Tired? It might not be (just) a lack of sleep, but a lack of nutrition. Appropriate nutrition is critical for performance, whether in athletics or in life. Nutrition can improve your conditioning and help you recover from exercise and fatigue, and several foods are powerhouses in that area.
It’s not just what you eat that can affect your energy level, but when you consume it. When you exercise, you use energy that is mainly supplied by carbohydrates and lipids. To improve endurance, it’s important to regulate the metabolism of these two elements, so eating a high-quality carbohydrate immediately before or during exercise can help you stay strong longer.
Even as we discuss foods that boost energy, let’s not forget the importance of staying hydrated. Water is the main component of the human body and plays a critical role in circulation, chemical reactions, metabolism and elimination of waste products -- all processes that improve health and increase energy.
10 Top Energy Boosting Foods
- Apples: This fruit contains quercetin, a plant pigment found in fruits that helps your metabolism to increase endurance. It also has anti-inflammatory properties so it can help speed recovery. Apples are portable and easy to store, making them an ideal snack to eat during a bike ride or after a run.
- Tomatoes: Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is an antioxidant that limits damage caused by free radicals during intense exercise. Try to avoid canned varieties of tomatoes that contain bisphenol-A or BPA, a harmful endocrine-disrupting chemical tied to numerous health complications.
- Ginseng: This plant can act as a stimulant, similar to the way caffeine provides a boost, but without adding stress to the body. In the brain, the adrenal cortex produces hormones that regulate stress. Ginseng helps to feed the adrenal cortex by offering nutrients it needs to create stress-free energy.
- Raisins: Researchers believe that because raisins have carbohydrates, they help keep sugar levels steady during a workout. In a study at the University of California, researchers found that runners who ate raisins or sports chews ran faster than those who refueled on water alone. But unlike sports chews, raisins contain fewer inflammatory sugars.
- Beets: This root vegetable is one of the best high-energy foods. Researchers believe the beetroot juice may work to boost stamina by affecting how the body processes nitrate into nitric oxide, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen burned by the body during a workout. Runners who ate a 7-ounce serving of baked beets a little over an hour before running a 5k finished 3% faster overall and 5% faster in the last stretch.
- Eggs: It’s no wonder eggs are the perfect choice for a refreshing morning breakfast. They're rich in B vitamins, which are crucial when it comes to converting food to energy for the body to use. The proteins in the whites are ideal for muscle recovery and muscle strength. The stronger you are, the more energy you will have. Even the yolks have perks that can aid you in your energy and fitness goals.
- Soybeans: These have always been unique when it comes to energizing the body. Soybeans contain B-complex vitamins that play a major role in instantly converting carbohydrates into energy. The more you eat soybeans, the more fuel your body receives. Edamame, which are green soybeans, are high in phosphorus and copper, and this creates a killer combination at converting carbohydrates into much-needed energy. Edamame also is a valuable source of protein and fibers, making it an ideal healthy snack.
- Nuts: The protein in nuts slows down the digestion of carbs, which improves the process of fuel conversion. Nuts also contain fats, which, in this case, is a good thing because fatty oils provide longer-lasting energy. Nuts are especially good for long periods of physical or mental activity. What's great about nuts is that they are very concentrated, which means you can sprinkle them over any meal and get the same energy boost without having to ingest large quantities. A morning intake should improve your energy levels throughout the day.
- Quinoa: This flowering plant is not only rich in nutrients, but it's also completely gluten-free. For starters, it provides you with many amino acids, which can quickly enter your muscles and repair fibers. After a long day or a tough workout, quinoa will regenerate you. Another benefit is the large quantity of carbs, which break down slowly. Such a slow release is good for a mid-day intake. Adding them to your diet then will give you energy in even waves for the rest of the day.
- Pumpkin Seeds: These edible seeds are packed with energy. Not only do they contain carbs, but they also provide protein and healthy fats. Manganese, zinc and phosphorus round off this dynamite combination all from a little seed.
For your next meal, whether you want to recover or increase your energy, add some of these powerhouse foods to your plate, right next to a nice, big glass of water.
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