7 Best Foods For When You Need An Energy Boost

Speed right past that mid-afternoon slump


Concetta Smith |

Imagine walking the supermarket produce aisle and spotting a pile of watermelons with bright labels screaming “MEGA-PLUS ULTIMATE ENERGY BOOST!” Or catching an extreme sports competition on TV where the skateboarders’ helmet stickers herald the games’ sponsors: “Strawberries, for x-treme endurance!” Those foods, and a lot of others that fly under the radar, are at least as deserving of flashy labels as packaged snacks that promise a jolt.

“Most of the really great ‘energy foods’ aren’t marketed that way,” says registered dietician, Lauren Antonucci, sports dietician and owner of Nutrition Energy in New York City. “But in fact, some of the best choices are whole foods that are naturally high in nutrients like iron, protein, and essential fatty acids.”

Related: 9 Surprising Ways To Boost Your Strength, Energy and Mood

And most of us are longing for that kind of extra bump: Three-quarters of shoppers say they want foods that give them more energy, according to a recent Rodale Shopping for Health survey.* We rounded up seven of the most highly charged, along with tasty ideas for how to eat ‘em up.

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At 93 percent H2O, this juicy orb is the fruit equivalent of an IV drip.

“Most people don’t realise that water-rich foods can contribute up to 20 percent of your fluid needs for the day,” says Antonucci.

Research suggests that even mild dehydration is linked with fatigue, because water is needed to sustain almost all your body’s functions. A cup and a half of cubed melon is as hydrating as a glass of water, and it’s also naturally endowed with vitamins A, B6, and C, all of which have their own energising properties.

Try this: Toss cubes with feta, olive oil, lime juice, and chopped fresh mint leaves.

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A quarter-cup serving of these nuts delivers 30 percent of the magnesium you need each day—an impressive figure, considering that nearly half of all Americans don’t get enough of the mineral, according to government data. Being low on magnesium can make you drag, because your body uses it to generate ATP, the molecule that transports energy between cells. Almonds are also an excellent source of B vitamins like folate and riboflavin, which help you convert calories into fuel.

Related: The 4 Best Foods to Keep in the Office Fridge

Try this: Snacking on nuts or nut butters is the obvious strategy. But you can also use almond flour (from ground almonds) in place of breadcrumbs, or to replace one-quarter of the flour in baked goods.

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Popping a few during your morning jog can put literal spring in your step.

“Athletes like them for their quick hit of carbs and electrolytes,” says Tara Gidus Collingwood, R.D., a sports dietician in Orlando. One study found that raisins were just as effective at keeping runners’ stamina up as were carbohydrate-based snacks designed for endurance. Athletes who ate either one during a 5-K shaved one minute off their race time, compared with those who only drank water. The ideal amount, per the study, is 30 grams.

Try this: Jump-start your a.m. by adding raisins, paired with nuts, to your cereal or yogurt. “Nuts have fat, protein, and fibre, keeping you going over the long haul, and the carbs in raisins invigorate you short term,” says Collingwood.

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Soy beans are a good source of folate, a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in turning food into energy. One cup of the beans (shelled) gives you a full day’s worth of the vitamin, along with bonus magnesium and riboflavin, two minerals that provide extra pep. If you’re concerned about the GMOs in soy, choose organic.

Try this: Steam edamame in the pod and sprinkle with chilli powder and lime salt, or toss into cauliflower rice to bump up the meal’s staying power.

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Chia seeds’ concentration of protein, fibre, and energy-revving nutrients like magnesium and iron will keep you humming through the day. One study found that a DIY chia seed sports drink fuelled workouts just as well as a store-bought one—sans added sugars.

Related: How to Make a Shake That Will Actually Keep You Full For Hours

Try this: Make your own citrusy energy drink by mixing two tablespoons of chia seeds with two cups of water, the juice of half a lemon or lime, and one tablespoon of honey or maple syrup. Refrigerate for two to three hours, then stir. You can also mix the seeds into yogurt or oatmeal for a quick fix. (And if you just can’t deal with the gummy texture, try hemp seeds instead.)

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Never tried these rich little fish? Time to give them a shot. Sardines are a top source of iron, which is crucial in transporting oxygen around your body—and oxygen feeds your muscles to keep them moving. Plus, these guys pack CoQ10, a vital player in your cells’ powerhouse, the mitochondria.

Try this: Chop them and mix with cooked pasta, roasted cauliflower florets, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Still not comfortable with the tiny fish? You can find similar amounts of iron in beef, shellfish, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.

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Oranges seem to get all the vitamin C glory, but strawberries are, ounce for ounce, a superior source. When researchers gave overweight adults who were trying to shed pounds a daily dose of C, the test subjects felt less tired during 60-minute treadmill walking sessions than those who weren’t taking the vitamin, according to a study in the journal Nutrition.

Related: Are Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Better For You?

“Foods with vitamin C also help your body absorb more fatigue-fighting iron,” says Collingwood. One cup of strawberries will deliver 89 milligrams of vitamin C, more than your daily requirement of 75 milligrams.

Try this: Top a spinach salad with sliced strawberries to reap the benefits of C plus iron from leafy greens.

Article originally published on menshealth.com

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