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Many of us start (and, if we’re being honest, also finish) the day feeling tired or drained. Often, we find ourselves depending on caffeine, whether in the form of coffee or tea, soda, or energy drinks, to offer a quick burst of energy and help us make it through the day.
While caffeine offers a quick fix, it’s not necessarily a great choice for everyone and may not be an option for those that are pregnant or sensitive to caffeine. For those seeking to improve their energy levels without depending on caffeine, there are other alternatives you may want to consider.
In this article I walk through 5 natural ways to boost your energy without caffeine.
Can certain foods improve your energy levels?
Yes! In fact, it’s probably not a shock that the types of foods you eat can impact your energy level. Certain nutrients in foods, such as fiber and vitamin B12, are thought to mimic the effect of caffeine and cause an influx of energy.
Because of this, several common foods have been found to offer similar energizing effects to those seen after caffeine consumption. Who would’ve thought that nutritious foods could boost your energy level in the same way as that morning cup of coffee?
So, of course, the million-dollar question is: What are these energizing foods? And how in the world can they help boost my energy level?
Oats are touted as being one of the healthiest grains in existence…and for good reason! Their vast nutritional profile offers not only fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants, but also significant amounts of protein, making oats one of many natural protein boosters.
The nutrient composition of oatmeal is what contributes to its energy-boosting abilities.
The complex carbohydrate and, specifically, the soluble fiber content of oatmeal helps slow down digestion, resulting in a steady and long-lasting release of energy. Oats are also rich in several vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, that assist in energy production.
Eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or adding oats to a smoothie can offer a burst of energy that lasts for many hours.
2) Dark chocolate
Say what?! Dark chocolate is healthy??
Surprisingly, yes! Although chocolate has a bit of a bad reputation, dark chocolate is incredibly nutritious. Its cocoa content is what sets it apart from other types of chocolate, containing higher amounts of this ingredient than its milk and white counterparts.
The antioxidants found in cocoa offer a host of health benefits, including improved cognitive function and reduced mental fatigue. An added benefit, dark chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that acts as a natural stimulant and boosts energy similarly to caffeine.
When selecting dark chocolate, it’s important to focus on those with a cocoa content of 70% or higher; this will ensure higher antioxidant and theobromine content, thus optimizing its energizing effect.
Beans are incredibly rich in a variety of nutrients, including fiber and protein.
Their balanced macronutrient profile and, in particular, high fiber content makes them a great source of natural energy.
Similarly to oats, the rich fiber content helps to slow digestion, stabilize blood sugar levels, and release and maintain stable amounts of energy. Although the micronutrient content varies among the different types of beans, many also contain vitamins and minerals that are involved in energy production.
Black beans and black-eyed peas, for example, contain folic acid, iron, and magnesium, which play a role in the production and utilization of energy within the body.
Because there are so many different types of beans, they can be incredibly versatile; they could be easily added to your diet in the form of a three-bean salad, piled into your favorite chili, or simply by snacking on roasted chickpeas.
Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds can offer an energizing boost to your diet as well.
As rich sources of fiber and protein, they function similarly to beans and oats, providing a steady release of energy as a result of slowed digestion. Seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, low levels of which have been associated with fatigue.
As a result, you can ward off unnecessary drowsiness by ingesting adequate amounts of these essential fatty acids. Each of the seeds offers its own unique nutritional profile which will further impact their energy-boosting effects. Sesame seeds, for example, provide significant amounts of magnesium, a nutrient that helps turn dietary sugar into energy.
Avocados have grown in popularity recently as a result of their known health benefits (and their delicious taste!).
In fact, many claim avocados as a superfood because of their rich nutritional profile and resultant health benefits.
Most notably in terms of boosting energy, avocados are rich in fiber, healthy fats, and B vitamins. While the fiber content helps provide energy by slowing digestion and maintaining blood sugar levels, the monounsaturated fats help optimize nutrient absorption and act as an energy source.
Furthermore, the high concentration of B vitamins, which play a critical role in energy production and metabolism, will further improve your energy levels. Because of their mild taste and creamy texture, avocados are easy to incorporate into your diet whether by spreading on toast, adding to your omelet, or chopping to make guacamole!
As you can see, choosing healthy foods is the key to naturally improving your energy levels.
Not only will these foods offer more nutrients than caffeinated beverages, but they also have the capacity to keep you feeling energized for longer periods of time.
Choosing healthy macronutrient sources, including foods rich in fiber, protein, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, can fight fatigue and keep you feeling awake, alert, and energized throughout the course of the day.
Additionally, nutrient-dense foods that contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help to ensure adequate energy production within your body’s cells.
Although the B vitamins, which are commonly found in animal products, seeds, and legumes, are highly regarded for their role in cellular energy production, many other micronutrients are also involved in this complex process.
If you’re looking for more natural ways to improve your energy level, ditch that morning cup of coffee (or at least cut back) and try adding these nutrient-rich foods to your diet instead.
Author bio: Kristin is a Registered Dietitian based in Virginia Beach, VA. She is currently practicing as a Nutrition Support Dietitian for Option Care Health. She also writes nutrition and weight loss articles for exercisewithstyle.com.