Energy Boosting Snacks
Energy Boosting Snacks
If you’re anything like me then coffee is your go-to beverage of choice when you need an energy boost. However, the energy-boosting effect of coffee can wear off, and it doesn’t help to curb your appetite if you’re also hungry. When you’re feeling tired, your food choices can either help increase energy levels, or make you feel even more fatigued. For example, eating a snack high in refined carbohydrates or added sugar, such as chips or soda, will lead to an initial spike in blood sugar followed by the fast and inevitable “crash” that brings on feelings of fatigue and lethargy. However, snacking on complex carbohydrates (think whole grains) along with a fiber-providing food such as whole fruit leads to a slower increased and subsequent decline in blood sugar and a more stable energy release. Instead of coffee or another caffeinated beverage, try these easy, healthy energy boosting snacks.
While the natural sugar found in fruit is good for a quick pick-me-up, if eating fruit by itself, stick to varieties higher in fiber to help prevent a rapid rise and later fall in blood sugar.
Berries such as blueberries and strawberries have about 3 to 4 grams of fiber per cup and raspberries have a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup. Other whole fruits are good energy boosting snacks too. One cup of apples with the skin on has about 4 grams of fiber. One medium banana also has about 4 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6, all which can help boost energy levels. Avocados can also help increase energy due to the high fiber content and healthy fat profile. One California avocado has about 9 grams of fiber and over 75% of the fat in avocados is from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids which can be stored in the body and used for energy if needed. Avocados also are a good source of B vitamins which aid in energy production within the body’s cells. Oranges contain antioxidants which can help boost energy by fighting the harmful effects of free radicals which can damage the body’s cells and lead to illness and chronic disease. If you’re doing aerobic exercise (e.g., cardio machines at the gym, running or swimming), 17 ounces (~2 cups) of 100% orange juice may help reduce muscle fatigue and improve performance based on the findings of one small study of 13 women.
Chia, flax and pumpkin seeds have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids which can help boost energy since low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to increased inflammation and feelings of tiredness.
Unsalted Nuts and Nut Butter
Unsalted cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts are high in magnesium which helps turn sugar into energy for the body to use. For an extra energy boost, have a handful of unsalted nuts with a piece of whole fruit or one cup of berries. Or, try two tablespoons of unsalted nut butter with a sliced apple.
Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for your brain and central nervous system, and whole grains have the added value of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Eating whole grains can also prevent the commonly experienced blood sugar “crash” by promoting slower increases in blood sugar after eating. Granola bars such as KIND bars or one serving of dry, high fiber cereal such as Kashi Cinnamon Harvest Whole Wheat Biscuits are good energy boosting snacks. One serving of whole grain crackers like Triscuit’s or brown rice-based crackers are a good option too, especially when coupled with fruit and/or unsalted nut butter. Lastly, with only about 100 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar, whole grain popcorn can be a great energy boosting snack at home or on-the-go.
Kale contains energy-boosting nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Washing down kale chips with 8 ounces of 100% orange juice can also help your body metabolize some nutrients in the leafy green, since sources of vitamin C help improve iron absorption by the body.
Studies show that the antioxidant content and naturally occurring nitrates in beetroot may improve blood flow, allowing for more oxygen delivery to tissues and increased feelings of energy, especially during exercise. Toss peeled and sliced beets with olive oil and rosemary and then roast them at 325 degrees for 25 minutes for a quick beet chip snack. Alternatively, try a juice such as Biotta Beet Root juice before exercise.
Fermented Foods and Drinks
Fermented foods are high in probiotics which help your body use less energy to digest food. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kefir and Kombucha are good energy boosting snacks.
As I was writing this article I started feeling the mid-afternoon slump, so I got up to make an iced coffee as a pick-me-up. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t coffee I needed to wake up, it was water! Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue. If you’re thirsty then dehydration has already set-in, so remember to drink frequently throughout the day and especially before, during and after exercise. Adding some lime, cucumber or fresh mint to your water can also help awaken your senses and your body. There’s no specific goal for water intake, so remember to sip frequently as the day goes on and take water with you when you go to work, run errands, or hit the gym.
Like oranges, green tea has a high concentration of antioxidants that can help counteract the ability of free radicals to damage cells, leading to increased energy. Green tea also contains caffeine to give you a quick energy boost.
Goji Berry Juice
One half cup of goji berry juice could provide antioxidants and help reduce feelings of fatigue according to limited research. Try ½ cup of goji berry juice on-the-go, ¼ cup of dried goji berries by themselves, or ¼ cup dried goji berries mixed into fermented yogurt or whole grain baked goods. Importantly, goji berries could interact with some drugs such as blood thinners (i.e., warfarin), diabetes drugs and blood pressure drugs. If you take any of these drugs it’s important to talk with your doctor before introducing goji berries into your diet, even if you’re just thinking of getting them through an over the counter supplement.
Hummus is a great energy boosting snack since the chickpeas offer complex carbohydrates and fiber, and the sesame seed paste (tahini) and olive oil provide a source of healthy fat. Try hummus with carrots or whole grain crackers.
Share your go-to energy boosting snacks in the comments!