Fatigue and a shortage of energy are the most common complaints for people busy juggling a career, relationship and a consistent exercise plan. We're often left looking for high-energy foods, and many of us turn to quick fixes like sugar and caffeine. This may work in the short term, but after an hour or two, another snack attack hits. Combating fatigue takes more than simply eating more.

A lack of energy can be caused by a variety of things like dehydration, systemic inflammation, oxidative stress or a nutrient deficiency. A great step you can take toward fighting fatigue is cutting down on sugar and rapidly digested carbs like breads and pasta. If eaten in abundance, they tend to elicit a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which causes fatigue, moodiness and mental fogginess. Balance out your carbs with protein and healthy fat to mitigate your blood sugar and avoid blood sugar fluctuations.

Several common foods can help you get over the slumps. If you're tired of being tired, start incorporating these foods into your diet more regularly.

Top 10 High Energy Foods Slideshow



I hate to pry, but what color is your urine? If it's not clear, you’re probably not drinking enough water. Researchers at the University of Connecticut's Human Performance laboratory have found that even mild dehydration (a 1.5 percent loss in the body’s normal water volume) alters a person's mood, energy levels and mental functions. A healthy water intake is around 1.2 to 2 liters per day (six-eight glasses), but optimal intake varies by individual, and other factors like age, climate and physical activity have their effect. It’s hard to remind yourself to drink throughout the day, so try to make it a part of your routine. Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning; carry a bottle of water with you at all times; make water more tantalizing by adding lemon, lime or cucumber slices; and drink water whenever you have a craving for a sugary snack. Then, when the day is done, you can give the “all clear!"



Coffee is the world's second most valuable traded commodity, behind only petroleum. Around the globe, about 12 billion pounds of coffee are consumed every year. Clearly we are the most wired species on earth. People consume coffee for a number of reasons, but the most common one is because of the caffeine. There is indeed a considerable amount of research illustrating that the use of caffeine does result in increased energy and alertness. How coffee affects you depends on many factors, including your metabolism, age, gender and diet. In general, observations point to an inverted-U-shaped dose-response curve for caffeine: lower doses improve performance while doses above 500 mg may worsen it. Keep this in mind if you’re a java drinker. Coffee can give you that energy boost you need to concentrate at work or get pumped for a workout, but don’t rely on it as your prime energy provider. Too much may lead to increased tension and anxiety.


Grass-Fed Beef

Don’t worry -- red meat won’t kill you. Large epidemiological studies that look at the correlation between meat consumption and disease usually lump fast-food burgers in their data analyses, and that messes things up. Folks who regularly eat at fast-food joints are not usually paragons of health. Consider grass-fed beef a different kind of meat. It's far superior in nutritional quality than retail grain-fed beef. It has four times more vitamin E, three times more omega-3 fats and 10 times more beta-carotene. They're less fatty, contain less saturated fats and cholesterol, and are much higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a nutrient associated with lower heart disease and cancer risk. Grass-fed beef is not only high in quality protein, vitamins and minerals, but it also contains the most available form of iron in our diet. By comparison, iron from plants is usually bound in phytates and is not absorbed very well. Iron or B-vitamin deficiency anemias are common causes of fatigue, especially in menstruating women. Men over 40, on the other hand, may feel fatigued from iron overload. The only reliable way to distinguish iron overload from anemia is to conduct a blood test that measures the amount of iron being transported back to the liver, the percentage of saturation and ferritin levels. My advice: Guys, go give blood. Girls give meat a chance.



Whoever came up with the expression "big things come in small packages" probably had almonds in mind. Almonds are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, contain fiber, magnesium, protein and an entire serving of calcium in only seven nuts. Clinical trials have shown that eating almonds can help lower LDL cholesterol, fight inflammation, lower blood pressure and help with weight loss when substituted for complex carbohydrates. For those suffering from Type 2 diabetes, almonds have a neutral effect on blood glucose levels and serum lipid profiles. In one study, people with diabetes ate almonds for two weeks and had less inflammation and oxidative stress than on a cholesterol-lowering diet. And the best thing about almonds? They're extremely portable and are probably the healthiest choice you can find in a convenience store.



If you're feeling tired all the time, it could be from the battle taking place between your body, inflammation and oxidative stress. A recent study from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that people suffering from fatigue often have elevated inflammation levels. I consider broccoli the most vegetable-y of vegetables because they embody everything that is good in the world. Broccoli contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to fight cancer cell growth. Along with its cruciferous cousins, like kale, cabbage, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and watercress, broccoli contains plenty of vitamin C, lutein and beta-carotene to help reduce free-radical damage. Its fiber content promotes healthy gut flora and ensures a nice, pink colon free of inflammation. But make sure to eat it raw, steamed or lightly stir-fried. Boiling broccoli reduces its nutrient content by up to 30% after five minutes, and half of them are gone after 10.



