5 ingredients you need for energy
BY ZOE BINGLEY-PULLIN
Bypass the common go-to caffeinated or sweet treats when you need a lift and make these sustainable, energy boosting foods part of your diet instead.
Feeling zapped of energy? It’s not uncommon to lack motivation as we head into the cooler months; however, it’s a relief to know that it could simply come down to the foods you may (or may not) be eating. Instead of turning to sugar or caffeine to bolster energy reserves, try to choose foods that will fuel your body to keep energy levels up year-round.
People are unaware that there is a lot of power in your pantry, so I urge you to try to make clever food choices to fire your bod with real, energy-boosting foods. You probably already have them in your kitchen!
Rice is rice, right? It’s actually more important than we think, with more than half of the world’s population relying on it as a diet staple. Rice is a grain, meaning it is minimally processed, super-versatile and, yes, gluten-free! Not to mention eating brown rice is a great way to get wholegrains into your diet, it’s a natural source of protein and fibre, and it’s low GI for slower digestion and a sustained energy release, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Rice is an important wholegrain that is often overlooked in the fear of eating carbohydrates. However, this notion couldn’t be further from the truth. Rice is composed of carbohydrates with small amounts of protein and virtually no fats, which you can use to your advantage for a fast and instant burst of energy during training and to help the normal functioning of the brain.
Yes, we’ve all heard of rice; however, people are often unaware of just how versatile it really is. Don’t reserve rice for dinner: it’s perfect in a sticky rice pudding for breakfast, mixed up in a lunch salad or burrito bowl, as a side in a chilli pork ragu, or to perk up a winter soup!
Many people think quinoa is a grain, but it’s actually the germ of a plant that’s related to spinach, so it’s 100 per cent gluten-free. Not only is it delicious, but when consumed as part of a balanced diet, it can help to increase energy levels keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Quinoa has a quite superior nutritional profile and a multitude of benefits, including being a source of carbohydrate, protein, fibre, magnesium, and folate. It is also a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, and is easy to cook — perfect for a post-workout meal.
I love to enjoy quinoa as part of a breakfast veggie scramble and as a filling in stuffed mushrooms or even as a sweet base in a breakfast parfait or pancakes. It’s not only a substantial base for a meal, but is also an extremely tasty element to desserts.
Salmon, like many types of fish, is well-known for its nutritional benefits, and for good reason. Not only is it a great source of protein and energy, it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce on its own.
Our brains are made up of 60 per cent fat, so consuming foods rich in good fats such as omega-3s is essential for brain function, and studies have shown it may even help to fight off mood disorders such as anxiety.
Our bodies need protein to function efficiently, especially when undertaking a strict training regime. Salmon is a great source of protein and can be particularly beneficial when training, as it is great for energy production, rebuilding sore muscles and repairing joints, as well as boosting brain health, improved memory, and eye health!
My favourite technique for cooking salmon is either baking or frying. I find that baking salmon is ideal for fillets, steaks, and whole salmon. I choose to season my favourite salmon dish in Mediterranean flavours of tomatoes, olives, and herbs, using leftovers to make delicious fish cakes or burgers.
People seem to either love it or hate it, but what’s important to know is that this green veg has more nutritional value than we give it credit for. Broccoli is a close relative of cabbage and cauliflower, and is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory and cleansing micronutrients that will provide a healthy dose of important nutrients, ensuring energy levels stay high. It is also a great boost of energy to power you through your workouts!
Did you know that incorporating broccoli into your diet could help enhance iron absorption and reap the benefits of energy and vitality? This is a great natural remedy for women deficient in iron, which may be causing them feelings of exhaustion and impaired mental and physical endurance.
Broccoli is a simple ingredient to cook with. Its versatile nature makes it easy to integrate into your green breakfast bowl, a Mediterranean-inspired salad, or even as a nutrient-dense side serving of mixed greens — which perfectly complements your salmon dish! Broccoli is often boiled, steamed or grilled, but it may also be eaten raw — a perfect, nutritious alternative to a processed snack!
Exciting news! Natural dark chocolate is full of nutrients that can positively benefit your health. Grown from the seed of a cocoa tree, dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Even milk chocolate is an antioxidant, although not to the same extent. The difference between the two is that dark chocolate has a higher content of cocoa butter and less milk.
If you’re needing a little 3pm pick-me-up, dark chocolate is a great snack as it contains vitamins, theobromine, and tryptophan, which have a similar effect to caffeine. Both have energy and mood-boosting properties, which will leave you feeling happier and more energised. Although I only recommend you consume small amounts of up to 45g per serve, and perhaps once or twice a week, this natural piece of heaven is fantastic for a quick energy boost! When selecting a dark chocolate, opt for 70 per cent cocoa or higher to gain the most health benefits, and check the ingredients list to watch out for excess added sugar, milk solids, and thickeners.
The problem with dark chocolate is that it can be easy to overeat when on its own, so to stop myself reaching for another square, my favourite ways to eat it would be in a dark chocolate smoothie or to sprinkle shavings on the top of my natural Greek yoghurt.
Although these energy-boosting ingredients may go back to basics, they’re extremely underestimated foods that have boundless versatility and are in my kitchen year-round! Get creative and get cooking so that you can really get the most out of your workouts!