Need more energy? The answer may be in your diet

By Isabella Young on 28th Jul 2020

A woman jumping

Isabella Young of Nourished Routes highlights how important food and nutrition is to your daily energy levels.

There is no doubt people are in search of ways to maximize and gain more energy. With the continual fast-paced speed of life, it can often feel like there isn’t enough energy in the tank to make it through a day being both physically and mentally sharp.

Why do people need more energy?
– To sustain a 24/7 lifestyle
– Juggle competing priorities
– Balance inadequate sleep
– To be able to perform physical tasks: heavy labor, athletics, chores around the house, etc.
– The desire to perform cognitive tasks at the highest level, whether using memory, focus, computation, etc.
– To overcome the daily stresses of life in a calm manner
– To maintain healthy body functions such as digestion and absorption

What is energy?
According to the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute, energy can be described as the focus, mental stimulation, mood, and ability to do physical labor or exercise. When you boil it down, energy is directly equivalent to calories. These calories come from the foods we eat, which are composed of three macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are turned into glucose, the form of energy that is transported throughout the body in the bloodstream. Glucose is a form of sugar that is readily available to be used in the body as energy. When attempting to work out or maintain strenuous physical activity for an extended period, it is vital to have high glycogen levels to conserve energy levels.

Fats are broken down into fatty acids. Due to their high solubility, fatty acids are readily available to be used as an energy source for most cells. Fatty acids are not readily available to be used for energy for exercise or strenuous activity as glucose and glycogen are preferred. Protein is generally only used as a last resort if there are no other macronutrients available. Our bodies will tap into the protein found in our muscles if our glycogen stores are deficient. Vitamins can also aid in boosting energy but not in the same sense as macronutrients. Vitamin B, for example, aids the body in unlocking the energy, which is stored in fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

What are your energy needs?
The amount of calories we burn in a day is referred to as energy expenditure. There are three major components of energy expenditure: resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of food (TEF), and energy cost of physical activity. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate at which your body burns energy when completely at rest. The thermal effect of food (TEF) is the amount of energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. The energy cost of physical activity accounts for the extra energy expended throughout the day, such as lifting items, running, swimming, etc. One way to calculate the amount of energy used daily is by using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation. The Mifflin St. Jeor equation uses gender, weight, height, age, and activity levels to identify the number of calories you burn daily. Click here to calculate your BMR.

Factors that affect BMR
There are quite a few different factors that affect BMR, including muscle mass, age, gender, genetics, physical activity, environment, medication, and diet. As for muscle mass, the more muscle tissue that a person carries, the more calories they need to consume. The more fat a person carries, the fewer calories they need to consume. As we age, our metabolism rates tend to slow, meaning that we need to consume fewer calories. Typically, men have faster metabolisms, which means they need more calories than women do. Genetics can also play a role in impacting BMR; some families tend to have faster metabolic rates than others, and some genetic disorders affect metabolisms, such as Hurler syndrome and Gaucher disease.

The environment also can impact metabolism, so people that live in extreme climates need more calories because their bodies have to work harder to maintain their average temperature. Some medications increase BMR, such as caffeine and nicotine, whereas antidepressants and steroids tend to slow BMR. Lastly, your diet has a significant effect on your BMR. Not only what you eat, but also how much, can lead to changes in how many calories you need.

Mental energy vs. physical energy
Mental energy encompasses alertness, the ability to complete tasks, or not feeling mentally tired. Physical energy, on the other hand, aids us in overcoming sluggishness and exhaustion. It could also be defined as the energy needed to get through the day or finish a job. We all rely on a combination of mental and physical energy to make it through the day, but the ratio varies depending on the person and the tasks.

Foods that provide energy
Eating well can play a substantial role in increasing energy levels. Here’s a list of foods known to boost energy that can be introduced into your diet.
Bananas: a source of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6, all of which are known to boost energy
Sweet potatoes: a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, manganese and vitamin A
Manganese: essential in breaking down nutrients to produce energy
Coffee: a source of caffeine that is known to inhibit the activity of adenosine, which stimulates the production of epinephrine stimulating the body and brain
Eggs: loaded with protein, provides steady energy throughout the day since it does not lead to any spikes in blood sugar
Apples: a good source of carbohydrates, fiber and natural sugar which allows for a sustained energy release throughout the day
Yerba Maté: a source of caffeine which promotes the production of epinephrine, thus increasing energy levels
Oatmeal: rich in B vitamins, iron and manganese which allow for sustained energy release throughout the day
Yogurt: an excellent source of protein, vitamin B2 and B12, and simple sugars which allows for ready-to-use energy
Hummus: packed with complex carbohydrates and fiber for sustained energy production

Life is all about balance and energy needs are no different. Every person is unique and needs to find the right combination of sleep, diet, and exercise that is right for them and allows them to maximize their energy potential. If you are looking for some advice on finding the right balance for your body, reach out to to schedule a free consultation with a registered dietitian.

Nourished Routes, a nutrition consulting company, aims to enrich your lifestyle with interactive experiences and education. When it comes to providing nutrition therapy, they are Registered Dietitians who believe in a whole foods approach, 100% transparency with clients, and applying evidence-based information. Some of the nutrition services of Nourished Routes include nutrition counseling, meal plans, workshops, and much more! Check out their website at for more information.

Related articles: The importance of gut health

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