How to fuel yourself for optimum motivation and energy

We all know that what we choose to eat plays a huge part in shaping our physical health, energy levels, and emotional well-being. Despite that, when we feel tired, we can often look to other causes first (poor sleep, lack of exercise, etc), and overlook our diet. So, if you find yourself lacking energy and drive during your working days, it’s worth considering what impact the food you’re putting in your body is having.

9 foods to give you energy

It’s important to remember that our bodies are all different, and we must be attentive to our unique needs. However, the following foods and nutritional tips are a great place to start to help you enhance energy and motivation.

1. Matcha

Drinking matcha is a great practice if you want to remain calm and alert throughout your working day. The caffeine content in matcha provides a long-lasting energy boost and the L-theanine is responsible for heightened focus. I recommend making an iced matcha with coconut milk and a spoonful of brown sugar or a squeeze of agave syrup – the sweetness helps counteract the earthy taste that a lot of people dislike in matcha.

2. Dark chocolate 

If you want a burst of joy, reach for some dark chocolate! It doesn’t just elevate serotonin and endorphin levels that put you in a good mood (an important factor for increasing motivation) but it also promotes blood flow to the brain. When we have good circulation, we’re naturally more attentive and sharp. If you usually shy away from the bitter taste that companies most dark chocolate, I suggest trying Tony’s Chocolonely dark chocolate. The almond and sea salt side notes give it a subtle hint of sweetness – ideal for anyone wanting a more balanced flavour!

3. Rosemary tea 

Rosemary is used as a cognitive stimulant and is regarded as one of the most powerful herbs for treating mental fatigue. It’s also known for its ability to enhance people’s mood and memory. I love to make rosemary tea by simply combining hot water and a sprig of rosemary from the shrub in my garden. I let the rosemary sit in the hot water until it becomes a drinkable temperature – the longer the infusion, the more goodness is guaranteed to seep into your cup!

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are packed with nutrients that help us mitigate those tired spells. Abundant in B vitamins, they assist our bodies in harnessing energy from the food we eat. Mushrooms are also incredibly versatile, you can enjoy them in sandwiches, pies, salads, pasta bakes… you name it!

5. Walnuts 

Packed with brain-friendly nutrients, you’re going to want to add these to your diet! In addition to the omega-3 benefits, these nuts also contribute to an increase in serotonin levels, promoting a more balanced mental state. My favourite way to eat walnuts is by pairing them with a few raisins – enjoy that bitter-sweet combination!

6. Bell peppers 

When you’re making a salad, fajitas or a stir fry, be sure to add bell peppers into the mix! They are high in vitamin C and B9 – these essential vitamins play a key role in giving us energy and reducing fatigue.

Tip: For a significant boost in vitamin C, pick out the red bell peppers. Eating half a cup of red bell peppers will guarantee you nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange!

7. Sunflower seeds

Enhance your meals with these slightly sweet seeds, add them to your bowl of granola or roasted vegetables! Not only will sunflower seeds give you a boost of protein that will make you feel energised but they will also give you a punch of vitamin B – this helps to promote sustained concentration.

8. Water

The queen of health herself! If you want to feel motivated, staying hydrated is an essential starting point. Many of us overlook this simple and cheap route to heightened motivation because we’re bored of hearing ‘drink more water.’ But it’s valuable advice! We must drink plenty of water if we want to unlock our vibrant selves! Our bodies are made up of over 73% water so it’s no wonder we feel lethargic and distracted when we’re deprived of this crucial liquid.

9. Unprocessed foods

If it’s energy that you want, avoiding processed foods in general is a good port of call. Refined foods can cause a ‘sugar flood’. When this happens, our brain becomes inflamed and this results in fatigue and low moods. We want to seek out foods that are brain-friendly and, sadly, those moreish cheesy burgers or sugary desserts aren’t kind.

Luckily, there are many exciting minimally-processed dishes to explore – my current favourite is an indulgent creamy roasted pepper pasta!

To prepare a creamy roasted pepper pasta sauce:

1. Roast red bell peppers over an open flame on the stovetop, or in the oven, until charred.

2. Once the peppers have cooled, peel away the charred skin.

3. Blend the roasted peppers with half a cup of coconut milk and a dash of extra virgin olive oil – do this until there are no chunks of pepper left.

4. Put the blended mix into a frying pan. Add soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and oregano, and a generous dollop of tomato purée. Heat the mixture for 10 minutes and incorporate your cooked pasta for a creamy pasta dish!

Eat regularly

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, become attuned to your body’s desires. If you feel hungry, don’t work through lunch, listen to your moaning stomach and eat something fulfilling. You may push food to the back of your mind when trying to meet a deadline but I often find the quality of my work tends to suffer when hunger takes over. As a rule: eat, then complete!

Establishing regular eating times is beneficial for our bodies as they thrive from the predictability. If you usually find yourself pressed for time during lunch, prepare a packed meal. Some of us simply need to focus on eating during our working day! We need to avoid becoming that person who works through lunch! Your body is doing so much for you every moment of every day – so don’t forget to reward it!

In this video, nutritional therapist Michaella Mazzoni explores the difference between tiredness and fatigue, what foods can help combat feeling sleepy and the foods we should avoid.

We all go through periods of reduced productivity; this is a part of life. After all, we’re human; we get tired. It’s nature’s way of communicating to us that we need to pause! While I do encourage you to use the foods and drinks above to give you that boost of energy when it feels right, it’s also important that you don’t overexert yourself. Don’t push your body. Let’s normalise having slow periods and taking time out to rest – we deserve it!

If you’re struggling to sustain your energy, one-to-one support from a nutrition professional can help you understand the basic principles of eating to combat tiredness and also learn what is right for you as an individual. Find a professional today.

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Written by Alessia Sutherberry
Alessia is a vegan food enthusiast, content creator, women's self-love coach and writer. She's committed to making people feel good about themselves and helping them embrace their unique bodies.
Written by Alessia Sutherberry
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