Energy Levels And Diet

Energy levels and diet choices are strongly connected. The foods we eat can have a direct impact on our sense of drive, focus, concentration and well-being. Athletes have recognized this connection for years, but the link between nutrition and energy levels can be just as powerful for the rest of us.

Commercial Drinks and Energy Foods

Dozens of brands and varieties of prepackaged energy foods are available, and some beverages, powders and bars make claims about boosting energy levels.

If you choose to investigate these, read package labels carefully. You may find that the ingredients in these processed energy foods are not especially mysterious and that the nutrients and amino acids in these items are widely available in fresh healthy vegetables, meats, fruits and grains.

Some of them also contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, which can boost energy levels for a short period of time but ultimately result in a “crash.” Oftentimes, the added sugars, chemicals and artificial flavors in these products negate any nutritional value they may have.

Carbohydrates and Energy Levels

When choosing carbohydrates, reach for whole grains and slow-burning choices. These will regulate blood sugar, help glycogen release glucose stores in the liver that fuel the brain, and provide lasting, steady forms of energy. Ideal choices include:

  • Multigrain bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat pasta.

Protein, Fat and Energy Levels

Lean protein can do wonders for attention, concentration and lasting energy. Avoid saturated fats and especially animal fats, since these complex molecules can be difficult to digest, diverting blood resources away from the brain and toward the digestive system. This can lead to sluggishness and lack of focus. Healthy protein choices include:

  • Eggs
  • High-protein beans, like kidney or red beans
  • Low fat milk and cheese
  • Soy protein
  • Turkey.

Sugars and Energy Levels

Avoid the quick-burning sugars loaded into carbonated drinks, cookies, white bread and processed sweets. High fructose corn syrup, especially, can cause wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to spikes and crashes. Instead, choose the following:

  • Caffeine: In moderation, coffee can have a healthy and sustained effect on energy levels, problem solving skills, cognition and task management. It may also stimulate brain-muscle coordination.
  • Fruit: Fruit contains fructose, which is really just another form of sugar. But fruit also comes with a host of healthy benefits, including vitamins and phytonutrients that can’t be found in vending machine snacks.


LifeLogic. (2010). Top five mood foods. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from

Oswald, I. (2010). Sleep, nutrition, and mood. Retrieved September 9, 2010, from