5 Things to Eat When You're Low on Energy

It’s no secret that having a healthy diet is important for maintaining our energy levels. Your body is fuelled by what you feed it, so naturally the best way to get the most energy from your food is to make sure you’re giving yourself the best nourishment possible.  Let’s take a look at why eating a balanced diet and taking well indicated supplements can help maximize your energy levels.  1. Eat fresh foods, avoid processed foods  When it comes to food there’s no way around it – fresh is best. Fresh foods provide easy to process natural combinations of all the vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and proteins necessary for a healthy life. Think fruits, veggies, fresh caught fish and grass fed meats – all grown in nature, harvested, and brought fresh to your supermarket and table.   Processed foods on the other hand contain added salts, sugars and chemicals, and few vitamins or minerals. They are manufactured to last longer on supermarket shelves – and in the process are robbed of all their nutritional strength. As a result, they don’t provide the body with any nutrients besides calories – meaning the body is supplied with too much fuel, but not way of processing that fuel into usable energy.  This is why processed foods fail at maintaining healthy energy levels. The initial sugar high is followed by an even bigger slump, with no vitamins, minerals or other nutrients there to modify or reduce the damage.   Think about what happens an hour or so after that takeaway meal or your favourite chocolate bar. Once the high has subsided you’re left feeling hungry, tired, and wanting more. This is because your body has been starved of the nutrients and nourishment your body requires.  2. Fresh, Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables  Fruits and vegetables on the other hand are very nutrient dense, and don’t supply your body with empty calories. Instead they are high in vitamins and minerals, hydration, and fibre, and for your health are best eaten daily.  Luckily, modern convenience means we can get fruits and vegetables at the supermarket all year round – which is great for our health and wellbeing.   If you want to super-charge your health and wellbeing, it is best to eat fruits and vegetables when they are seasonal – that is, when they are plentiful and cheap because they have been picked close to their harvest season. This means they are the highest in vitamins and minerals they will be in their life (the longer a fruit is stored, the lesser its nutritional value) – so fresh is always best!  3. Water  You’d be surprised how many people are chronically dehydrated. One of the most common symptoms associated with dehydration is fatigue and lethargy, so make sure that you drink at least 2L of water per day to stay adequately hydrated. 3   4. Nuts and Seeds Nuts and seeds are a rich source of nutrients that can help keep you energized. They support good slow burning energy with their high protein and beneficial fat sources. Nuts and seeds also contain micronutrients such as magnesium, which is key for allowing energy to reach to all the muscles in your body. Furthermore, the protein and fat found in nuts help to keep you feeling fueled for hours. 4  5. Lean Proteins Lean proteins including fish, red meat, beans and legumes contain high-quality proteins that can assist in balancing and sustaining healthy energy levels. It also gives you a feeling of fullness following a meal, so you’re less inclined to reach for those sugary snacks.   Proteins are also important for strong muscle tissue, meaning they are effective in repairing tired and overused muscles following intense physical activity.   6.  Complex Carbohydrates Complex carbohydrates are slow burning, energy sustaining sources of fuel for your body.   What makes a carbohydrate complex is the fact it is minimally processed, making it nutrient and fibre rich. A great example of a complex carbohydrate is whole grain bread, brown rice or wholemeal pasta.    7. Natural Supplements  Often times when energy is an issue, specific nutrients could be lacking in your diet. In this situation supplementing these nutrients may be beneficial for raising energy levels.   Some examples of vitamins and mineral that, when deficient in the diet, may be the cause of symptoms of low energy, include:  •	Iron. Iron is necessary for our blood to transport oxygen around the body to all cells and tissues. If you are suffering from fatigue and suspect iron could be the cause (maybe you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, have heavy menstruation, or are an athlete) talk to your doctor about getting your iron levels checked and choose a high quality iron supplement containing Iron diglycinate, to ensure proper absorption and fewer side effects (like constipation).  •	Magnesium.  Magnesium is necessary for the function of healthy muscles and also a healthy nervous system. If your muscles are tired, twitchy or fatigued, magnesium will assist in relaxing your muscles – and is particularly beneficial if you have difficulty having a restful sleep, in returning your body to a more restful, comfortable position.  •	Vitamin B12. All the B complex vitamins are important in helping us make usable energy out of the food we eat. B12 is beneficial for the healthy function of nerves and the nervous system, whilst also supporting our body in its absorption of iron. Vitamin B12 supplements are especially important for vegans and vegetarians, who don’t have a ready supply of the nutrient in their diet.

