Let’s face it, it’s super hard to raise hell when you’re sleepy.
I used to think it was only cranky, old people who said things like “energy is wasted on the young,” (yes, I’ve heard people actually say that version of the popular George Bernard quote) but lately I have started fearing I am becoming one of those sleepy old people; perhaps you can relate. But instead of giving in, or just turning to sugar, drugs, pills and/or caffeine, here are 10 foods to put into your system when you are struggling to shake the warm, fuzzy, powerful grip of the sandman.
OK, so I know you’re probably thinking, “duh…” and “water is not food – this list is BOGUS,” well cool it, and let me tell you why…. For starters, fatigue is the first symptom of dehydration, which actually kicks in much sooner and harder than starvation. Water is essential for transporting nutrients in the blood that are used for energy as well for ridding waste build up that ultimately leads to fatigue. So you can eat all the energy packed foods you want, but without water, your body cannot metabolize the food that is used for fuel. The National Academy of Science suggests consuming 11 cups of fluid every day, with (at the very least) three of those coming from water. Other beverages, and even food can help curb dehydration, such as fruits and veggies. Here’s some hydration inspiration: one cup of watermelon provides almost one cup of water! Water is the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to zap those ZzZzs, so put that into your recyclable, BPA-Free water bottle and drink it.
Obviously coffee, although also a beverage, makes this list. But, not necessarily only for the reason you may think. According to science (I’m blinding you with science … SCIENCE), 2-4 cups of coffee per day may help reduce the risk of depression, and even suicide by 50%. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and acts as a mild antidepressant by increasing the production of certain ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. So grab your morning joe for energy and happiness, but note that the experts conducting the study found that there were no additional benefits once you exceed past the 2-4 cups a day.
Edamame, that delicious green soybean packs a powerful punch of energy fueling and mood boosting nutrients. In a single cup of edamame you’ll get 116% of the recommended daily amount of tryptophan, which helps to regulate appetite, improve sleep and boost mood – all factors that play a significant role in energy levels. In addition to all of that, these beans are also rich in the essential trace mineral molybdenum, which facilitates the use of iron reserves, fat and carb metabolization, enhances alertness and concentration while also helping to stabilize blood sugar levels – all functions linked to the production and sustainability of energy. Edamame is also great for those who suffer from a case of the mope’s since they’re also packed with folate, a natural mood-booster that’s been shown to increase levels of serotonin and improve depression.
Pronounced ‘keen-wah’ This supergrain dates back 3,000-4,000 years ago from when the Incas first recognized that the quinoa seed was more than just edible, it was actually believed to increase the stamina of the warriors. Holy crap, that’s awesome … if it helped Incas kick ass during battles, just think of what it can do for you as you sit around on your computer all day or ride your bike to work. Instead of white rice and breads, that result in a blood-sugar crash, opt for quinoa, which is a gluten free, complex carb that provides a steady stream of energy. It is actually one of the rare, plant-based foods that contains all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. Amino acids are crucial for muscle building, and when you build muscle mass, you also increase your energy reserves and endurance. Need more reasons for putting quinoa in your life, it’s also super rich in fiber, iron, magnesium and riboflavin. Sold on the idea of adding quinoa to your diet, but not sure how? Look no further: here are 27 Recipes for Cooking with Quinoa
Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are bright orange-red berries native to a plant in China, and have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to help increase energy and enhance hormones. In addition to its energy boosting components, the berries increase the body’s ability to handle stress and support healthy mood, mind and memory. Increased blood flow, another benefit of this berry, is the reason it has also been called ‘Viagra of China.’ You hear that, guys?! Goji berries can be consumed dried, but for the most powerful punch, drink the berries in liquid form. Side note: These berries are not for everyone: those using blood thinners or taking diabetic medication may have a negative reaction to goji berries. So, when in doubt, consult your doctor before going all ‘turn down for what’ with goji berries.
If you know me, you know I love two things: hummus and puppies. And since I’d never eat puppies, for the sake of this list, hummus comes first. As a vegan and total hummusexual, I consider this stuff just about the greatest food, ever. This shit is my jam, and for good reason. Chock-full of chick peas, it’s full of protein and complex carbs that break down slowly, providing a steady supply of energy rather than a spike and crash. Hummus also consists of several ingredients that aid in digestion, which allows the body to balance sugar levels and restore energy. Along with its low glycemic index, it also contains tryptophan, which helps zap the urge to overeat. Also, hummus is 70% water, and as I discussed in the first section of this article, dehydration is the number one cause of fatigue. So, it’s sort of a two-for-one deal! Sometimes a teensy tiny little container of store bought hummus can cost like $5, so if you feel like making your own, which is SO easy to do, there are a ton of delicious, healthy hummus recipes out there. My cheap ass, lazy-girl trick is buying the dehydrated hummus in the bulk section of Rainbow Grocery and adding water, balsamic and spices. For additional energy, skip the white pita bread, which will cause a spike and crash in blood sugar levels, and use veggies as the vehicle for transporting hummus into your mouth.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats and fiber that will keep you feeling full and energized longer. They also contain iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, all things that provide additional energy support. You can purchase pumpkin seeds at most grocery stores, but if you feel like roasting your own (especially around Halloween) here’s how to Roast Perfect Pumpkin Seeds.
Nuts and dried fruit are a great combination of healthy fats, fiber and protein. While refined carbs that are void of fiber break down quickly into glucose and provide short bursts of energy, fiber containing foods, such as a healthy trail mixes, slows down glucose-release, allowing for a steady supply. The protein and fat in the nuts and seeds will provide long-lasting energy. Be careful with this one though, if it is more sweet than savory, your blood sugar will spike then crash, leaving you more sluggish than before. The best way to avoid the excess sugars, oils and icky preservatives that are added to many popular trail mixes is to make your own. Explore this Learnist board for trail mix ideas and recipes that are adventurous and go way beyond regular GORP (“good old-fashioned raisins and peanuts”). Note, some are more sugary than others … opt for ones with more protein and fiber, and less sugar!
Sweet potatoes are a complex carb, so they break down slowly and keep your blood sugars level instead of spiking and crashing. These bad boys also contain iron, which is an essential mineral for adequate energy that aids in red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, immune functioning and protein metabolization. If you’re looking for new ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet, here are 15 sweet potato recipes that don’t contain marshmallows.
Lentils provide a huge bang for your buck … seriously, they’re super cheap to buy and easy to prepare. Low in calories and high in nutrients, lentils are a great source of slow-burning energy due to its fiber and complex carbs. Get this: of all legumes and nuts, lentils are the highest in protein, and are also a good source of iron. Here you can find more information on lentil’s health benefits, tips on storing and more. And if you need some ideas for using lentils, here you’ll find a ton of recipes that use lentils.Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes caffeine can do wonders for energy – but it’s not the healthiest choice! So the next time you’re lacking energy, try one of these foods first. Leave any other suggestions in the comments section!