1. DAIRY PRODUCTS LIKE, SKIMMED MILK, COTTAGE CHEESE AND YOGURT
These foods are rich in amino acids – the building blocks of protein – that build and repair our muscles, says Jane Freeman, registered dietitian and sports nutritionist from Food Equation. They are also low-glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates, which means the sugars break down slowly to give you a sustained release of energy throughout the day.
Flavoured milk or yogurt have a higher sugar content, so if you prefer it, go for low-fat versions, advises Rddhi Naidu, clinical dietitian from Parkway East Hospital.
2. SWEET POTATOES AND YAM
“A good source of complex carbohydrates, these are good for stabilising your energy levels because they break down slowly in the digestive system,” says Jane. They are also high in fibre – they keep you full for a longer duration, so you won’t reach for sugary snacks that will trigger the blood sugar “roller coaster”.
You can roast or cook them in a risotto, porridge or soup. If you are not used to the taste, you can mix them with regular potatoes to make them more palatable.
Opt for wholegrain or “pinhead” oats. Wholegrain oats have a lower GI, which helps balance blood sugar levels; fine, rolled oats, on the other hand, are cut thinner and processed, so the energy turnover rate is faster, explains Jane.
“They are full of B-vitamins like riboflavin and pantothenic acid, that aid in converting carbohydrates and proteins into energy,” says Jane. Riboflavin promotes energy production, while pantothenic acid supports the adrenal glands which regulate our stress hormones to prevent adrenal fatigue.
“Beans, like kidney beans and chickpeas, are low in fat, high in protein and chock-full of fibre. They give you energy, while keeping your blood sugar levels stable,” says Rddhi.
According to Jane, you only need to be 2 per cent dehydrated to feel fatigued. Besides drinking the optimal eight glasses of water a day, you can consume foods with lots of H2O, too.
“Melons have a water content of almost 80-90 per cent, and can be a refreshing mid-morning snack or tasty thirst-quencher,” says Rddhi. You can have two servings a day. Opt for whole fruit wherever possible – the fibre may be reduced when it is juiced.
This fruit is a rare example of a high-fat, low-GI food. It is full of monounsaturated fat that helps lower blood cholesterol levels and is beneficial for the heart. “This fat is similar to omega-3 fatty acids, which have been positively associated with brain health, and are linked to improved moods – and energy levels, too,” says Jane.
They have an etablished reputation as a pick-me-up, and are excellent sources of protein and fibre – which work together for sustainable energy release, says Rddhi.
Almonds, walnuts and pistachios also contain magnesium, an important nutrient that helps regulate blood cells for energy production. For a quick energy boost after a workout, have a handful of nuts to replenish the electrolytes you’ve lost and prevent fatigue from setting in.
A protein-rich food that’s full of B-vitamins, eggs are a great source of energy. But more importantly, they load you up on iron – a mineral essential in the formation of haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. “A deficiency in haemoglobin can result in anaemia, where insufficient oxygen is transported to your organs, leading to fatigue,” explains Rddhi.
10. COFFEE AND TEA
“There’s no denying the energy kick caffeine gives, but go for a latte or cappuccino instead of black coffee. The added dairy makes it a high-protein option and you’ll get double the benefits,” says Jane.
If you prefer to go easy on the java, have a cup of green tea instead. This alternative source of caffeine is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that improves mental alertness and combats weariness.
This article was originally published in Simply Her September 2014.