"I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach" makes tons of sense when you look at the nutrients in this leafy green. Although it has a reputation as a good source of iron, most of it is poorly absorbed and unavailable. Popeye actually revealed once that the secret of his strength came from the vitamin A content of spinach, not iron. Spinach is also an excellent source of B-vitamin folate, an essential nutrient that plays a huge role in reducing homocysteine levels. A study published in the journal Neurology found that 50% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome were deficient in folate and consequently had higher levels of homocysteine. This causes increased systemic inflammation and elevates the risk of heart disease. In spinach, folate is backed up by more than a dozen different anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds and is also packed with magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, zinc, niacin and riboflavin. Less inflammation means less stress, and that means less fatigue.


Sweet Potato

Low blood sugar is a very common cause of low energy levels. While this can be overcome with a quick sugar fix like candy or soda, your symptoms will return in an hour or two. Continue this cycle and you’ll feel utterly exhausted by the end of the day. Low blood sugar typically occurs around 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. The best thing you can do is stay away from refined carbs. If you scoff down a bowl of spaghetti at lunch, expect an energy slump and a nap in the afternoon. The carbs in sweet potatoes are mostly complex carbs that are absorbed slowly and don't cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. In some Pacific and Southeast Asian countries, sweet potatoes are used as a traditional remedy to treat Type 2 diabetes. As a bonus, sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives them their deep orange-yellow color. They’re also great sources of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins C and E, folate and potassium. In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering its fiber, complex carb, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium content, sweet potato ranked No. 1 in nutritional value. Time to ditch the bread and switch to sweet potatoes as your go-to carb source.



Too tired to concentrate? When it comes to increasing brain function, mental tasks and cognitive performance, blueberries should be your weapon of choice. A study published in the Annals of Neurology suggests that antioxidant-rich blueberries can reduce cognitive decline in older adults by up to 2.5 years. What makes the blueberries blue are polyphenol pigments called anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Anthocyanins are associated with increased neural signaling in the brain, especially around the areas that affect memory function. Blueberries also contain resveratrol, the compound that made red wine an overnight health sensation. If fresh berries are out of season or too expensive, buy frozen ones -- they retain virtually all the same nutrients and health benefits. And don’t worry about the sugar content. Blueberries have a very low glycemic load and are handled well by diabetics. Besides, eating more blueberries will help your memory, so you won’t forget to buy more blueberries!



Time to become an egghead to improve your energy levels. Ever since the discovery of cholesterol's implication in heart disease, the public has been told to reduce their egg consumption, not knowing that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol. In fact, a number of recent clinical trials that looked at the effects of long-term egg consumption reported absolutely no negative impact on various indices of cardiovascular health and disease. Eggs need to be seriously reconsidered for the cholesterol-phobic because they are an incredibly healthy food. The high-quality protein in an egg is the perfect way to start the day on a good "metabolic" foot. In a study that compared egg eaters to bagel eaters, those who ate eggs lost almost twice as much weight, had an 83% greater decrease in waist circumference and reported greater improvements in energy after only eight weeks. Egg yolks are a rich source of choline, a nutrient that we produce ourselves to some extent but should definitely supplement through our diets. Iowa State University researchers estimate that more than 90% of Americans are choline-deficient. Choline is critical in reducing inflammation through several pathways, including by reducing homocystein and increasing folate levels. Choline can also boost your brainpower because your body uses it to make, well, your brain. Two fat-like molecules that contain choline, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, account for an unusually high percentage of the brain’s total mass, so choline is particularly important for brain health and function. Choline is also used to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is the body’s primary means of communication between our nerves and muscles. Improved brain and nervous function is a surefire way to combat fatigue.



The body uses omega-3 fats found in salmon and other cold-water fish to make anti-inflammatory compounds. Since chronic fatigue is associated with elevated markers of inflammation, eating fish and/or supplementing your diet with omega-3 fats can significantly improve energy levels. This effect was proven in a large study that looked at long-term fatigue in breast-cancer survivors. Those who consumed a healthy dose of omega-3 fats were less likely to suffer from fatigue. This benefit may also extend to other cancers. Although it’s important to consume more omega-3, it is equally important to reduce your omega-6 fat intake. Omega-6 fats are precursors to pro-inflammatory compounds, and the problem in our Western diet is that we eat too much of it. Omega-6s are found predominantly in industrial vegetable oils used in fast food and processed meals. The ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s is more important for your health than just trying to ensure that you’re getting enough omega-3s. What's the simplest way to do this? Eat more fish and less junk. This alone may be enough to banish your energy slumps for good.

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