Foods That Drain Your Energy - And What to Eat Instead
By: Melissa Mitri, MS, RD
Do you constantly struggle to maintain your energy throughout the day? Before you do anything, it’s important to look at the food you’re eating.
Your diet plays a huge role in your energy levels, and there are certain foods, especially those high in sugar, that drain your energy and leave you feeling more tired than you did before.
Keep reading to learn the top 8 foods that drain your energy and what to eat instead to become your most energetic self.
The Connection Between Food and Energy Levels
The types of food and drinks you consume can make or break your energy levels. This connection becomes clear if you’ve ever had a sugary treat in the afternoon.
You may find after eating that cookie or cake, you have a short-term boost in energy.
But that energy boost leaves almost as fast as it comes, and then you’re left feeling sluggish and just blah.
Food is supposed to give you energy, not make you feel worse than what you did before. So what gives?
Certain foods, particularly processed foods and beverages high in added sugar, can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. When this happens, it leaves you constantly looking for more energy (and more sugar) to bring yourself back to a highly functioning place.
This constant chase for more energy is downright exhausting, and is not good for your health.
Top 8 Energy-Draining Foods
These 8 foods (and drinks) have the biggest potential to drain your energy.
- Refined white carbs
While many high-carb foods provide a steady source of energy, processed and refined grains like white pasta, white bread, and white rice can deplete your energy levels.
This is partially because many of the nutrients are stripped away from these foods, which removes the fiber along with it.
Because of the lack of fiber, these refined carbs tend to be absorbed much more rapidly, resulting in a quick energy boost that drops shortly after.
Replace most refined carbs with whole-grain alternatives such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread for more steady energy.
Any type of alcohol can drain your energy in several ways. First, having it results in less restful sleep. So even if you had a full 8 hours of sleep, if alcohol was involved you probably found it harder to wake up the next day regardless.
And when you don’t get quality sleep, you’ll experience more fatigue and brain fog.
This doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from alcohol, but it’s best to practice moderation.
Stick to 1 standard drink for women and 2 drinks for men. One drink is 1.5 ounces of spirits, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine.
You may be surprised to hear that coffee can drain your energy, as most of us think the opposite.
But if coffee is overconsumed, you can develop a tolerance to it, which can negatively impact your ability to fall asleep. Too much of it can also replace healthy foods or water.
If you drink coffee, stick to less than 4 cups per day. Make sure you’re making room to drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet, so that your coffee intake is not replacing essential nutrients.
- Energy Drinks
It’s no secret - energy drinks can give you a jolt. But unfortunately this bump is very short-lived.
Many energy drinks are not only very high in caffeine, but are also packed with added sugar to boot. This can be a dangerous combo when your goal is steady energy.
Some energy drinks can also come with side effects like the jitters, anxiety, and heart palpitations.
Limit energy drinks as much as possible. Staying hydrated with good old H2O is all you need for that sustainable energy you’re craving.
- Fried and Fast Foods
Fast foods and fried foods can also drain your energy. They tend to be high in fat and low in fiber, which can slow down digestion and make you feel heavy or feel overly full.
These types of foods are also typically low in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that are needed to fuel your body. In addition, too much fast food is likely replacing more nutritious, energizing foods in your diet.
Limit fast food as much as possible and cook more meals at home. Many foods that are traditionally fried can also be baked and still taste delicious, such as French fries, fish, or chicken.
- Nutrient-Poor Foods
It’s not just about what you’re eating that drains your energy, but what you’re missing can also affect it. If you’re choosing lower calorie packaged snacks to keep calories in check, you may want to rethink those choices.
While they may appear to be a healthier, lower-calorie version of your favorite snack, most of them are still lacking in critical nutrients for energy. For example, “light” popcorn or pretzels are not overly high in calories or fat, but they don’t provide much in terms of nutrition either.
Instead of snacking on low-calorie, nutrient-poor packaged foods, choose satisfying whole foods like baby carrots, cucumbers, apple slices or fresh strawberries.
- High-Sugar Foods
Many food products on the market are loaded with added sugars. These foods not only zap your energy, but can be harmful to your health. Here are some examples.
- Breakfast cereals
- Packaged oatmeals
- Flavored yogurts
- Cakes, pastries, muffins, or donuts
- Ice cream
Limit foods with added sugar as much as possible. The next time a sweet craving hits, try our Keto Foods ice creams. They are free of added sugar and just as delicious (if not more!) than the sugar-laden kind.
There is a reason why it’s recommended to drink juice if your blood sugar is low. It is packed with sugar that your body needs when you feel shaky or hypoglycemic. But in normal circumstances, it’ll just provide a quick energy boost that won’t last.
This can lead to mood fluctuations and energy ups and downs throughout the day.
Limit juice as much as possible (even those advertised as 100% juice). If you’re accustomed to drinking juice regularly, you can start to wean off by diluting it with water, then eventually phasing it out.
Impact of Refined Carbs and Sugar on Energy Levels
Refined carbs and sugars cause a short boost of energy that quickly fades. If you’ve ever had a bagel for breakfast, you’ve probably found that you’re starving and tired an hour later.
For all the calories it provides, it’s frustrating to know that eating it actually makes you more hungry!
Similarly, indulging in a sugar-laden dessert may also satisfy you at the time, but it doesn’t last. This continuous sugar rush can lead to hormonal fluctuations, can negatively impact gut health, and cause problems with your mood, focus, and overall mental health.
Alternatively, choosing foods with minimal added sugar and whole grains instead will leave you feeling fabulous.
Hydration and Energy Levels
Hydration is so underrated. It is one of the most important influencers of your energy levels, and many of us still don’t drink enough water. It’s not always an easy task, but here are a few simple ways to up your water intake:
- Keep a thermos on you at all times - in the kitchen, where you work, and in your car.
- Flavor your water with lemon, lime, cucumber, or fresh herbs like basil or mint.
- Drink a glass of water right when you wake up. This will set the intentional habit for the day.
Follow a Balanced Diet to Optimize Energy
Steering clear of foods that drain your energy can help you feel your best. If you want to make the most of your days and prevent that mid-afternoon slump, follow a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods.
Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins should be your staples, and water should be your primary beverage of choice.
But even with a healthy diet there is always room for fun foods. Our Keto Foods ice cream pints and ice cream bars will satisfy your sweet tooth without the added sugar. Enjoy one the next time a craving hits!
This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, prescribe, or treat any illness or condition, nor does it take the place of sound medical advice. You should always seek out your own medical care and determine the best diet and course of treatment for your unique health needs.
- Processed foods and beverages high in added sugar, can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes leaving you constantly looking for more energy (and more sugar).
- Processed and refined grains like white pasta, white bread, and white rice can deplete your energy levels because many of the nutrients are stripped away, including fiber.
- Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins should be your staples, and water should be your primary beverage of choice.