It’s no secret that our diets impact our energy levels. Your body is fuelled by what you feed it – you really are what you eat!

While calories  are one way of measuring the amount of energy that a meal could provide, it's a little more complicated than that. Your body also needs vitamins and minerals to convert food into energy, and not all sources of calories contain those nutrients . Fresh foods provide the most nutrients that your body needs to produce cellular energy, but ultra-processed takeaway and junk foods are considered to be “empty calories” – they leave you feeling flat because they don't contain the nutrients that your cells need to create energy out of the calories that these foods provide.

Here are five of our favourite types of energy-boosting foods to eat when you're feeling low on energy:

1. Fresh, Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are incredibly nutrient-dense – the opposite of “empty calories”. To maximise the amount of nutrients found in your food, shop for seasonal produce. Fresh is best because the nutrients in fruit and veg degrade over time. The longer that a piece of produce is kept in storage, the less its nutritional value will be by the time you eat it. This means that it's best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season – this is when they have the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals, and they won't have been kept in storage for long. Plus, it's when they're cheapest!

Try: “Eat the rainbow” and include colourful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet to get the widest variety of nutrients possible. Give one meal each day a diverse range of minerals and vitamins by including red, green, orange, yellow, and purple vegetables.

2. Water, Soups & Smoothies

Mild dehydration is shockingly common and causes energy-sucking symptoms like fatigue, lethargy, and headaches. Most people need to drink about two litres of water a day – but this increases if you're active, sick, take diarrhetic medication or drink caffeine or alcohol [3]

Good news: if you struggle to drink plain water, you can boost your liquid intake by including hydrating foods like soups and smoothies in your daily diet.

Try: Carry a water bottle with you, and flavour your water with fresh mint, lemon or berries.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a rich source of nutrients that can help keep you energised. Their high protein and fat content supports the production of slow burning energy. Nuts and seeds also contain micronutrients such as magnesium, which is needed for energy to reach to all the muscles in your body. The protein and fat found in nuts also help to keep you feeling fuelled for hours – always a plus! [4]

Try: A closed handful of nuts and seeds between meals.

4. Lean Proteins

Including lean protein with your meal gives you a feeling of fullness after you eat, so you'll be less likely to have an energy slump later. Fish, beans and legumes are energy-dense lean proteins that are also rich in micronutrients that can help to sustain healthy cellular energy production.

Proteins are also important to strengthen and repair muscle tissues after physical exercise. This means that boosting your protein intake could improve your energy if you're feeling fatigued after exercise or intense physical activity.

Try: Fish, chickpeas, hummus, black beans, lentil burgers, falafels, tempeh or tofu at every meal.

5.  Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are slow burning, energy-sustaining sources of fuel for your body. While simple carbohydrates like refined sugars and junk foods send you on an energy rollercoaster that ends in fatigue, complex carbs like brown rice and wholemeal pasta can provide a steady, predictable release of energy across the whole day.

Try: Whole grains and seeds like quinoa, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, wholegrain bread and pasta, freekeh, barley or rye at every meal.

Nutritional Supplements 

If you're eating a healthy diet but still suffer from ongoing low energy, you may have an increased need for specific nutrients. Supplementing these nutrients may be beneficial for raising energy levels, but speak to a qualified nutritionist for personalised advice.

Symptoms of low energy are common when dietary intake of these nutrients is insufficient:

  • Iron: Iron is necessary for blood to effectively transport oxygen from the lungs to cells where it is used to create cellular energy. If you are suffering from fatigue and suspect that low iron could be the cause, talk to your doctor about getting your iron levels checked. If low, choose a high quality iron supplement containing iron diglycinate to ensure proper absorption and fewer side effects like constipation. Ethical Nutrients Mega Iron is a great alternative.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is necessary for the healthy function of muscles and the nervous system. If your muscles are tired, twitchy or fatigued, magnesium might help. It has been shown to reduce muscle aches, cramps and spasms, especially at night where these symptoms can stop people from getting restful sleep. Ethical Nutrients Mega Magnesium is a great alternative.

  • B Vitamins: All the B complex vitamins are essential for the body to produce energy from the food we eat, but these vitamins are quickly depleted from the body when we are under type of stress. A study in 2010 found that taking B vitamins relieved symptoms of mental and physical fatigue, and even reduced symptoms of stress [3]. Vitamin B12 supplements are especially important for vegans and vegetarians who don’t have a ready supply of this nutrient in their diets. If you suspect your vitamin B12 intake is low, speak to your doctor about having your levels checked. Ethical Nutrients Super B Daily Stress +, can be a great option.