Let’s face facts; the trials and tribulations of everyday life can make it hard to focus on creating a balanced and healthy diet.
However, research tells us that this is crucial to cultivating good physical health, particularly in terms of our nutritional intake and the ability to consume the requisite vitamins.
It’s also important when you consider the rise of obesity in the UK, with the number of hospital admissions directly attributable to obesity climbing by 4% to a worrying 11,117 in the year 2018/19.
In this post, we’ll look at the nutrients and foods that are key to a healthy lifestyle, particularly those that can boost your energy levels.
Nutrient 1: Ashwagandha
First up is the ashwagandha herb, also known as Indian ginseng, which is widely considered to be medicinal and part of one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems.
According to some studies, its primary benefit is to increase energy levels, enhancing the body’s resilience to both physical and mental stress in the process.
People given ashwagandha have historically shown significant improvements when managing stress and anxiety, particularly when compared to those who were offered a placebo.
This was underlined by a 28% reduction in cortisol levels, with this hormone responsible for dictating stress levels and maintaining consistent (and healthy) energy levels during the course of the day.
On a similar note, it’s believed that ashwagandha can alleviate the physical fatigue associated with exercise, boosting the performance of elite cyclists by up to 7%.
Nutrient 2: Vitamin B12
The ‘B’ vitamins are amongst the most important dietary supplements, with B12 playing a pivotal role in transforming the food that we eat into the energy used within cells.
More specifically, vitamin B12 is key to consistent energy production, particularly as we grow older or in instances where we struggle to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Similarly, B12 maintains the long-term health of your body’s nerves and blood cells, directly preventing a type of anaemia that can make you weak and tired.
As a naturally occurring vitamin in animal proteins such as fish, dairy products and meat (we’ll have a little more on this later), many people and populations are deficient in B12, causing ongoing fatigue, weakness in the legs and mental issues such as memory loss.
Nutrient 3: Iron
In simple terms, your body needs iron to make haemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to the organs and tissues located throughout your body.
In instances where the body becomes deficient in iron, the red blood cells are unable to effectively carry oxygen to such tissues and you’re likely to develop anaemia over time.
Make no mistake; this will have a dramatic impact on your energy levels and physical wellbeing, while anaemia is also characterised by pale skin, an increased heart rate and inflammation of the tongue.
While a growing number of people take dietary supplements in order to get the requisite levels of iron, you should note that it’s also possible to consume more than you need.
In this instance, you can also feel fatigued and irregular heart rhythms, so it’s wise to consult with a GP before you commit to taking supplements.
Nutrient 4: Creatine
Next up is creatine, which is a compound that occurs naturally in animal proteins and food items such as pork, poultry, red meat and fish.
Its main purpose is to serve as a quick and accessible source of energy, which plays a pivotal role in helping us to function effectively during the typical working day.
In case you didn’t know, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy currency of life, and your body uses this to perform even the most rudimentary tasks. When the body does utilise ATP, it loses a phosphate group and becomes something referred to as adenosine diphosphate.
In this instance, your body craves a quick source of energy to fill the void, and creatine achieves this by lending its own phosphate to ADP to become an effective form of ATP.
In general terms, creatine will afford you the energy required for high-intensity and short-duration exercises, including short sprints (of around 100m in length), circuit training workouts and weightlifting.
Nutrient 5: Citrulline
The word ‘citrulline’ is derived from Citrullus vulgaris, which is actually the Latin phrase for watermelon (which is where the nutrient was first isolated).
Citrulline works to increase nitric oxide in the human body, which in turn acts as a vasodilator and causes the inner muscles of our blood vessels to widen and increase circulation.
This enables blood, oxygen and other nutrients to travel freely to all areas of the body, and when the body’s ability to produce nitric oxide is limited, physical weakness and a fundamental lack of energy will ensue.
In this respect, citrulline supplements may aid short-term energy levels, by immediately increasing the availability of oxygen and key nutrients to cells throughout the body.
Interestingly, citrulline also plays a role in the urea cycle, by eliminating ammonia directly from the body. Ammonia production is a major contributor to the fatigue that’s caused by high-intensity exercise, so the consumption of citrulline can decrease tiredness and aid faster physical recovery.
Nutrient 6: Beetroot Powder
We finish with beetroot powder, which is derived from the vegetable of the same name and is known to contain high levels of nitrate.
Similar to citrulline, nitrate produces nitric oxide in the human body, which as we’ve already touched on relaxes our blood vessels and optimises the flow of blood and oxygen.
This definitely enables your body to produce energy more consistently and efficiently, especially in relation to exercise and sustained periods of activity.
According to some studies, supplementing your diet with beetroot increases the amount of time it takes for you to tire during exercise.
More specifically, approved supplements enable people to exercise for up to 25% longer when compared to those who took a placebo, creating a significant boost in performance over time.
