Maintaining high energy levels is crucial for getting through busy days and keeping up with daily activities. From work demands to family responsibilities, having sustained energy enables us to be more productive and get more done without fatigue and burnout. The food we eat plays a major role in providing the fuel our bodies need for energy. Eating a balanced diet comprised of the right nutrients can help provide steady energy levels, allowing us to feel energized and alert. In contrast, poor nutrition can lead to energy crashes, sluggishness, and an increased risk of fatigue-related health issues over time. This article will provide guidance on eating for sustained energy, combating fatigue, and preventing those afternoon energy lows. With some simple dietary strategies, you can unlock your body’s energy potential.

Understanding Energy

Energy comes from the food we consume. Our bodies convert the calories from foods and beverages into fuel that powers us through the day. Calories are a measure of the energy content in foods. The recommended daily calorie intake for adults ranges from 1500-2500 calories per day, depending on age, sex, and activity level [1]. Eating foods that provide caloric energy within the recommended range is important for maintaining energy balance.

Consuming a balanced diet comprised of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and micronutrients ensures our bodies have the components necessary to produce energy. Poor dietary habits like skipping meals, eating too little, or relying on heavily processed convenience foods can lead to energy deficits. On the other hand, overeating can also negatively impact energy levels by diverting blood flow from the brain to the digestive system after large meals [2]. A balanced diet supports sustained energy by providing essential nutrients without weighing you down.

Key Nutrients for Sustained Energy

Several key nutrients play especially important roles in maintaining energy levels.


Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Your body breaks carbs down into glucose, which is used for fuel. Choosing complex carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes provides longer-lasting energy compared to simple sugars. Complex carbs contain fiber that slows digestion, leading to a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. Whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice as well as starchy vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These foods help avoid sharp rises and falls in blood sugar that can drain your energy [3].


While not the primary energy source, proteins play a role in maintaining energy levels. Proteins provide the amino acids needed to build and repair muscles and tissues. This helps support muscle function so you have the energy for physical activity. Protein-rich foods also tend to be satiating, which prevents energy crashes from hunger. Lean proteins like poultry, fish, eggs, beans and legumes are good choices. Most adults need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily [4].


Despite their high calorie content, healthy fats are an important part of a sustained energy diet. Unsaturated fats from plant and fish sources provide essential fatty acids that help regulate hormones, blood pressure, blood clotting and other functions. They also enable the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Sources of beneficial unsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories [5].


Vitamins and minerals enable energy production and metabolism. B vitamins like B12, folate and B6 play particularly important roles. Vitamin B12 helps form red blood cells to transport oxygen, which is used to produce energy through cellular respiration [6]. Folate and B6 support amino acid metabolism and red blood cell production. Other micronutrients like iron, magnesium and zinc also aid energy metabolism. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean proteins ensures you get a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

Meal Planning for Energy

Strategic meal planning can help maintain steady energy levels throughout the day. Here are some tips:

  • Eat balanced meals: Include a mix of protein, healthy fats and complex carbs at meals to balance digestion and provide nutrients for sustained energy.
  • Practice portion control: Overeating can lead to fatigue as your body directs blood flow toward digestion. Moderate portions keep your energy up.
  • Time meals strategically: Eating every 3-4 hours helps prevent dips in blood sugar that can drain energy. Align meals and snacks with your circadian rhythms by eating larger meals earlier in the day [7].
  • Snack wisely: Pair snacks with a protein like yogurt or nuts to avoid energy crashes. Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide an energizing nutrient boost.
Meal Balanced Plate Example
Breakfast Oatmeal with nuts and berries, hardboiled egg
Lunch Salad with chicken, avocado, and vinaigrette dressing. Side of whole grain crackers.
Dinner Baked salmon, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato
Snack Apple slices with nut butter
Example balanced meals providing sustained energy.

Hydration’s Role in Energy

Water plays a major role in energy levels. Dehydration can sap energy and lead to fatigue. Adequate hydration ensures your body’s cells efficiently produce energy. Drinking enough water also prevents the drop in blood volume that occurs when dehydrated, allowing optimal oxygen and nutrient delivery [8].

The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume at least 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water daily and men drink at least 3.7 liters (125 ounces) [9]. About 80% of this should come from beverages like water and the rest from food. Intake needs are higher for those who are physically active or live in hot climates. Thirst isn’t always a reliable indicator of fluid needs, so it’s important to drink water consistently throughout the day. Keep a reusable water bottle on hand and take a sip every 15 to 20 minutes.

