Coffee may be your go-to solution when you hit a midday energy slump, but we’re about to turn that idea on its head. Everyone needs an energy boost from time to time, but what if you could find a solution for creating sustainable energy throughout your day? Imagine what you could accomplish if you felt just a little more like you did when you were younger.
We’ll explain how energy production works, why we have less energy as we age, and what you can do to optimize your energy levels. We’ll also give you our top fourteen foods for increasing energy, bettering your health, and helping support you on your own personal wellness journey.
How Energy Is Created
The foundation of every process in our bodies, including energy creation, happens inside our cells. Every bodily system is made up of organs, which are made up of tissues, which are made up of cells. When these cells function properly, our bodies function properly. When they don’t, we experience illness, disease, and dysfunction.
Energy is created inside your cells in tiny organelles called mitochondria. Mitochondria take the nutrients in the foods we eat and create a compound called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the chemical compound that fuels your cells so they can carry out cellular processes.
When your mitochondria are operating at full tilt, it creates a trickle-up effect that helps tissues, organs, and systems run smoothly. It also means you’ll experience higher energy levels. When mitochondria aren’t fully operational, the domino effect means you’ll experience issues not only with energy but with entire bodily systems that aren’t fully operational.
Mitochondria as We Age
If you’re lucky enough to have made it past age forty, you’ve probably noticed some changes in the way you feel. Though you may not have made any significant changes, you might still begin to feel tired, foggy-headed, or as though you’ve lost your edge. The bad news is these symptoms are hallmarks of the aging process.
As we get older, our cells begin to lose their function, beginning with their mitochondria. The powerhouses of our cells become less powerful, slowing down their energy production. While this is happening, another phenomenon occurs: the old and dying mitochondria aren’t properly flushed out of the cells (a process called mitophagy).
Your cells end up filled with mitochondria that are sleeping on the job and ones that should have been laid off a long time ago. The result is less energy, less cellular function, and a less healthy you.
If your cells slowing down wasn’t enough, you’re also battling external stressors that can cause free radical damage, also known as oxidative stress. It sounds complicated, but the process involves damage to the DNA of your cells.
Free radicals are unbalanced molecules that the body creates when exposed to certain triggers, like UV rays, cigarette smoke, or pollution. These free radicals attack healthy cells and can even alter their DNA. When the DNA is altered, the cell loses some function, and it repeats the damaged pattern when it creates a new cell.
Oxidative stress is a big contributor to early signs of aging, from lines and wrinkles on the skin to feeling tired all the time. To fix it, we need antioxidants, which support cell health and proper energy production.
We know you’ve been waiting for it, and the good news is, there are ways to hack the system. Even though some energy loss may be common as you get older, you can take steps to improve your energy and well-being. One of the easiest ways to do it is through your diet.
Top 14 Foods To Boost Energy Levels
Not many of us like to think about changing our diets. Busy lives thrive on fast food, and it can feel overwhelming to think about meal planning, eating raw vegetables, or cooking dinner after the end of a long day.
Luckily, small changes keep us most effective as we try to make dietary changes. Viewing our food as a source of energy, instead of something that just tastes good or is easy and quick, can help us take on a new mindset.
In addition to the health benefits the below foods offer, they all contain ingredients to increase your energy levels better than your afternoon coffee or energy drink.
By now, you’ve heard of the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats help reduce our risk of developing certain diseases, while unhealthy fats tend to increase our risk.
Avocados are a source of monounsaturated fat, which is beneficial for your body. These fruits (yes, they are fruits, not vegetables) also contain protein and fiber. The fat inside an avocado helps keep you full, while the fiber regulates your blood sugar levels, helping you avoid a sugar crash that could leave you tired.
2. Leafy Greens
You’ve probably been told your whole life to eat more green vegetables. Now that you’ve reached adulthood, the prescription hasn’t changed. In terms of which leaves to eat, the darker and greener, the better.
Kale, spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens are all densely packed with essential vitamins and nutrients your body requires to function properly. Leafy greens also contain fiber, which helps aid in digestion, balances your regularity, and can help keep your blood sugar balanced too.
Not a fan of all those veggies? That’s okay. L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens makes it easy to get the superfoods and greens you need without ever touching a single leaf. Add it to water for an easy and quick dose of nutrient-dense flavor, or mix it into a smoothie for a satisfying snack.
Before we tell you what spirulina is, trust us when we say that this is a superfood you need in your daily lineup.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae grown in both fresh and salt waters. It’s almost always used in powdered form as a supplement. The benefits of spirulina are immense — it contains proteins, vitamin B1 (thiamin), minerals, and chlorophyll. The protein in spirulina is considered “complete,” which means it contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs.
The thiamin in spirulina can help you maintain your energy stores, especially if you are deficient in this B vitamin. In addition, chlorophyll helps the mitochondria in your cells create that important ATP needed for cellular energy.
Everyone needs to satisfy their sweet tooth now and then, and a banana is a good way to do it without causing a dramatic rise and fall in blood sugar levels. The natural sugar in bananas gets broken down into glucose in the bloodstream, but the fiber content helps slow the process of sugar digestion, so your energy feels more sustainable and regulated.
Combine those benefits with a high level of potassium, and you’ve got a quick snack that’s perfect any time, or before you exercise. Potassium helps muscles contract properly (read: without cramping) and also helps support healthy blood pressure.
Remember the antioxidants you need to fight off free radicals? You’ll find them in berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are excellent sources of cell-protecting antioxidants and are low in carbohydrates.
Berries are also a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and folates. Try frozen berries tossed into a smoothie with L’Evate You Daily Greens, or eat them fresh with Greek yogurt, whole grain oats, or just by themselves.
