Often when we feel that “afternoon slump,” we reach for an energy drink or a protein bar that promises everything from performance boosts to better muscle growth, but many of the quick fixes fall short. Loaded with sugars and chemicals, these products tend to do the opposite of what they claim, leading to a sugar high and subsequent crash. The real key to staying focused and productive throughout the day is to use food as fuel.
The body’s main source of energy is glucose, which it gets from carbohydrates. And contrary to what fad diets will have you believe, carbohydrates are not the enemy. Simply choosing the right carbohydrates (foods that release glucose slowly and steadily throughout the body) and good fats and proteins (foods that repair and rebuild tissue and muscle) will provide you with sustained energy.
Ever notice how you feel hungrier and more sluggish after eating a sugary treat or a bowl of pasta? That’s because these types of carbohydrates give you that immediate rush of energy (also known as a sugar high). As your body rapidly produces insulin to process these sugars, your blood sugar drops. When it comes to glucose levels rising and falling in a beneficial way, slow and steady wins the race. Read on for more insight into foods that fuel.
Best Slow-Release Foods
Nonstarchy vegetables: Good options include broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, kale, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions.
Low-glycemic fruits: Although every fruit has a relatively low glycemic index and all are beneficial to your health, there are a few that have higher sugar content and release glucose quicker. Low-glycemic fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, oranges, and apples, will have a slower release and are also higher
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hempseeds, and pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber and healthy fats to keep you energized and satiated.
Quinoa and oats: These are rich in nutrients and vitamins like magnesium to support cognitive function and provide slow-releasing energy.
Eggs: Egg yolks contain choline and vitamins B12 and B6 that support energy levels and improve memory and cognition.
Avocados: Healthy fats found in avocados help maintain good blood flow throughout your body, muscles, and brain.
Foods to Avoid
Processed foods: Processed foods are loaded with refined carbohydrates and simple sugars that will raise your blood sugar very rapidly and crash it just as quickly.
High-glycemic foods: The higher a food is in processed refined sugars (higher than 50 on the glycemic index), the more insulin your body pumps out to lower your blood sugar, causing it to crash. Avoid foods like pasta, white bread, white rice, pretzels, chips, cookies, and fries.
Sugary drinks: Instead of soda, kombucha, juice, or energy drinks (all of which can contain large amounts of quick-releasing sugar), stick to flat or sparkling water and add a squeeze of citrus.
This Not That
Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
Berries and apples instead of mango, pineapple, and ripe bananas.
Nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters instead of chips and protein bars.
Oats and quinoa instead of sugary cereals.
Sprouted grain breads instead of white breads and pastas.
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to taste
Add eggs to a lidded pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place eggs into a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and halve the eggs, placing yolks into a mixing bowl. Using a whisk, fork, or hand mixer, combine yolks, avocado, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Spoon mixture into halved egg whites. Garnish with salt, pepper, and a dash of smoked paprika.
- 1/2 cup sprouted oats
- 3/4 cup unsweetened milk of your choice (almond, cashew, coconut, hemp)
- 1 tbsp. chia seeds
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/2 cup fresh berries
- 1 tbsp. hempseeds or pumpkin seeds (or nuts of your choice)
Place oats, milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup in a mason jar and shake or stir to combine. Refrigerate overnight (or for 8 hours). Serve with fresh berries and a sprinkle of hempseeds, pumpkin seeds, or nuts.