This applies to exercise of variable type and intensity too, identifying beetroot powder as a popular and commonplace supplement in all walks of life and society.
Food Source 1: Bananas
When it comes to food sources, it’s often recommended that we consume items that are capable of delivering a slow release of energy throughout the typical day.
In this respect, bananas are considered to be one of the very best foods for maintaining consistent energy levels over time, particularly if you consume one at the beginning of the day as part of a healthy and balanced breakfast.
The reason for this is the composition of bananas; which combine complex carbs, vitamin B6 and potassium, all of which have the capacity to boost energy levels incrementally and help you get through the challenges of the day!
Food Source 2: Fatty Fish
We’ve already touched on the fact that key nutrients such as creatine are available in animal proteins such as fish, and in this respect fatty seafood should feature prominently in your diet plan.
Fish such as salmon and tuna are particularly good sources of protein and fatty acids, while they also include the type of B vitamins (including B12).
Remember, the latter help to convert food directly into energy, so adding some seafood to your diet can deliver incremental benefits over time.
In terms of portions, a single serving of salmon provides you with your recommended daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids and B12, while this makes for a convenient and incredibly healthy lunch option!
Fatty fish and the Omega-3 acids included within have also been shown to actively reduce bodily inflammation, which is considered to be one of the most common causes of fatigue in modern Britain.
Food Source 3: Brown Rice
Brown rice is not only delicious and the ideal addition to a number of alternative dishes, but it’s also an incredibly healthy and nutritious food item in its own right.
This is particularly true when compared with white rice, which undergoes far more rigorous processes and retains considerably less nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
In simple terms, one-half cup (or 50 grams) of brown rice contains two grams of fibre, while providing a large portion of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of mangalese.
This is a mineral that helps enzymes to effectively break down carbs and proteins as a way of generating energy, so it should play a key role in any time of balanced and healthy diet.
Additionally, brown rice also boasts a low glycaemic index, thanks largely to its total fibre content. This makes it ideal for regulating blood sugar levels in real-time and promoting consistent energy levels throughout the course of your day!
Food Source 4: Eggs
No list of this type would be complete without including eggs, which are tremendously satisfying, delicious and full of the type of energy that can sustain you throughout the day.
Eggs are certainly choc-full of protein, which is known for providing a steady and sustained source of energy.
In addition to this, leucine is the most abundant amino acid in eggs, with this known to stimulate energy production in a number of important and impactful ways.
Once again, leucine also helps cells to take in more blood sugar, which in turn stimulates the production of energy in human cells. It also increases the breakdown of fat to produce additional energy, creating a scenario where you can keep general fatigue at bay far longer than would otherwise be the case.
Eggs are also rich in those handy B vitamins, which once again produce enzymes that play critical roles in breaking down food for energy.
In many ways, we’d recommend that eggs should be included in any healthy and balanced diet, while the fact that they’re so versatile also makes this relatively easy to achieve!
Food Source 5: Sweet Potatoes
You may know that sweet potatoes are delicious (sweet potato fries, anyone?), but were you also aware that they’re a nutritious source of natural energy?
A single, 100-gram cup of sweet potatoes may pack as much as 25 grams of complex carbs, along with 3.1 grams of fiber and 25% of the RDI for manganese.
Incredibly, this type of serving may also contribute as much as 564% of the RDI for Vitamin A, which can be difficult to access through food items as a general rule.
Packed full of fibre and complex carbs, sweet potatoes take a while to be digested by the human body and therefore provide a steady supply of slow-release energy shortly after being consumed.
So, whether you eat them baked or as those crispy sweet potato fries, make sure you incorporate this food source into your diet as soon as possible!
Food Source 6: Dark Chocolate
Last, but by no means least, we come to the item that probably everyone wanted to see on the list!
Aside from being a rich and delicious ingredient, dark chocolate is also an incredible source of antioxidants. These boast a number of potential health benefits, particularly in terms of increasing the blood flow throughout your body.
Remember, this aids the delivery of oxygen to the brain and muscles, improving their core function in the process while aiding far better performance and recovery during (and after) exercise.
It may also help to reduce mental fatigue and enhance mood, preventing the type of tiredness that can follow periods of stress, anxiety and intense concentration.
As if this wasn’t enough, dark chocolate may also contain stimulatory compounds like caffeine, which definitely provide a short-term boost to mental energy and your overall mood!
The Last Word
As we can see, there are a variety of nutrients and vitamins that play a key role in maintaining our energy levels, while also contributing to a balanced and healthy diet plan.
As a result of this, there are also several food items that you should look to incorporate as part of your diet, with eggs, bananas, brown (or wholegrain) rice and even dark chocolate!
The key is to research these foods and balance your dietary needs against any restrictions or existing healthy issues, while also looking to boost your energy levels by seeking out relevant forms of exercise.