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What Are the Best Foods for Energy?

What do you reach for when in need of an energy boost? A bag of sweets, perhaps? An energy bar? A cup of strong coffee?

While all fine options in moderation, you may be surprised to learn that there are many other natural energy boosting foods and drinks, such as fruit bowl favourites, nuts, and fish, that provide more balanced energy distribution throughout the day.

Along with keeping you feeling your best, these natural high energy foods are also a lot cheaper and more nutritious than a packaged energy bar or pre-workout shake.

Keen to get your dose of high energy foods? Take a look at our list of the top 5 energy-rich foods that will see you shaking off fatigue in no time!

1. Bananas

Bananas are more than just a yellow pop of sunshine on your kitchen table – they’re one of the best energy-boosting foods around!

Packed with energy-rich carbohydrates and vitamin B6, bananas are an essential energy food for when you’re feeling worn down, as well as for when you need a natural sugar hit. It’s one of the many reasons we love this blueberry and banana smoothie recipe!

As they’re full of potassium, bananas also offer a natural way to replenish electrolytes – this is why you’ll often see tennis players getting through a bunch during a gruelling 5-setter!

2. Oily fish

Did you know that low levels of omega 3 fatty acids increase the chance of chronic fatigue? To combat these weary feelings, consider omega-3 rich oily fish.

Fish such as salmon and mackerel are not only considered superfoods, but they are a fantastic energy boosting food! The fatty acids contribute to better cardiovascular health, giving you more motivation to get through those extra lifts in the gym, while the high protein content offers a slow release of energy throughout the day.

Try to get at least two portions of oily fish in your diet a week to keep those energy levels kicking!

3. Oranges

Whether your favourite is a clementine, blood orange, or your standard ‘easy-peeler’, oranges are an incredible energy-boosting food that packs a lot of ‘oomph!’ into each juicy segment.

So, what’s so good about oranges? Firstly, the vitamin C boosts collagen production (great for reducing fatigue) and is fantastic for tissue growth and repair. All of this can help us to move better, more freely, and more vigorously.

Another great benefit of oranges is the potassium levels (yes, it’s not only bananas which get this in spades!) which behaves as a natural electrolyte replenisher. A super swap for sweets when in need of a quick energy boost!

4. Almonds

Almonds are one of the nation’s favourite nuts thanks to their hearty healthy credentials. But did you also know that each individual nut houses a heap of energy-boosting nutrients?

Along with being a protein-rich snack, almonds are a fantastic source of vitamin B2 (also known as ‘riboflavin’), which aids the body in releasing energy from food. They’re also high in manganese and copper, both vital for blood sugar regulation. Other energy-rich foods that include these essential nutrients include leafy vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes.

5. Oats

Giving a natural energy boost that lasts from morning ‘til evening, it’s little surprise why oats are frequently touted as one of the best energy foods to start the day.

Packed with beta-glucan (a type of soluble fibre), oats release glucose slowly into the blood, giving porridge lovers a gradual energy release throughout the course of the morning. Not only does this leave you feeling full for longer and less tempted to snack on unhealthy foods, but it also balances blood sugar, so energy levels don’t spike and crash.

Looking to upgrade your morning bowl? Try this tasty apple pie porridge recipe to add some extra zing to your oats! For more about how to boost your energy levels in the morning, take a look at our helpful 5 ways to boost your energy levels article.

Energy boosting food checklist

Need a longer shopping list? Take a look at the complete list of energy boosting foods, below, all of which boast healthy fats, lots of vitamins and minerals, and natural sugars:

  • Bananas
  • Oily fish
  • Oranges
  • Almonds
  • Oats
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Dates
  • Eggs
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Strawberries

And some of the energy-sapping foods to avoid…

Low energy from a poor night’s sleep is one thing, but if you’re regularly opting for energy-sapping foods, your energy levels will plummet, impacting your mental and physical performance throughout the day.

To choose better energy-boosting foods, take a look at the main food groups to avoid, below.

  • Refined sugar – While refined sugar does give you an initial rush, it will leave you feeling lethargic and irritable once your blood sugar comes crashing back down. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for energy-rich fruits, such as orange and bananas.

  • Refined carbohydrates – Much like refined sugar, carbohydrates like white bread and white rice have a high glycaemic index (GI). Foods with a high GI are more likely to cause blood sugar to spike and crash in quick succession, leading to fatigue and lack of focus. Try wholegrain carbohydrate alternatives instead for a gradual energy release.

  • Fried food – Not only is fried food not great for your cholesterol, but greasy foods that are high in trans fats also divert blood away from the brain, leaving you sleepy and ready for a midday nap. If you frequently fry foods at home, swap to oven baking, boiling or air fryer to keep your energy levels on track.

To find out more about how you can maintain a healthy diet, head over to our nutrition page on our Be Healthy hub. Here, you can find energy-rich recipes, such as our Cajun honey salmon, as well as information on how healthy eating can help mental health

Medically reviewed in March 2024.