Foods that Boost Energy

Certain foods provide key nutrients tailored to boost energy levels. Here are some top energy-promoting foods to incorporate into your diet:

  • Oats: This whole grain is rich in complex carbs and fiber to provide sustained energy. Oats also contain iron, B vitamins and zinc for energy metabolism [10].
  • Yogurt: Yogurt has carbs for quick energy along with protein and probiotics. Choose plain, unsweetened varieties [11].
  • Nuts and nut butters: Nuts provide healthy fats, protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium, iron and vitamin E to maintain energy [12].
  • Leafy greens: Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale provide B vitamins like folate and iron for blood cell health and energy metabolism [13].
  • Fatty fish: Salmon and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fats that regulate hormones for optimal energy [14].
  • Beans: Packed with plant-based protein, fiber and nutrients, various types of beans give you sustained energy [15].
  • Bananas: Bananas contain potassium to support hydration and carbs to replenish muscle glycogen for renewed energy [16].

Strategies to Combat Fatigue

Fatigue can strike even when your diet supports energy needs. Use these strategies to give your energy levels an added boost when you feel tiredness creeping in:

  • Take a quick walk: Moving your body increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to give you an energy boost. Even 5 minutes of walking can make a difference.
  • Snack smart: Choose a snack with protein, healthy fat and complex carbs. Apple with nut butter or Greek yogurt with berries offer energizing picks-me-ups.
  • Hydrate: Drink a glass of water to fight dehydration fatigue. Dehydration causes decreases in blood volume that reduces oxygen and nutrients to cells.
  • Manage stress: High stress often correlates with fatigue. Take some deep breaths, go for a walk or listen to music to relax.
  • Limit caffeine: Relying on coffee for energy can backfire and lead to crashes. Limit intake to 1-2 moderate cups spaced throughout the day.
  • Get sunlight: Exposure to bright light helps regulate circadian rhythm and can boost alertness [17].
  • Take a power nap: Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. Longer can leave you groggy.

Implementing healthy stress management, making time for activity, and getting enough sleep also helps beat fatigue in the long-run.

Preventing Energy Crashes

Avoiding sharp dips in energy requires some dietary adjustments. Here are some tips:

  • Limit added sugar: Foods high in added sugar like sweets, sodas and syrupy coffee drinks cause spikes and crashes in blood glucose.
  • Eat enough: Undereating leads to energy deficits. Meet daily calorie needs through balanced meals and snacks.
  • Reduce caffeine: Relying on excessive caffeine for energy can backfire. Limit to 1–2 moderate cups of coffee spaced over several hours.
  • Pick complex carbs: Refined grains digest quickly, unlike whole grains that provide steady energy. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread, for example.
  • Don’t skip breakfast: Eating protein-rich Greek yogurt or eggs with whole grain toast prevents mid-morning energy crashes.
  • Snack smart: Pair snacks with protein, fat and fiber to prevent blood sugar spikes. Apple with nut butter is one great option.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water consistently to maintain energy-promoting blood volume and hydration status.
  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol disrupts sleep, contributing to fatigue the next day [18].


Eating a balanced diet comprised of lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and micronutrients provides your body with the essential compounds for energy production. Meal planning focused on nutrition and portion sizes, staying hydrated, and choosing energizing snack foods are key strategies for maintaining sustained energy levels. Implementing healthy habits of physical activity, stress management, and adequate sleep also prevents fatigue. Paying attention to dietary choices and lifestyle goes a long way in combating tiredness, avoiding energy crashes, and unlocking all-day energy for an optimized life.


  • [1] American Heart Association. How many calories do adults need?
  • [2] Zelman, K. (2020). Is it bad to eat a big meal?
  • [3] AND. The right carbs.
  • [4] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Protein.
  • [5] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015) 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • [6] National Institutes of Health. (2021). Vitamin B12.
  • [7] Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022). Eating for your biological clock.
  • [8] Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (2020). Water: The most essential nutrient.
  • [9] Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water. (2005). Total Water and Macronutrients.
  • [10] Gunnars, K. (2018). 9 impressive health benefits of oats.
  • [11] Sass, C. (2021). The 13 best yogurts, according to nutrition experts.
  • [12] Gunnars, K. (2018). 10 health benefits of nuts.
  • [13] Nordqvist, C. (2017). Everything you need to know about leafy greens.
  • [14] Rizzo, G. (2019). 11 benefits of salmon: A delicious fatty fish.
  • [15] Gundry, S. (2022). 7 scientifically-proven health benefits of beans and legumes.
  • [16] Gunnars, K. (2018). 11 most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
  • [17] Harvard Health Publishing. (2012). Blue light has a dark side.
  • [18] Holland, K. (2022). 10 reasons why good sleep is important.
Show More References Show Less References