Food is the source of your energy. No matter what it is that you eat, when you eat it, why you eat it or how you eat it, your foods essential purpose is to break down into glucose for your body to use as fuel along the way.   While all that's happening, a lot of other stuff is too. Your body breaks down your food to take all of the vitamins, minerals and just about everything else they're made up of and does whatever it needs to do. The result? You have energy, or to some extent at least. That’s the basis of all of this.

With all of that incredible information in mind, it’s always useful to learn the different ways it can happen, and what it is that you can do make the most of it. Food and nutrition is a complicated subject, after all, and it's rarely an open and closed case. Let's take a look at everything you need to know about how to eat for energy.

How the body breaks down food for energy

 

 

Woman bouncing on the bed

 

So, let's look at the break down of food. When you eat, your body digests the food you eat into sugars (or glucose). Glucose raises your blood sugar levels, and that's what gives you your energy… kind of.

When you eat, and you have this rise in blood sugar (we'll get onto that), you create insulin too. That's the hormone that tells your cells that the glucose is here. That's how our cells absorb it and use it as fuel or store it for later. In a nutshell, that's how this is going to work.

Blood sugar

Now that we know about blood sugar and insulin working together to give you energy from your food, we need to know about a few different ways it happens. The first one is a sugar rush. You eat simple carbohydrates and sugar, and they're easy to absorb into the bloodstream. We absorb them, and blood sugar goes through the roof. It makes you a little hyper for a while, and then your body makes a huge amount of insulin for absorbing it all. That's when we crash.

The better way to do it is by eating a healthy balanced diet. The foods are turned into glucose much more slowly, leading to a gradual rise and fall lasting way longer than the sugary, processed foods we love to eat.

We need to use both of these to our advantage. (For more on that, check out simple vs complex carbs, here).

 

High energy foods

 

An aerial shot of high energy foods

 

Learning about how energy works is all well and good, but learning about the best ways to use it is a pretty big help too. That's exactly what we're going to look at here. Pretty much any food will give you energy in some way or another; it just might not be the best way for you to utilise it.

These are some of the best foods you can be eating to really keep energised according to WebMD

Blueberries

Beans

Cantaloupe

Strawberries

Mango

Spinach

Salmon

Nuts

Tea

Tomatoes

Soy

Low-fat dairy products

Oatmeal

Whole grains

Citrus fruit

Peppers

Sweet potatoes

 

Any complex carb-heavy foods are a good call, but that doesn't mean you should write off all of the other macronutrients though. Simple carbs are good if you use them correctly (again, check out the difference here if you want more info), and they're still an awesome source of other nutrients too.

 

Timing

We’re almost there. The last thing you really need to know about eating to boost energy is when you should be eating. Even if you have managed to find the perfect balance of the foods you need to keep you ticking over, you need to know about when you should be eating them. Blood sugar doesn’t stay constant forever after all, and there are always peaks and troughs.

The best thing that you can do is eat little and often. High volumes of any food give you a spike in blood sugar. It should level out nicely rather than drop if you have headed the advice above, but still. It can maintain a nice steady level for a few hours, but it'll soon start to drop. The best thing you can do is to eat every 3-4 hours in a healthy way. Keep healthy snacks with you to make it as easy as possible to do.

 

Other factors of energy

As a side note of all of this information, it's also a good thing to note what else is going to have the most significant impact on your energy levels long term here. There's more to it than just carbs, sugars and calories after all.

Different foods are full of different things. You need to be getting enough of all of your macro and micronutrients (see here) to get the best results of any diet. Deficiencies even in things like iron or B12 (which are two of the most common), can lead to a big drop in energy since your blood cells aren't carrying oxygen as they should. That'll happen even with the perfect carb balance.

Eat well, eat healthily and eat often. Balance is always the key to a healthy diet.

 

What this means for your workouts

Since we’re exercise.co.uk, just before you leave, we’ll drop this in here. Keeping your energised throughout your workday is a lot different to keeping you energised in your workout. You should always plan ahead.

You need to be eating complex carbs hours before your workout in order to get that all-important muscle glycogen, as well as simple carbs just before or even during your workout. That's the best way to use energy in shorter space of time, and then carry on with your diet as normal afterwards

For more info on this one, we have a separate article all about what to eat before and after exercise, here.

 

For other healthy snack ideas, try this one instead.

 

 

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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout immediately.