What to Eat for Energy

By Hywania Thompson

Balancing work, family, school (or, home school for some) and everything in between means you need healthy snacks and meals to keep up with your go-go-go day.

What we put in our bodies throughout the day can help increase and sustain our energy. “You’re eating not just to fuel yourself, but to feel at your best and not have your food choices hinder your day,” says Greg Smith, personal trainer and nutrition coach at Orange Shoe Personal Fitness-Fitchburg.

Eating for energy looks different for everyone. Finding the best combination of foods for you takes a little experimenting and paying attention to your body. “If I eat this food, I feel good, I feel energized,” says Smith. “Or if I eat this food, I’m hungry 20 minutes later and I feel like I need to eat more.” For comparison, Smith says oatmeal and fruit for breakfast is filling and nutritious, and will give you more energy than a donut. “A more processed food like a donut might give a quick burst of energy but you’ll crash from it sooner,” he says.

The same approach works when deciding what to eat before and after a workout. Smith suggests a carb and protein — like Greek yogurt and a banana — before and after exercising. He says a combination such as this works well to keep you full and give you more energy. To sustain energy, Smith says keep these things in mind:

  • Understand what you need in your daily life to have enough energy. Keep it simple and don’t overthink it. Some days you’re more active and need to eat more for energy.
  • Find the timing that works best for you, whether it’s two larger meals a day or six mini meals a day.
  • Commit to consistency. If your eating schedule varies too much from day to day, your body will be off schedule, affecting your energy.

While eating the right foods can give us energy, Smith says moving our bodies helps, too. “Getting up and moving — often that is actually what you need to get that energy back.” Moving for five minutes can be enough to re-invigorate your brain. If you’ve been sitting on the couch or glued to your desk all day, moving your body is a good, mental switch-up that revives focus and energy, he says.

Smith suggests these healthy snack ideas:

  • Apple and peanut butter
  • String cheese and a handful of nuts
  • Bell pepper sticks and cottage cheese
  • Small bowl of oatmeal and mixed berries
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