Have you been struggling to get going in the morning recently? Or do you find yourself hitting a wall of fatigue in the afternoons? Many of us feel tired at some point during the day, but science confirms that what we eat can have a significant effect on our energy levels.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 12 energy-boosting foods, plus a few general guidelines to help you fight fatigue and stay energised.

Useful tips to consider when eating and drinking for energy

Useful tips to consider when eating and drinking for energy

While all food provides us with energy, the type of energy can vary. For example, some foods give us a longer, steadier source of energy, while others can cause spikes that are short-lived.

Before delving into some examples of energy-boosting food and drinks, we thought it might be helpful to share a few diet tips for when you need an energy boost.

For example, it’s generally a good idea to…

Choose complex carbohydrates over simple ones

There are two main forms of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Both are made from chains of sugar molecules, which the body breaks down into glucose for energy.

Because complex carbohydrate chains are longer, they take the body more time to digest and provide a steadier, longer-lasting energy supply.

Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, rapidly release sugar into the bloodstream, causing insulin spikes and short-lived energy highs followed by sudden dips.

Therefore, basing your diet around complex carbohydrates like wholegrains and fibre-rich foods, and saving simple carbohydrates like baked treats and concentrated fruit juice for occasional treats can help to stabilise energy levels throughout the day.

You can find more information about the effect of carbs on energy levels in Healthline’s article.

Prioritise protein

Of the three main macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), protein takes the longest to break down, which means it gives us energy over a longer period. 

Science shows that protein keeps you fuller for longer, has minimal impact on blood sugar levels, and provides a steady source of energy.

Reduce your intake of highly-processed foods

Highly-processed foods – like deep-fried chips, cookies, and sweetened breakfast cereals – contain lots of added sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and chemical additives, and are also low in fibre.

Research has revealed this can disrupt digestion and reduce the speed energy-boosting nutrients enter the body, thereby delaying the increase in energy that you generally expect to feel after eating.

Remember to include healthy fats

Unlike saturated fats, science shows that eating healthy (unsaturated) fats can provide a great energy boost. Unsaturated fats are the last macronutrient to leave the digestive tract, so they keep you feeling full for longer and release energy more slowly.

Incorporate more energy-boosting vitamins and minerals into your diet

While all vitamins and minerals are important, research shows that some have more energy-boosting qualities than others – and prioritising foods that include these could make a difference to how energised you feel.

According to research, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and magnesium are among the most effective. You can find out more in this guide to the best vitamins for energy from Forbes Health.

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12 energy-boosting foods and drinks

12 energy-boosting foods and drinks

While there are many energy-boosting foods and drinks out there, we’ve listed some of the most notable below…

1. Water


Water is the most important energising ingredient in this article because it’s essential for the functioning of all the cells in our bodies.

While we tend to think of dehydration as an extreme condition, the body can quickly become mildly dehydrated if you go the entire morning without drinking water. And research suggests that one of the main symptoms of dehydration is low energy levels and fatigue.

Therefore, for some people, boosting their energy levels could be as simple as staying properly hydrated throughout the day.

For further advice, you might be interested in our articles; 11 tips for staying hydrated and why it’s important and 9 healthy and hydrating alternatives to water.

2. Lean protein

Lean protein

As we’ve mentioned already, protein is a good source of energy because it takes the body longer to break down and expend than carbohydrates and fats.

For maximum benefits, lean protein sources are best, as they contain various vitamins and minerals and have less unnecessary fat content.

For example, chicken with the skin removed is an excellent source of B vitamins like B3, B6, and B12, which research shows play key roles in energy production.

Other lean protein sources include plain Greek yoghurt, white-fleshed fish, beans, and lentils. For more advice on how to boost your protein intake, check out our article, 12 high-protein meal ideas, which has suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

3. Oats


Full of fibre, nutrients, and complex carbohydrates, oats are well-praised for their energy-boosting qualities.

For example, this study found that eating oatmeal increased participants’ energy levels and significantly decreased their calorie intake in the hours that followed. Other research shows that oatmeal’s fibre content helps with glucose control and improves the body’s insulin response – preventing blood sugar spikes.

To get stuck in, why not try one of these healthy oat recipes from BBC Good Food? With various options – whether you fancy baked oats, pancakes, or overnight oats – there’s hopefully something to suit every taste.

4. Eggs


Eggs are a source of healthy fats and protein, and according to research, one large egg contains nearly 18% of your daily requirement of vitamin B2, which plays a role in converting food to energy.

Studies have proven that eggs can effectively satisfy hunger and provide sustained energy. For example, this review of 25 studies found that eggs boosted energy and didn’t cause any surges in insulin or spikes in blood sugar levels.

If you’d like to introduce more eggs to your diet, why not try one of these quick and easy egg recipes?

5. Fatty fish

Fatty fish

Fatty fish is well-known for its many health benefits, which include being an efficient source of energy.

For example, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Research has revealed these effects may boost energy levels by improving brain function and reducing inflammation. Meanwhile, studies also suggest that omega-3 deficiency can cause low energy levels.

