Food is fuel for your body, which is to say that everything you eat has a tangible effect on your health, performance, and energy levels. Certain foods can naturally boost your energy and productivity levels while others can make you feel more lethargic and sluggish, thereby reducing your desire and motivation to exercise, ultimately hindering your results and progress during your transformation challenge.
Here are 7 ways to eat for natural energy so that you stay naturally energized and motivated from sunup to sundown:
#1 Start the Day Right
A protein-rich breakfast is a fantastic way to start the day for many individuals, including those who want to build muscle [***insert link to BULKING article when uploaded***] and lose weight. While some individuals choose to fast in the early-morning hours, breaking your fast (i.e. “breakfast”) should include a healthy dose of protein (such as eggs, yogurt, or whey protein) as well as complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. This provides your body with long-lasting energy and sidesteps the roller coaster ups-and-downs of simple carbs/sugars (e.g. donuts and gourmet coffees).
#2 Don’t Avoid Fat
In fitness circles, “fat” has gotten a bad name as it was believed that consuming dietary fat would lead to increased body fat gain. However, it’s not simply that consuming fat will cause you to gain fat. It is consuming too much fat, carbs, and calories in general that will cause you to gain body fat.
Our bodies require a certain amount of dietary fat for proper vitamin absorption, hormone production, cell membrane structure, and energy production (fat serves as the “slow-burning” fuel powering your cells during low-intensity activity, such as walking or sitting).
The key with fat is to consume the right kind of fats (monounsaturated fats, omega-3s, etc.) and avoid the wrong kind of fats (i.e. hydrogenated oils). To make sure you’re consuming the right amount of fat, track your daily food intake with the 1UP Fitness App. When you download the app, you’ll also be able to get customized diet and training suggestions to help you get the results you want from your time and effort.
#3 Choose Complex Carbs (Most of the time)
Carbohydrates (glucose) are the body’s preferred source of energy during intense exercise, and following a hard workout, glycogen (stored glucose) levels are depleted. The quickest way to replenish them, halt muscle breakdown, and kickstart muscle recovery is with a post-workout shake, including a scoop of protein and fast-digesting carbs (like those included in Tri-Carb).
While fast-digesting, simple carbs are great during and after your workout, the rest of the time you want to focus on consuming complex carbohydrates -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc. Complex carbs provide energy but also fiber, vitamins and minerals, which deliver a consistent release of energy, unlike fast-digesting carbs which can cause energy highs and lows.
#4 Consume Enough Protein
Protein provides the essential building blocks (amino acids) your body needs to repair damaged muscle fibers, synthesize hormones and neurotransmitters, maintain healthy hair, skin & nails and support immune function.
Another great benefit of protein is that it slows down food digestion, which helps you to feel fuller for longer (thus less likely to overeat) while also providing a steady release of energy into your bloodstream. For active individuals looking to build strength, lose weight, and support a healthy lifestyle, a general rule of thumb is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
#5 Experiment with Meal Frequency
While there are certain “fundamentals” of nutrition -- consume adequate protein, focus on whole foods, etc., much of finding the “right” diet for an individual is up to the individual. Certain foods (e.g. dairy, bread, potatoes, etc.) are better tolerated by some individuals than others. Not only can certain foods play a key factor in how your daily energy levels fluctuate, but also how frequently you eat.
For example, some individuals feel more energized and focused following an intermittent fasting-style of eating. Others feel sluggish if they don’t eat breakfast soon after waking and every few hours afterwards.
Experiment with different meal frequencies to determine which leaves you feeling the most energized and productive during the day. Also, don’t be afraid to tweak meal frequency as your lifestyle and preferences change.
#6 Don’t Neglect Micronutrients
Consuming enough quality calories from lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains is critical to eating for energy. Not only do these foods supply your body with the essential amino acids, fatty acids, and carbohydrates needed to fuel your cells, but they also supply robust amounts of micronutrients -- vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. While micronutrients don’t contribute towards your daily calories, they serve critical roles in hundreds and hundreds of biological processes, including ATP (energy) production.
Consuming a nutritious diet is a great way to obtain your micronutrients; however, it can be difficult to really know how much of each given micronutrient you’re really getting as food preparation and storage methods can affect micronutrient content (not to mention the farming practices utilized to grow the food).
As such, supplementing with a daily multivitamin, such as Multi-Go Women or Multi-Go Men, is a great way to support your daily micronutrient intake and ensure your body has the key components to keep you naturally energized.
#7 Snack Smart
Light snacks between meals are a great way to keep your energy levels up. The trick is to snack smart. Avoid cheap carbs (chips, candy, cookies, etc) and sugary drinks as these can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, temporarily boosting energy only to leave you dragging soon after (and likely still hungry).
Smart snacks should contain lean protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates that deliver sustained energy, while also supporting muscle recovery. A few easy snacks that we really like are:
- Greek yogurt + fresh berries
- Almonds + an apple
- An ounce or two of cheese + sliced veggies
Remember that snacks aren’t meant to be a meal replacement. They are there to tide you over until your next nutritious meal.