If you struggle to regulate your energy levels, then your eating habits and food choices may need a shake-up.


Read on to discover:

  • Which foods are best for boosting energy
  • Whether breakfast is key for all-day energy
  • Which carbs you should eat
  • Whether timing and frequency of your meals and snacks make a difference
  • What other nutrients are important
  • The best way to get an energy boost

Find out what to eat for a workout, 10 foods to boost your brainpower and how to sleep better.

Eggs in an egg box

Best foods for energy

If you want to avoid post meal slumps, focus on these energy-boosting food and drinks:

  • Whole (unprocessed) foods – when we eat foods in their whole form our body absorbs less fat and sugar.
  • Complex carbohydrates – including oats, these provide slow-releasing energy and contain plenty of fibre.
  • Bananas – this popular fruit provides a combination of carbs, fibre and electrolytes for muscle and nerve function; bananas are a useful sustained energy source and may be just as effective as a sports drink.
  • Leafy greens – although these provide little in the way of energy themselves they are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins that are essential for converting the food we eat to energy.
  • Nuts – nutrient dense, a handful of unsalted nuts are among some of the best foods to combat hunger and support energy.
  • Chia seeds – high in fibre, carbs and beneficial fats, these mighty seeds appear to enhance oxygen uptake and potentially improve performance.
  • Eggs – the yolks are an important source of vitamins B12 and D as well as choline, which are important for helping our bodies process food into energy.
  • Dark chocolate – contains a chemical called theobromine which can boost energy and support your mood.
  • Water – although water doesn’t provide energy itself it facilitates the processes that create energy. This means if you are even mildly dehydrated you may feel more fatigued.
  • Caffeine – being a stimulant, caffeine speeds up the messages between your brain and body. Consumed in small amounts and as part of a balanced diet it may help support alertness, increase energy availability and reduce your perception of fatigue.

Should you skip breakfast?

People skip breakfast for reasons varying from lack of time, to not feeling hungry, to believing it will aid their weight loss goals. While our individual responses to food vary, and may depend on our specific lifestyle factors, it is well documented that eating a healthy breakfast may reduce cravings later in the day and encourage healthier food choices for subsequent snacks and meals.

More like this

If you are physically active or exercise in the morning, you may need to reconsider doing so in a fasted state – studies suggest it may lead to more variability in blood glucose levels, including blood sugar spikes after exercise.

If you do have breakfast, make sure it includes a protein source like eggs, salmon or tofu.

Here are some of our favourite options:

Spinach & smoked salmon egg muffins
Tofu scramble
Mushroom baked eggs with squishy tomatoes
Cinnamon porridge with banana & berries
Dippy eggs with soldiers

What to eat for more energy

Which carbs are best for energy?

Complex carbs including wholegrains, oats, pulses, nuts and seeds release glucose into the blood steadily. Rather than in quick spikes, they provide a consistent source of energy and a good amount of fibre. A diet rich in these may help you stay full of energy.

By contrast, simple carbs come in two forms, natural and refined. Some fruit and vegetables are high in natural sugars (such as banana and mango), these may provide a hit of energy when needed. Refined carbs are typically found in processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and sweets – foods typically made with white flour and table sugar. Enjoy these as an occasional treat because they are quickly digested, releasing sugar rapidly into the blood stream, causing insulin spikes that lead to energy highs and crashing lows.

How to avoid crashes

The best strategy is to make sure most of your diet includes low-GI, complex carbs alongside plenty of protein. Try to make sure you eat breakfast, this might also help to get your brain in gear and kick-starts your metabolism, so you start burning calories earlier in the day. The easiest way to avoid crashes is to swap white carbs for brown or wholewheat varieties.

Recipe ideas:

Zingy salmon & brown rice salad
Wholewheat pasta with broccoli & almonds
Brown rice stir-fry with coriander omelette
Malted walnut seed loaf
Walnut & raisin oatcakes
Banana fairy cakes
Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup

How often should I eat?

Hands up if you’ve lost an entire afternoon asleep on the sofa post-Sunday lunch? When we overindulge in high carb, fatty foods we set off a series of chemical processes that may leave us feeling lethargic.

When you eat, your brain signals to your body to slow down and digest the incoming food. The more you put in, the harder your digestive system needs to work and the less energy you will have. If the meal you enjoyed was full of sugar and simple carbs, like white bread and pasta, then your brain will also be dealing with an increase in hormones such as insulin, as well as elevated levels of serotonin and melatonin, both of which are associated with drowsiness.

Eating smaller meals more often may help balance your blood sugar levels, as well as releasing energy gradually – instead of in one big hit. Controlling your portion sizes and making sure they provide the right type and balance of carbs, fat and protein is key to this.

Check out what a balanced diet looks like for women and men.

B-vitamin foods

The importance of B vitamins

B vitamins play an important role in converting food into the fuel you need for energy. There are nine vitamins in this group. All of them, with the exception of folate, are involved in the energy production process. This means you need an adequate supply of each B vitamin for the energy process to work; a shortfall of any one will limit how much energy your body is able to produce.

Eating a varied, balanced diet that’s rich in nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and dairy products, should supply the vitamins and minerals you need. However, many of us rely on processed, convenience foods which are often lacking in this group of vitamins. To optimise your diet, check out our healthy diet plans.

When you need a quick boost...

Exercise is key to staying healthy, but sometimes it feels impossible to lace up those trainers. This is the time for carbohydrates with simple, quick-releasing sugars. The concentrated carbs in these foods will provide energy to the muscles in the quickest way possible. Try to eat high-fibre foods containing natural sugars, such as fresh or dried fruit, or a homemade smoothie topped with honey to give you a boost without leaving you uncomfortably full.

Some of our favourite energy-boosting snacks:

Oaty energy cookies
Exercise shake
Dried fruit energy nuggets
Instant frozen berry yogurt
Choc-orange energy booster balls.

Enjoyed this? Now read…

Why am I always tired?
How to get a good night's sleep
Five reasons you're waking up tired
What is the Energy Plan?
5 tips to boost your energy
Best supplements for energy

This article was last reviewed on 31 May 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a BANT Registered Nutritionist® with a post-graduate diploma in personalised nutrition and nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including Good Food.


All health content on goodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. Any healthy diet plan featured by Good Food is provided as a suggestion of a general balanced diet and should not be relied upon to meet specific dietary requirements. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post