly regarded organ meats for overall health for the young and old.
Both beef liver and beef heart are typically brimming with CoQ10. CoQ10 is found in the greatest concentration in the mitochondria of cells, also called the cell’s “powerhouse” because it helps produce energy. CoQ10 is generally associated with cardiovascular health, enhanced endurance and a healthy response to inflammation.
Since our CoQ10 supplies decrease with age, eating liver and other organ meats is a great way to help keep your levels up.
How to use:
Consider eating beef or chicken liver around once a week. Try our delicious liver and onions recipe. For easier consumption, consider taking liver supplements, but always read and follow label directions for use. Our liver supplements can help promote liver health, healthy blood and support cellular health.
Coconut oil — made from copra or fresh coconut flesh — is a true superfood and a great “performance fat.” The milk and oil from the coconut are pressed, and then the oil is removed.
At temperatures about 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it liquifies. It also has a smoke point of about 350 degrees, making it a great option for sautéed dishes, sauces and baked goods.
Coconut oil is easy to digest and helps produce sustained energy. Some studies show that when taking a quality unrefined coconut oil, its medium-chain fatty acids, or MCFAs, are sent directly to the liver to be converted into energy.
How to use:
You can make a homemade energy fuel by mixing unrefined coconut oil, raw honey and chia seeds together. Simply put together one tablespoon of each, and consume 30 minutes prior to exercise.
Kamut® (pronounced ka-moot) is a trademarked name given to khorasan wheat. The grain had been all but forgotten, but recently it’s becoming more popular again because of its enjoyable taste, texture, nutritional value and hypoallergenic properties.
Kamut brand wheat has a delicious, buttery flavor. Plus, it is known to be easily digested.
Similar to bulgur wheat, it has more proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals and amino acids than common wheat. Therefore, it serves as a more nutritious substitute.
It is known as a “high-energy grain” because of its high percentage of lipids, which provide more energy than refined carbohydrates.
How to use:
You can buy a Kamut product online or at your local health food store in the grain or flour department. The wheat is used similarly to modern wheat, and it can be added to baked goods, breads, pastas, waffles and pancakes. It is even used in beer brewing.
The quickest way to prepare Kamut at home is by soaking the kernels overnight. After the kernels have been soaked, add one cup of Kamut to three cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil in a medium or large saucepan.
Once it is boiling, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the grain is tender. If you did not soak the kernels overnight, the next best option is to simmer them for an hour.
The incredible nutritional value of butternut squash is difficult to overstate, and butternut squash calories are very low considering how filling it can be.
One serving contains over four times the recommended daily value of vitamin, over half the recommended intake of vitamin C and loads of dietary fiber. This orange squash is a highly recommended ingredient for making soup, roasted butternut squash, stews and more nutritious recipes.
Animal studies reveal that this squash helps to decrease fatigue and increase exercise performance.
How to use:
When selecting, look for a solid beige color skin without bruising or damage marks. Brown spots or large nicks along the surface may allow bacteria to enter the squash, so avoid options that look damaged in some way.
You can keep it in your kitchen outside of the refrigerator, but make sure to place it in an area without direct sunlight, as sunlight speeds up the process of degradation.
Chia seeds are tiny superfoods that are commonly cultivated in many areas in North and South America.
Chia is typically easy to digest when prepared properly and can be a very versatile ingredient that works well in a variety of recipes.
Chia is often used by athletes for carb loading, a strategy that helps maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver to optimize endurance and boost exercise performance.
In fact, while more studies need to be conducted, one study concluded that consuming chia seeds enhanced exercise performance for workouts that lasted 90 minutes the same way a sugar-laden sports drink would — but without all the unhealthy sugar.
Plus, the protein content of these seeds is amongst the highest of all seeds and grains, giving it the ability to help build muscle mass and increase strength. Research shows that consuming protein as a post-workout meal can aid with muscle recovery.
How to use:
Consume one to three tablespoons per day, before a workout ideally. Be sure to consume them with lots of water, which helps fiber do its job. Try our blueberry lemon chia seed pudding or pumpkin chia seed protein pudding.
Also known as broad beans, fava beans are loaded with nutrition. In addition to being a lean protein choice with lots of fiber, fava beans contain vitamin K, vitamin B6, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and more.
Eating iron-rich fava beans can support healthy energy levels.
How to use:
Fava bean pods resemble a large sweet pea, but when looking to purchase, make sure you find the green pods that are tight and firm instead of bulging pods. Why? The bulging ones are probably too old and may give you a bitter taste. To yield a third of a cup of fava beans, you need about one pound of unpeeled ones.
To start the process, remove the beans from the pods similar to shelling peas. Simply run your finger up the seam of the pod to split it open. It should have four to five beans inside.
The beans also contain a thick white skin around them that needs to be removed. You can do this by making a small slit using a knife along the edge of the bean. The bean should pop right out of its skin.
For an easier approach, put the fava beans in boiling salted water and blanch them for about 90 seconds, which helps soften the skin to make them easy to remove. Immediately remove the beans from the water and put them in ice cold water so they stop cooking. You should be able to squeeze the beans right out of their skin.
To prepare, steam them to tenderness, then toss them in a mixture of sea salt, organic olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Mashed fava beans or in a mixed green salad also works well.
Purple potatoes are a type of root vegetable that belong to the nightshade vegetables family.
These contain plenty of insoluble fiber, which can provide a time-released effect that helps endurance athletes sustain high energy levels for long periods of time.
They’re also loaded with electrolytes like potassium. The purple potato contains 341 milligrams of potassium per half cup serving, which is 10 percent of the daily recommended value.
How to use:
Even though they have a rich, vibrant violet color, their flavor is more subtle than some other potato varieties. Because of this, unlike the sweet potato that’s delicious all by itself, the purple potato is usually prepared by adding seasonings.