Psst. I want to let you in on a little secret.
The best sources of energy don’t come from a can or a shot. They come from your plate.
Now I am not saying that energy drinks don’t make you more alert, but many of these drinks contain caffeine, sugar and other ingredients which can over stimulate your body, and if consumed over time, can lead to adrenal burnout (leaving you chronically fatigued).
I recently met a nutrition colleague who knew firsthand the consequences of regularly consuming energy drinks. When she was in college, Elise used to work for a very well-known energy drink company. She and her friends would regularly receive cases of the drink to take home after their shifts. At first, she really liked having constant access to the product; she would drink a couple of cans a day and the energy boost would last throughout most of the day.
After the first two months, those two cans a day turned into four cans and Elise discovered that she didn’t function as well without the drink. After realizing her dependence on it, she began to cut down on her consumption and eventually eliminated it altogether. During this time she experienced caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety and irritability.
Elise’s story is more common than you think; many people in this country regularly consume energy drinks on a daily basis in an attempt to make up for a lack of sleep or a poor diet. I’ll admit that the idea that a flashy can filled with liquid will give you energy that lasts for hours is pretty sweet. However, in real life, that energy always comes at a price.
If you want the benefits of an energy boost without the crash, pay close attention to the below statement.
“A proper diet is the key to long lasting energy.”
Here’s how you can use food to refuel your body and truly deliver all-day energy.
Blast Fatigue with B’s
B vitamins fuel your energy levels. It’s not so much that B vitamins shock your body with energy, as much as they help to maintain healthy energy levels. B vitamins, B-12 in particular, feed your nervous system and encourage mental clarity and concentration and memory function. B-12 is also involved in red blood cell formation, which is crucial in preventing anemia (the deficiency of red blood cells). Anemia can also cause fatigue and low energy levels and a B-12 deficiency can lead to anemia (or make someone who is anemic worse). B vitamins also boost your mood and help ward off feelings of depression.
Eating a diet rich in B vitamins is key to sustain a steady influx of energy all day long. Foods rich in B vitamins are:
- Meats / seafood
- Organ meats
- Green Peas
- Turnip Greens
- Bell Peppers
- Sunflower seeds
I recommend eating at least one serving of B vitamin rich food with each meal for sustained energy that lasts.
Get your Zing with Zinc
Zinc, like B vitamins, is crucial for your energy levels. Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for a healthy immune system, and supports growth and development. Zinc is also involved in energy production because it helps to make enzymes that we need in order to make energy. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include lethargy and low stamina. And for you guys reading this article, another reason to sneak in more zinc into your diet is that it increases libido. Oysters are very rich in zinc, are also a well-known aphrodisiac.
Foods that contain the most absorbable form of zinc are:
- Shellfish (Particularly Oysters)
Foods such as: Shitake mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, pumpkin seeds and green peas are good sources of zinc, but the zinc in these foods are not as well-absorbed as those listed above.
Vitamins C is not known for energy boosts. This antioxidant generally doesn’t improve energy levels independently, but works in conjunction with other nutrients to encourage healthy energy levels. For example, I briefly discussed how a deficiency in B vitamins can cause or add to an existing anemia. Anemia occurs when there are a lower than normal number of red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for bringing oxygen to your body’s tissues. Iron is needed to create healthy red blood cells; without sufficient iron levels, a person will develop iron deficiency anemia and can develop constant fatigue and low energy. Vitamin C increases the absorption of vegetarian forms of iron (non-heme) found in foods such as, eggs and spinach, so that your body gets the iron it needs and so your energy levels stay high.
If you’re anemic, be sure to eat foods rich in heme iron (meats, seafood organ meats) and non-heme iron and remember to always include a little Vitamin C.
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Red and Green Hot Chili Peppers
- Mustard Greens
Green Tea – Grab the Green
Green tea consumption has exploded in recent years. One of the reasons for its popularity is its antioxidant levels, which have anti-cancer properties. Green tea also has B vitamins, which help to maintain normal energy levels and aid in how your body metabolizes carbohydrates. Although green tea contains caffeine (on average 15-50 mg per 8 oz. cup), it’s still lower than an 8oz cup of coffee, which can contain anywhere from 90-120mg. If you want to further minimize stimulant intake, consider purchasing a green tea with lower levels of caffeine, such as Japanese Bancha or decaffeinated green tea. Also buy loose green tea, loose green tea contains less caffeine than tea in a tea bag.
The next time you feel your energy levels dropping, instead of reaching for a cold energy drink, fill your plate with the energy boosting foods I’ve mentioned, you won’t be disappointed.
[Ed. Note: Isabel De Los Rios is a world-famous nutrition expert who will show you how to eat for energy and health. Discover her personal transformation from an overweight, low-energy young woman to a high-energy, lean and happy mom who is now inspiring hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world with her life-changing Diet Solution Program here.]