Sunday, July 31, 2011

High-Energy Foods

At one time or another, we’ve all had that feeling of barely being able to keep our eyes open on the way to the gym. This creates a serious problem, as depressed energy levels result in depressed training intensity and, consequently, depressed results.

The primary role of your diet is to provide your body with sufficient energy-boosting nutrients. Unfortunately when it comes to training, many people look for the quick fix, which is often an instant energy boost loaded with refined sugars and caffeine.

AskMen asked body transformation and sports nutrition expert Brian St. Pierre (CISSN, CSCS) for some ideas on health-conscious high-energy foods. Brian packed this top 10 with unique foods to help keep your energy levels high while keeping your body fat low.
High-Energy Foods

No.10 Coffee

Of all natural food sources, coffee has the largest caffeine content. Caffeine has been shown to improve performance and decrease your perception of effort, allowing you to work harder longer. Coffee also contains large amounts of antioxidants and may supply up to 70% of the total daily antioxidant intake of the average American. If you use coffee to give you a quick energy boost, be conscious of the time of day. Drinking coffee within eight hours of when you go to bed can cause some men to have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night with your heart racing, you may have to find a less intense alternative, such as tea.
High-Energy Foods

No.9 Tea

When proper nutrition and hydration fails you (or when you fail it), sometimes a quick caffeine boost can help get you through a training session. Teas like white, green, oolong, and black can give you a small amount of caffeine, but they also contain the calming amino acid theanine, which has been shown to prevent the anxiety that large caffeine consumption can cause. This will ultimately help you create better attention and focus. The amount of caffeine per serving depends on the type of tea. White gives about 20 milligrams; green gives about 30 milligrams; oolong gives about 40 milligrams; and black gives about 50 milligrams.
High-Energy Foods

No.8 Water

Water is the most overlooked “performance enhancing” supplement out there. As many as 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration can limit your physical and mental capacity. Because water is paramount in cooling your body during times of increased heat or stress, as you attempt to ramp up your exercise intensity, dehydration will cause limitations in thermal regulation, circulation and, ultimately, the generation of force.

The common recommendation is that the average, inactive person (not you) should consume at least six to eight ounces of water per day. In reality, you should probably be taking in about double that amount (on top of the water you take in from other foods). Start carrying a 16- to 20-ounce water bottle around with you during the day. Aim to refill it every three to four hours. You’ll be amazed at how much energy you get just from staying adequately hydrated. If you notice you’re making more frequent trips to the bathroom, don’t worry; as your body adapts to getting a constant supply of fluid, you’re lavatory frequency will return to more socially acceptable rates.
High-Energy Foods

No.7 Fruits

Fruits (especially apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, and kiwi) are high in potassium (an electrolyte that maintains normal nerve and muscle function), fructose for liver glycogen, ready-to-use sugars, fiber, and tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you’re looking for a healthy, natural energy boost, consuming fruits throughout the day and within about an hour before you train will give you just that. You can also blend a banana, frozen berries, some nuts or seeds (from above), and Greek yogurt together for a great post-workout drink.
High-Energy Foods

No.6 Quinoa

Quinoa, although technically a seed, is a supergrain that everyone should have as part of their diet. It is a complete protein, which is very rare for a plant food. It is also a high-quality complex carbohydrate, high in fiber and iron as well as calcium (necessary for proper muscle contraction), potassium and magnesium (necessary for proper hydration).
High-Energy Foods

No.5 Old-fashioned oats

Old-fashioned oats are a quality source of complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber, low on the glycemic index and  high in energy-boosting B vitamins. This is not your instant oatmeal. Old-fashioned oats are a more natural, unprocessed form of oat. Because they aren’t broken down to the extent that instant oats are, it takes longer for these oats to be processed within your body, providing a slower release of energy.
High-Energy Foods

No.4 Seeds

Seeds from sources like flax, chia and hemp provide a great supply of fiber, healthy fats (including omega-3s), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia is an especially great choice, since it has a large amount of soluble fiber, which creates a viscous gel in your gastrointestinal tract. This keeps you full/satisfied for a long time and provides an energy time-release effect, stabilizing your blood sugar and keeping your energy levels even during intense training.
High-Energy Foods

No.3 Tree nuts

Tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews, are loaded with healthy fats (monounsaturates, as in olive oil, as well as some omega-3s), fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can also consume these as nut butters, which are delicious and offer lots of variety, as they can be spread over other fruits or vegetables or be included in a smoothie for a perfect energy-boosting snack.
High-Energy Foods

No.2 Omega-3 eggs

Omega-3 eggs are full of healthy fats, energy-boosting B vitamins and some vitamin D. They also provide a rich supply of brain-boosting choline, the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and are considered the ”perfect” protein because of their amino acid profile and high biological value. They are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods.
High-Energy Foods

No.1 Cold-water fatty fish

Cold-water fatty fish include wild salmon, mackerel and herring. These fish are an excellent source of omega-3s, which provide a number of health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease and various cancers, decreased inflammation and decreased body fat. They’re also rich in complete protein, energy-boosting B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium, and are one of the few food sources of vitamin D.

For more great nutrition information from Brian St. Pierre, check out his website:


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