Foods That Fuel

This week, we look to nutrition as an energy source by exploring how specific foods can fuel our bodies and minds.

From playing collegiate basketball to exercising regularly, I’ve spent more than a decade looking for and experimenting with foods to power my workouts, to increase my physical output, and to feel energized and healthy. What I’ve discovered is that nutrition makes up at least 80 percent of how I look physically and feel energetically.

Last month, I offered nutritional foundations to simplify your diet and to eat for health. When eating for energy, the same rules apply: Keep it simple. Find effective sources. Be willing to experiment to discover what works for you.

You have likely heard about the energetic effects of the following types of foods. Here are four tips that I use to maximize my benefits from them:

1) Fruit delivers energy to your body from the sun; from its fast-releasing carbohydrates; from its hydrating effects; and from its purification of your cells so they function efficiently.

Even though I follow more of a Paleo diet, my nutrition coach, Cyrus “The Mangoman” Khambatta, is a raw-food vegan. With a doctorate in nutritional biochemistry, he emphasizes using fruit for fuel because of its abundant macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.

Try: The Mangoman’s breakfast shake
My coach pretty much forced me to switch my breakfast from eggs and vegetables to this shake to increase my intake of fruit in the morning:

Glass of blueberry smoothie with mint.

12 ounces of water
1-2 scoops of protein powder (vegan or whey, your call)
1-2 bananas
2-3 dates
1 cup of mixed berries
1 tablespoon of chia seeds

This bad boy delivers over 30 grams of protein and more than 100 grams of carbohydrates. As a result, it energizes my mind and body all morning. Because the blending process retains the fruit’s fiber, which stabilizes the blood sugar, it sustains my energy more than juice would. It also tastes great.

Try substituting this shake for your normal breakfast, especially if you always start your day with coffee. Notice whether it changes your energy levels throughout the morning.

2) Coffee might still factor into your morning routine. It is stimulating, but the energy it provides is not natural or sustained. I learned the following crazy trick a few years back to prevent this jolt and crash, and it’s been a go-to since.

bulletproof coffee

Try: Bulletproof coffee
Here’s my curve-ball for increasing energy: Add butter to your coffee. What?!?

Butter turns coffee into a time-released energy source because it must go through your liver to be digested. Adding 1 tablespoon of butter to my coffee gives me about five hours of sustained energy. As a result, I drink less coffee.

I use butter from grass-fed cows. I blend rather than stir it in. I add cinnamon to enhance taste and blood sugar regulation, which also stabilizes my energy.

3) Nuts and seeds are my go-to snacks to maintain my energy between meals, especially when on the go. Their combination of macro-nutrients makes them energetically dense, so I don’t need to eat a lot of them to feel their effects.

Try: AlmondsBowl of Almond Nuts on Rustic Wooden Table
One handful of almonds packs over 160 calories comprising 14 grams fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein. Just practice moderation, as the majority of their energy comes from fat. Four handfuls later, and you’ve already consumed over 50 grams of fat and nearly 650 calories.

4) Starchy foods such as breads, rice and white potatoes have long been viewed as dietary staples in part because they are packed with carbohydrates.

Try: Sweet potatoes

This form of potato scsweet potatoes isolated on white backgroundores higher on my list. Its power comes from its energizing micro-nutrients, such as vitamin D, iron, magnesium and potassium, and its low glycemic load. Glycemic load measures the amount of carbohydrates in a serving of food. The lower the load, the lesser the effect of the food on your blood sugar. Stable blood sugar translates to more sustained energy. Also, they’re delicious.

Play with these tips to test whether they increase your physical and mental energy. Share the results of your experimentation in the comment section below as well as any other tricks that have worked for you.

Want to increase your energy and overall health? Contact me today about my personal wellness coaching programs. In-person, phone and online options are available!

Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.

Comments ( 1 )
  • Sam says:

    Thanks for those awesome energy tips, Big Yogi! I make a similar smoothie most days, but with the addition of coconut cream (also called butter). Also, I love the flavor and sustained energy of coconut oil in my coffee. If you want a vegan alternative to the butter, go Coco!

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