Eating for Energy

Blog post on energy

Imagine trying to drive your car around with an empty tank. That is how your body functions when it has no energy. Eventually, you will not be able to continue on. Energy provides the body with proper nutrients to function. Dana Pitman, HSS Registered Dietitian, talks about ways to acquire energy.

Always eat breakfast.

Eating a well-balanced, protein-rich breakfast has been shown to help reduce cravings later on (like that 3pm snack slump) and it also helps you choose healthier foods throughout the day

Don’t go hungry.

Your body needs fuel, the same way a car needs gas. Eating regular meals and snacks helps sustain energy. Aim to eat every 3-4 hours (e.g. 3 small to moderate sized meals and 2 snacks); make them well balanced, and include complex carbs, proteins and fats

Complex carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are like the gas in your tank. They burn strong and slow, mainly due to their fiber and protein content meaning they take more energy to be broken down, and are digested slower than your average simple carb (think white bread and pasta). This also helps stable our blood sugar and provides us with a steady supply of energy. You can find an abundance of these in whole grains, oats, nuts, seeds and beans.

Ditch the simple refined carbs in processed foods like cakes, biscuits and sweets made from white flour and sugar which are released quickly into the bloodstream, leading to energy spikes quickly followed by crashing energy lows.


Protein has a ton of jobs in our bodies. They particularly form the building blocks for our muscles and most body tissues. Protein takes much more energy, and therefore takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. This helps you feel satisfied longer, but more importantly, it helps keep your energy up. Protein is found abundantly in meat, fish, poultry, dairy, beans and legumes.

Stay hydrated.

If you have not had enough water today, you might notice that you feel sluggish, light headed, or is having difficulty focusing or concentrating. Aim for 1 liter per day but no less than 6-8 glasses, especially if you exercise regularly.

Check your iron.

Iron deficiency can lead to feelings of fatigue, both physically and mentally. In addition to red meat, great sources of iron are beans and lentils, spinach and sesame seeds. Eating the plant based forms with vitamin c rich foods can help boost absorption.

Process less.

Swap out processed foods (yes, this includes energy bars) for more natural whole foods. Always be sure to read ingredients – if it sounds like something you could make in your own kitchen great, if it reads like a foreign language it is best to skip it. Choose an apple with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter, or a low fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with a few chopped walnuts instead of that glorified candy (I mean, energy) bar.


Many are unfamiliar with this hormone, that we naturally produce, which helps regulate your body’s clock helping you to sleep. Getting enough rest helps us feel more energized throughout the day. Best of all you don’t even need a supplement! Walnuts and tart cherries are two great sources of melatonin. Eat them separately or mix them together for a great pre-bedtime snack.


This oh-so-important vitamin helps convert food to the energy your body needs. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat and fish will help you avoid a B12 vitamin deficiency

Dana Pitman is a Registered Dietitian and a New York State Certified-Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York City. She serves on staff as a Clinical Nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to her clinical role, Dana is an active member of both the Employee Wellness Committee and the Community Education Program, lecturing on a range of nutrition related topics and also driving a number of hospital wide initiatives.

Topics: Nutrition
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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