7 natural energy-boosting food and drinks

May 05 2015

Wakey, wakey! Calling all caffeine addicts and sugary sports drink connoisseurs! We have a few natural energy bursts for you that don’t come from a plastic bottle.

Lacking energy is one of the biggest hurdles many people find when it comes to exercising and being healthy. No matter how busy your life is, if you aren't getting the right nutrients from your diet then you are going to feel lethargic and exhausted. Many people associate energy-lacking diets with undereating. While not getting enough calories will deplete your energy levels, you can actually be eating well over the recommended amount and still have a nutritional deficiency if you are consuming the wrong foods.

Coffee is our go-to energy source when we are feeling tired and many people can’t even face the day without a steaming hot cup of java in the morning. As it’s UK Coffee Week, we have outlined the benefits that coffee can have on exercise, plus some other energy-boosting alternatives.

Can coffee help you to lose weight?

It’s no coincidence that caffeine is one of the most used ingredients in diet pills and supplements.

First and foremost, it is a stimulant which provides you with more energy, which not only keeps you alert but helps you to stay focused. Consuming a cup of coffee before you workout may help you to work harder and have greater endurance in the gym.

Coffee has also been attributed to increasing your metabolism and burning fat, as drinking it triggers lipolysis, a process where your body releases fatty acids into the bloodstream to burn instead of glucose. Finally, caffeine is an appetite suppressor which will help you to eat fewer calories throughout the day.

If these effects are all true, then why aren’t people constantly drinking coffee to lose weight and why aren’t doctors recommending that you drink a bucketful of the stuff every day? Regular coffee drinkers build up a tolerance to the caffeine, which means that the effects stop. Too much caffeine can also be bad for your health, as a stimulant it can cause your heart to race and you to feel jittery and nauseous. If you’re feeling lethargic, we certainly wouldn’t recommend that you drink loads of coffee before attempting a workout. You could be putting yourself at serious risk.

The benefits of Low-GI foods

A major factor in your energy levels is where your food ranks on the Glycemic Index (GI), which ranks carbohydrates based on the speed that it takes the body to process and digest them.

One way to avoid an energy slump is to eat foods that are low GI, which release energy slowly and stabilise blood sugar levels. Opt for brown versions of pasta and rice, choose sweet potatoes over white and go for natural foods over instant meals, which tend to be more processed.

Here are seven foods and drinks you might want to consider if you’re looking for a healthy energy boost.

1) Feel the beets

Forget coffee, beetroot juice should be your drink of choice before the gym!

Drinking beetroot juice improves stamina and can help you to exercise for 16% longer, according to research by the University of Exeter. The nitrate contained in the purple vegetable leads to a reduction in oxygen uptake, which makes exercise less tiring.

Later research by the university, found that only 2 shots of concentrated beetroot juice were needed to boost performance. For maximum benefits, consume the shots or consume 200g of cooked beetroot 2-3 hours before exercise.

2) Nuts

Raw, unsalted nuts can provide your body with a huge boost of energy. They are high in healthy fats and protein and take your body longer to process and break down, which means they’ll provide you with consistent energy for a longer amount of time. Pair with fruit, such as dried berries, before a workout as the carbohydrates will give you even more energy.

3) Mushrooms

Struggling to get enough iron in your diet? This might be the reason you are feeling tired and lethargic, but don't fear because just one cup of mushrooms contains almost half of your daily serving of iron.

Iron is vital for transporting oxygen around the bloodstream, which your muscles need to function efficiently and avoid cramping. Try eating a mushroom omelette a couple of hours before you hit the gym to ensure that your muscles will have enough oxygen.

4) Bananas

Bananas are nature’s energy bars. They are packed full of potassium and B vitamins, and they contain enough fibre to slow digestion and keep blood levels stable. Plus they are lunch-box friendly!

5) Eggs

Remember that scene in Rocky where he drinks raw eggs for breakfast? There is a reason why eggs are depicted as the food of champions, eggs contain enough protein and iron to keep your blood sugars stable and your energy levels high throughout your workout. Something to get eggcited about!

6) Kale

We’ve mentioned this before and we’ll mention it again, kale really is a superfood that you need to include in your diet. Kale is high in vitamins and minerals, contains lots of iron and even calcium.

7) Salmon

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which your body needs for producing energy and brain activity and blood circulation. This fishy dish can also help to maintain a healthy heart, which will benefit your cardiovascular activity in the long run.

As you can see, you don’t need to turn to processed sugar-fuelled snacks to give yourself a boost before the gym. Next time you are feeling low, try one of these combinations and see whether it makes a difference to your workout.

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