Whether you're chasing kiddos around the house, or slaving away at your 9-to-5, we all have days when we could use a little help in the energy department.
But don't chug a venti coffee or reach for some gas station energy drink. Instead, use food as your fuel and make healthy choices while you're at it.
The best thing to do for energy is to have consistent, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day so you’re never going too long without food. Also, beware of common traps like caffeinated drinks and foods that promise boundless energy. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Instead, stick to truly nutritious options, like these five easy hacks to pump up your energy during a long day.
1. Drink plenty of water.
We often forget to drink water, but dehydration is actually one of the common causes of fatigue. When there's not enough fluid in your body, your blood becomes thicker and your body has to work harder to circulate oxygen to your cells. That oxygen? It's what makes us feel energized. There are tons of mixed messages out there about how much water you should be drinking. Don't worry about hitting a certain quota. Instead, a good rule of thumb is to check your mouth and lips—if they're dry, drink up.
Hydrating with plain water is ideal, but anything that also provides concentrated nutrients (like a cold-pressed juice, coconut water, or a smoothie) works too. If it’s just one of those days and you’re going to need an energy drink, make sure it’s organic and isn’t full of caffeine, additives, and sugar. Beware of energy drinks—or any foods, for that matter—that promise too much.
2. Try honey, nature's version of an energy shot.
Although it’s a sweetener and not meant to be eaten in excess, honey is natural, unrefined, and easily absorbed by the body. Since it’s full of nutrients, amino acids, minerals, and antioxidants, honey makes the perfect fitness fuel.
To benefit most, make sure you’re getting honey in its purest form. Not much beats raw manuka honey from New Zealand. My favorite is Philosophie's manuka honey blended with their superfoods powder. With 10 grams of plant-based protein per serving, your blood sugar levels will not spike as much after eating this honey as they would with plain honey. You only need 1 to 2 tablespoons added to your tea or spread on toast in the morning to reap the benefits of this helpful trick.
3. Eat plenty of whole grains at lunch.
To ward off the afternoon slump, make sure to eat plenty of whole grains, like barley, millet, oats, and quinoa. I love Alter Eco’s quinoa—this grain contains all eight essential amino acids! Energizing B vitamins, extra fiber, and complex carbohydrates slow down digestion and provide a steady source of fuel throughout the day. If you’re Paleo, sub in sweet potatoes and squash as a fiber-rich grain substitute.
4. Grab a banana.
Bananas are the perfect energy booster. They have three natural sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), plus fiber, so these fruits provide instant and sustained energy. Banana's are also an easy snack to have on hand anywhere, especially when you're running errands or in between meetings. If snacking on a plain banana seems a little blah, there are plenty of banana-based snacks, like these peanut butter and banana bites, cacao-banana crisps, and banana chips.
5. Try one of the billion energy bars out there.
With so many energy bars to choose from, you can definitely find something you like. To make sure you're getting the best nutritional choice, read over the ingredient list first. If the ingredients sound like something you can make at home, or it’s all real food, then it’s a fine option. If it sounds like a science experiment, definitely skip it. You’re better off drinking some water or munching on trail mix.
I'm a fan of spirulina bars sweetened with bananas and dates, and like to make my own energy bars at home from time to time.
Photo credit: elizabeth lies via Unsplash