In addition, research shows that B vitamins (particularly B12) and vitamin D found in fatty fish can help to increase energy levels and fight fatigue naturally.

For ideas and inspiration on how to add more fatty fish to your diet, why not check out these 9 healthy fatty fish recipes from Legion Athletics, which includes everything from fresh seafood salads to pistachio-crusted tuna steaks?

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6. Bananas


There’s a reason why so many athletes champion eating a banana before undertaking intense or prolonged exercise. Science suggests that bananas may be one of the best snacks for sustained energy.

While bananas contain natural sugars, they’re also rich in fibre, which helps slow down the digestion of that sugar and release energy steadily. This study found that eating one banana before a long bicycle ride boosted performance and endurance just as much as a carbohydrate drink.

Bananas are also rich in potassium, which is essential for energy production. Studies show that even a mild potassium deficiency can cause fatigue and muscle weakness.

If you want to up your banana intake in other ways, why not try some banana-baked porridge, healthy banana muffins, or another of these healthy banana recipes from BBC Good Food?

7. Beef liver

Beef liver

Liver has the highest protein content of all organ meats, and beef liver is often referred to as a ‘nutrient-dense superfood’. It’s one of the best sources of vitamin B12 around and contains high amounts of iron, selenium, and copper – all of which play an essential role in energy production.

These healthy beef liver recipes from The Diabetes Council might stir your appetite and give you a few ideas for how to cook it. Though, we appreciate beef liver won’t be for everyone. If this is the case, don’t worry – you can always get your energy-boosting nutrients from other foods.

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8. Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes – such as soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans – are a great source of protein, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian (one cup of lentils contains around 18g of protein).

More often than not, beans and legumes are also rich in fibre (you’ll find around 15g of fibre in one cup of lentils, for example), which helps slow digestion and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. Plus, because they also have a high potassium and magnesium content, eating beans and legumes helps our cells to create more energy.

Some people think of beans and legumes as fairly unexciting, but these delicious bean and lentil recipes from Cookie and Kate will prove otherwise.

9. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds

When it comes to energy-boosting qualities, nuts have a lot to offer. Containing a healthy blend of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, nuts are also rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. Plus, they’re a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Science notes macadamias, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts as being among the most beneficial for increasing energy levels.

And there’s also a lot to celebrate about seeds too. Chia seeds, in particular, are well-praised for their long-term energy-boosting properties. Packed full of protein, healthy fats (including omega-3s), and fibre, it’s no wonder they’re considered a superfood.

When in contact with water, chia seeds expand up to nine times their original size, forming a gel-like substance, which research shows can effectively slow digestion, prevent blood sugar spikes, and provide long-term energy.

Other seeds like pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds also offer a significant energy boost, so why not try some of these healthy nut and seed snack recipes from Eating Well?

10. Coffee


Coffee contains caffeine, which can increase energy levels and combat fatigue – something the majority of us will have experienced the benefits of. We may even rely on a cup of coffee or two to get us through the day, especially when we don’t have much energy.

Research shows that caffeine increases levels of neurotransmitters in your brain that regulate energy levels, including dopamine. For example, in this study, consuming caffeine increased the time until exhaustion during a cycling exercise by 12% and significantly reduced participants’ fatigue levels.

However, it’s important not to overdo it, as overconsuming coffee can cause conditions like anxiety and insomnia. According to the British Heart Foundation, four cups a day is a safe amount.

11. Berries


Berries are the perfect snack when you’re after something sweet but healthy. Studies show that their antioxidant properties help the body create energy at a cellular level.

Interestingly, research has revealed that dark berries often contain more natural antioxidants than lighter-coloured ones. Blueberries, for example, contain vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, and fibre – all of which can help the body combat stress and fatigue.

This study also found that Goji berries can have a positive effect on glucose control and provide a stable, longer-lasting energy source.

For ideas on adding more berries to your diet (aside from eating them on their own as a snack), check out these 38 healthy berry recipes from Taste of Home, which include both sweet and savoury meals.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to eat other fruits, oranges and apples are also noted for their energy-boosting qualities. High in vitamin C and antioxidants, research suggests that these fruits may help to fight oxidative stress in the body (an imbalance between antioxidants and harmful molecules) and prevent fatigue.

12. Avocados


Avocados are rich in vitamins E and C, as well as healthy fats – all of which can help fight fatigue. They also contain high levels of B vitamins, vitamin K, and magnesium, which are important for energy production.

In this study, eating avocados helped people sustain good energy levels throughout the day.

Avocados are extremely versatile, so there are plenty of ways to enjoy them in your diet. Check out these healthy avocado recipes from BBC Good Food – which includes smashed avocado with poached eggs and avocado, tomato, and lime linguine – to get inspired.

Final thoughts…

What we eat has a huge impact on our energy levels and how we feel throughout the day. And while all food provides us with energy, being savvy with your eating habits may help you avoid those sleepy mornings and afternoon slumps.

For more diet tips and advice, head over to the diet and nutrition section of our website.

What are your favourite energy-boosting foods? Have you got any advice on how to add them to your diet? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.