6. Fatty Fish
One of the most popular supplements available is omega-3. Omega-3 is a fatty acid that helps support heart health, healthy cholesterol, and healthy blood pressure. If you don’t like taking a fish oil tablet each day, you can get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids directly from the source by eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
These fish are also loaded with vitamin B12. Not having enough B12 in your diet can result in feeling fatigued, headaches, loss of appetite, and digestive problems.
Looking for a superfood that can give you a boost of energy and is a good source of antioxidants, digestive fiber, and nutrients? Look no further. Beets contain nitrates which help support mitochondrial function, helping them produce more energy for your cells and keeping your cellular function balanced.
Beets also contain natural sugar and fiber to keep blood sugar levels balanced and an impressive vitamin load, including vitamins A and C. Beets also contain magnesium, a mineral that is needed for glycolysis, or the process the body uses to extract energy from glucose.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Like bananas, sweet potatoes are a good source of natural sugar and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are carbohydrate foods that don’t cause unhealthy spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
Sweet potatoes can give you lasting energy because they’re also packed with fiber to help break down the sweet potato's carbohydrates.
Many different types of nuts contain a blend of complex carbs, fat, and some protein. These can help keep you fuller longer, and can also help you sustain your energy. They’re also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and some fiber.
Be mindful — a serving of nuts is usually about a quarter cup or about the amount you can comfortably hold in the palm of your hand. Nuts are high in calories and can be a good tool for anyone on a weight loss journey to help satiate hunger between meals, but if you eat too many, the calories can add up fast.
We’ve got the perfect solution for your next Meatless Monday dinner. Lentils are affordable, easy to prepare, and full of protein and fiber. These legumes are often substituted for meat in plant-based recipes.
Lentils provide complex carbohydrates for clean-burning fuel and plenty of protein to keep you satisfied.
Whole-grain oats are an excellent source of fuel for your body. They provide plenty of fiber and complex carbohydrates to help sustain your energy levels. If you don’t like the taste of plain oats, try adding a teaspoon of a natural sweetener, like honey.
You can also add oats to your green smoothie. L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens in chocolate paired with one-quarter cup oats, almond milk, and ice cubes makes a delicious and nutritious treat.
Some grains (think white bread and white flour) get broken down very quickly in the bloodstream, causing a sudden burst of energy that is immediately followed by a crash and fatigue.
Quinoa isn’t actually a grain, although it is treated like one. This tiny seed is loaded with fiber and amino acids to support energy balance and keep you feeling energized.
Eating an apple a day might keep naptime away. Apples contain complex carbohydrates, fiber to prevent you from crashing, and flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant-based compounds that help protect against oxidative stress in the body.
Consuming an apple in the morning may have a more profound ability to wake you up and help you feel alert than your usual cup of joe.
14. Citrus Fruits
You’ll get plenty of antioxidants when you consume foods like grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes, but you’ll also get a subliminal message that it’s time to be alert and focused. While smelling citrusy scents to wake up might sound anecdotal, there’s actually research behind it that says it works.
If you’re feeling tired mid-day, eating an orange could give you the energy you need to power through the rest of your day.
Why Are Certain Foods Better for Energy?
It’s simple science. Some foods give our bodies good ingredients that help facilitate energy creation, and some can inhibit it. Sugar, for instance, can inhibit the production of a chemical in the brain called orexin, which helps you feel awake and energized. Not to mention, sugar also causes a spike in blood sugar levels which can lead to a crash later on.
Foods that contain energy-sustaining ingredients like fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals help your cells and your body function properly, so you can function properly and enjoy stabilized energy.
How Else Can I Support My Energy?
Optimizing your energy levels is a multifaceted job. It will take more than just dietary changes to help you increase your energy, and keep in mind that these changes take time. You may not see the full benefits overnight, but gradually, you’ll notice more sustainable energy and maybe even a decrease in your trips to the coffee machine.
Here are some other ways you can support your energy levels and feel better.
Get Enough Sleep
You can’t outrun the need for sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours per night. Repeatedly missing sleep or getting low-quality sleep can lead to a sleep deficit. The only way to get out of the sleep deficit is to get good-quality sleep.
To promote good sleep habits, make sure you unplug from your electronics at least an hour before bed, avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime, and sleep in a cool, comfortable room.
Water is essential for staying energized. Your cells need water to keep their structure so they can function properly. When you are dehydrated, your body naturally pulls water from the insides of your cells, which can leave them misshapen and inhibit their function.
It isn’t necessary to tote around a gallon milk jug filled with water. Drinking enough water to keep your urine clear is a good sign you’re staying hydrated. Remember that all water counts, even water in coffee, tea, and fruits and vegetables.
Get Your Exercise
Movement is essential for sustaining your energy levels. To put it plainly, you need to spend energy to get energy. Exercising looks different for everyone, but keeping consistent and finding something you enjoy are two critical pieces of the puzzle.
Taking a ten-minute walk, signing up for a yoga class, or checking out the benefits you might get at your local gym are easy ways to start an exercise program you can sustain.
The Bottom Line
Energy creation happens on the cellular level, and you can support your body’s ability to make more energy by choosing foods that are beneficial for cellular health and avoiding foods that aren’t.
Another easy hack? Choosing L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens. Just one scoop per day can help you enjoy more energy, a burst of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs. You’ll also get gut health protection with pro and prebiotics. It’s the easy way to support your health goals and enjoy a happier, more energized you.
The role of mitochondrial function and cellular bioenergetics in ageing and disease - PMC
Mitochondrial Aging and Age-Related Dysfunction of Mitochondria - PMC
Lifestyle, Oxidative Stress, and Antioxidants: Back and Forth in the Pathophysiology of Chronic Diseases|Frontiers.org
Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications - PMC
Why do we associate citrus smells with being clean? | BBC Science Focus Magazine