Lately, I’ve been feeling bone-tired every day, regardless of how much sleep I get the night before. Social distancing exhaustion is no joke: The lack of activity and sunlight exposure we’re experiencing as a whole is having a negative impact on our energy levels. And while it’s difficult to control our exposure to sunlight while we’re stuck inside all day, we can control what we eat. Enter: foods that will boost your energy. We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” and during quarantine, taking this notion into account can do wonders for our overall energy levels.
During an afternoon slump, it’s easy to pour another cup of coffee or down a sugary snack in search of a jolt of energy. However, these quick fixes will not provide you with the sustainable energy you need to tackle the day. For steady energy levels, nutrition expert Colette Heimowitz recommends eating foods with a lower glycemic impact, like green vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
“The higher the glycemic impact of a food, the greater and more rapid effect it has on your blood sugar when you eat it and the faster the dip in energy will be a few hours later,” Heimowitz tells HelloGiggles.
Another key to staying energized? Avoid large, spaced-out meals, and instead, eat often. “Stick with small, frequent meals that contain optimal protein, high-fiber carbs, and some natural healthy fats,” Heimowitz says. “This is the perfect recipe for keeping your focus and energy levels at an even keel all day long.”
As for the foods you should avoid when feeling fatigued: “Stay away from low-quality carbs such as added sugars and refined grains,” Heimowitz says. “They can cause instability in your blood sugar levels, causing you to crash and lose energy.”
Below, Heimowitz recommends six foods that will boost your energy.
Bananas are one of the top energy-boosting foods out there. They’re a great source of carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin B6, which are all energizing nutrients. Eat a banana with your breakfast, or peel one back for an afternoon snack.
Seafood like tuna and salmon are a much healthier source of protein than red meat, and they also provide B vitamins, which help convert food into energy.
“Salmon is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, balanced,” Heimowitz says. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known for reducing inflammation, which is a common cause of fatigue. She adds, “Eating adequate amounts of omega-3 from foods such as salmon or walnuts may promote the brain’s ability to adapt to changes.”
Heimowitz also recommends pairing fatty fish with a side salad and olive oil dressing or with heartier vegetables, like cauliflower or zucchini, instead of pasta or rice.
You know what they say: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, which makes them filling. Their rich natural sugar content provides a sustainable energy boost.
“A trick to lower the glycemic impact and maximize energy is to combine dietary fiber with dietary fat and protein. Eating half an apple by itself may raise your blood sugar, but if you eat it with a slice of cheddar cheese or some peanut butter, it will slow the entry of sugar into your bloodstream,” Heimowitz says. This will help you sustain your energy longer.
Although they’re sometimes called “trendy” (perhaps thanks to Queer Eye‘s Antoni Porowski), avocados have a cult following for good reason. Considered a “superfood,” avocados are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and B vitamins. They have a low glycemic index, so they won’t raise your blood sugar much—so they’ll help stabilize your energy level all day long.
Nuts are one of the most low-maintenance snacks to eat when you’re in a pinch and need a fast-acting energy booster. They’re packed with proteins, carbs, and healthy fats, making them filling. “Almonds are rich in vitamin E and vitamin B, which help protect the immune system and have stress-busting properties,” Heimowitz says.
Eat almonds or other nuts when you need an afternoon pick-me-up, or start off your day by incorporating them into breakfast. Heimowitz notes, “I usually start the day by having full-fat Greek yogurt with low-glycemic berries, topped with slivered almonds.”
Incorporating leafy green vegetables into your diet is recommended by nutritionists for a wide variety of reasons. They’re packed with fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Lacking iron is one of the most common reasons for fatigue, so adding iron-rich foods into your diet can do wonders for your energy levels.
“For lunch, I like to have an easy-to-make roasted chicken or fish salad with lots of chopped vegetables and olive-oil mayo,” Heimowitz says.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.