It’s the middle of the day and you’re feeling drowsy. Your instinct might be to grab an energy drink from the office break room or munch on one of the candy bars you keep in your desk, but neither of those is the healthy option. You’ve been told that exercise, more sleep, and a proper diet can stave off the midday doldrums, but you don’t have the time to prepare a fancy feast.
Well, we’ve got some good news for you.
There are plenty of ordinary foods that can give you a real energy boost, and no, you don’t have to shop at specialty stores to find them.
We’ve compiled a list of simple treats that will put the pep back in your step without making you crash a few hours later. Some of these foods might surprise you, and that’s good!
When you realize how powerful these familiar foods can be, you’ll see that eating healthy doesn’t require complicated instructions. It can be as simple as…
1) Apples & Oranges
What’s more basic than these two fruits? They’re portable, sweet, and require little to no preparation (you may have to peel the orange first, but trust us, it’s a no brainer).
Apples are good sources of both carbohydrates and fiber and, because they take longer to digest, the energy they give you outlasts their fruity competition.
Oranges, because of their super high Vitamin C content (about 106 percent of your recommended daily intake), can also go the distance.
Apples and oranges protect against oxidative stress, which may contribute to feelings of fatigue. In one study, women who consumed orange juice and trained for one hour three times a week showed decreased muscle fatigue and improved physical performance.
However, unlike oranges, juicing apples is not recommended. Juices and purees often dispense with apple’s fiber, so you’re better off eating them whole.
Unlike most plant-based foods, quinoa is a complete protein. That means it’s bursting with the kind of amino acids that are normally exclusive to meat. It’s also packed with manganese, magnesium and folate, which help your body generate energy. A low glycemic index ensures that quinoa is absorbed slowly by your body, stretching that energy over a longer period of time. By relaxing blood vessels and muscles, this gluten-free grain also reduces stress and keeps you motivated!
Speaking of protein, eggs boast the most complete form of protein found on any table. Almost 100 percent of it can be absorbed by your body. That monster protein is invaluable to building muscle and fueling prolonged energy. But protein is not all eggs have to offer.
“Egg yolks are naturally rich in B-vitamins, which are responsible for converting food into energy, and they also have vitamin D to maintain strong bones,” says Lisa Moskovitz, a sports nutrition expert and registered dietitian with NYC-based Nutrition Energy. “Plus, they’re one of the best sources of protein, which is essential after an intense training session when muscle breakdown occurs the most.”
4) Green Tea
Coffee could easily fit into this list. A plain cup of coffee contains less than five calories and zero fat. It stimulates brain activity, improves physical performance, and may actually be great for your liver! However, some of us have a tendency to drink too much, or add sugar, cream and all sorts of bells and whistles.
If you’re trying to cut down on coffee, green tea is an excellent alternative. Like coffee, it has the caffeine you crave, but it also contains a compound called L-theanine (an amino acid commonly found in tea leaves) that moderates the anxiety and jitters brought on by too much coffee.
5) Whole Grain Cereal
Combined with yogurt, another great energy food, whole grain cereal slows down the release of glucose into your blood stream, which gives you more consistent and long-lasting energy throughout the day.
6) Dark Chocolate
And you thought you weren’t getting any sweets out of this list. Dark chocolate, unlike milk chocolate, is good for your cardiovascular system. Its theobromine and caffeine compounds stimulate mental acuity, and its antioxidants improve the flow of blood to the brain. As with all chocolate, moderation is key – and the best kinds of dark chocolate for you are brands with at least 70 percent cacao content.
The simplest and most overlooked element on this list? Water. It’s essential to your daily life. Cells need it to survive and produce energy. You may not even realize how dehydrated you are, but if you have a headache? Drink a glass of water. Feel sluggish? Drink a glass of water.
You don’t need to go overboard trying to force down that mythical “eight glasses a day,” but you should make an effort to drink it regularly. “Water is responsible for transporting all nutrients in the blood that we use for energy, as well as getting rid of waste buildup that leads to fatigue,” Dr. Moskovitz explained to Men’s Journal. “Without enough water, we can’t metabolize the food we eat into fuel and ultimately cease to function properly. Always drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and during workouts.”