If you’re one of the 60% of Americans who wake up without feeling energized in the morning, we get it.
Whether you’re not getting enough sleep, feeling too much stress, or dealing with the myriad impacts of a global pandemic, there seems to be more need than ever for an energy boost. But here’s the good news: Eating a nutritious and balanced breakfast can help jumpstart your energy for the day while keeping you full and focused as you work, play, or create. In fact, researchers writing for the medical journal Nutrition Reviews defined breakfast as a meal that makes up at least 20-35% of our daily energy needs. Eating lethargy-inducing foods at breakfast, or skipping the meal altogether, could have you playing catch-up on your energy needs later in the day — and it could also lead to more serious health issues over the long term.
Nutritious food is one of the greatest tools we have in building and maintaining energy throughout the day, not to mention helping build healthy sleep habits at the end of the day.
Essential elements of an energizing breakfast
Energy is created from the three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Carbohydrates are the body’s most important energy source, but not all have equal value. Complex carbs, such as fruit and whole grains, will provide more sustained energy than simple carbs that do not contain fiber. Studies have also shown that diets higher in fiber, protein, and fat prevent fatigue.
Adding the following energy-boosting foods to your breakfast menu can help you get through the day in a delicious and energizing way.
Energy-boosting breakfast foods
When it comes to breakfast, sometimes there’s enough time to whip up an omelet Gordon Ramsay would be proud of, and sometimes you wake up with just 10 minutes to get yourself out the door. On those rushed days, bananas make the perfect grab-and-go breakfast.
Bananas are packed with potassium, vitamin B6, and complex carbs — all of which contribute to our energy levels. Reach for ripe bananas, which will provide more readily available energy due to their natural sugar content. Since bananas also contain plenty of fiber, the digestion of said sugar will be slowed to provide more sustained energy.
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, with the low-fat version delivering 14g of protein per ½-cup serving. Protein can keep you satisfied and provide you with a sustained source of energy throughout the day.
Additionally, one cup of full-fat cottage cheese can provide up to 40% of your daily vitamin B12 needs. B vitamins help the body convert food into glucose for energy. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to reduced energy levels, diminished exercise tolerance, and fatigue.
Top cottage cheese with fruit of your choice for a balanced (and easy) breakfast.
Eggs are another protein star and a great option for an energizing breakfast. Foods like eggs, which are high in protein and a moderate source of heart-healthy fats, are excellent choices for long-lasting energy.
Eggs contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Eggs are also great sources of the essential nutrient choline and the amino acid leucine.
Choline can help cognitive performance and mental alertness, while leucine promotes energy metabolism and stimulates energy production. Pair eggs with an easily digestible carb, such as berries or bananas, for a complete breakfast.
Additionally, coffee contains essential nutrients such as a variety of B vitamins, potassium, and manganese in addition to potent antioxidants.
Keep caffeine intake under 400 milligrams a day (that’s about 4-5 cups of coffee) and pair your morning cup with nutritious foods from this list. In a rush? Skip the latte and make this balanced coffee smoothie instead, packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Need a morning boost of energy without the jitters that coffee can sometimes cause? Cue matcha.
Matcha can have a positive effect on your energy levels and overall health. Matcha contains high concentrations of flavonoids and L-theanine, shown to increase the brain’s alpha frequency band and raise serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels. Paired with caffeine, the amino acid improves cognitive function and increases alertness and focus.
According to the ORAC test, which measures the total antioxidant capacity of a food, matcha has one of the highest levels of antioxidants amongst superfoods.
Tip: Matcha isn’t just for sipping! Use matcha to make smoothies, overnight oats, pancakes, chia pudding, and more.
Oatmeal is full of fiber and complex carbs, which are slower for the body to digest, providing energy evenly, instead of all at once (looking at you, candy bar). Since oats are shown to promote satiety and a feeling of fullness, a bowl of oatmeal first thing can help keep you going through whatever the morning throws your way.
Additionally, oats contain energy-supporting nutrients such as B vitamins, manganese, and iron.
Try pairing oats with some healthy fats and protein. Some ideas includemaking your oatmeal with a high-protein milk (like almond or pistachio milk), adding chia seeds, or mixing in a spoonful of nut butter.
From almond to cashew to pistachio, nut butters are a great energy-boosting option for topping your morning toast or enhancing your favorite smoothies.
Nuts have it all, including protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats, to keep you satisfied. Nuts are packed with nutrients such as manganese and copper, which the body uses to create energy and protect cells from damage and toxins. The B vitamins found in nuts are also essential to energy production.
Additionally, foods that are high in essential fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds, may reduce inflammation and fatigue.
Another protein-packed breakfast option, yogurt contains magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins, which are crucial for the release of energy.
Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is full of probiotics for gut health and helping to fight chronic fatigue. But Greek yogurt contains higher amounts of protein per serving than traditional yogurt.
Top your morning Greek yogurt with fruit or add yogurt to a nutritious smoothie.
A smoothie can be one of the easiest options for getting a variety of nutrients, fiber, healthy fats, and protein at breakfast.
Leafy greens like kale are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support energy production.
Especially helpful for plant-based diets, leafy greens such as kale and spinach provide generous amounts of iron. Iron is required to provide tissues and cells with oxygen; low iron levels have been linked to increased fatigue and feelings of tiredness.
Good news: Your delicious and Instagram-worthy avocado toast has a host of health benefits, too!
Full of energy-supporting nutrients such as fiber, protein, fats, and B vitamins, avocados are a breakfast superstar. Since the fiber in avocados makes up 80% of their carb content, avocados can help keep blood sugar stable and provide more even energy levels throughout the day.
Full of healthy fats, avocados increase blood flow to the brain and helps the body absorb other nutrients.
Studies have found that avocado consumption is associated with improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Bottom line: Avocados are a superfood for a reason.
Whether you’re adding a scoop to your smoothie bowl or making chia pudding, you won’t go wrong with these superfood seeds.
Chia seeds may be tiny, but they are packed with carbohydrates, protein, and fiber in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, manganese, and calcium. Chia is the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to promoting healthy brain function and reducing inflammation.
Fun fact: “Chia” is an ancient Mayan word meaning “strength,” so you can bet on chia seeds giving you the energy needed for your day.
From sprouted toast to oats to quinoa porridge, whole grains provide the perfect “blank canvas” for breakfast. Carbs are the primary source of fuel for both the body and brain, and complex carbs such as whole grains are more slowly absorbed to provide a more sustained energy release.
Full of fiber, vitamins, and essential nutrients, whole grains will help to satisfy hunger and provide your morning with energy.
Here’s why we’re nuts about coconut to start your day: There is some evidence to show that coconut oil, rich in MCTs (or medium chain triglycerides), can have some neuroprotective properties.
Studies have also shown that MCTs can extend the time that recreational athletes can endure high-intensity exercise.
Here are some other energy boosting breakfast foods to consider:
- Fatty fish
- Sweet potatoes
- Bee pollen
- Goji berries
- Flax seeds
- Yerba maté
Create your own recipes and combinations with the lists above, or try one of these suggested combinations for breakfast:
- Creamy Coconut Matcha Oatmeal
- Chia Pudding with Bananas and Macadamia Nuts
- Egg, Avocado, and Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl
- Green Protein Smoothie
- Ricotta, Banana, Walnut, and Honey Toast
When it comes to an energy-boosting breakfast, it’s important to incorporate nutritious foods that combine slowly digested carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.
Fiber, vitamins, essential nutrients, fats, and proteins are all essential for energy, so focus on creating a balanced meal with foods from this list.
In addition to foods, water is crucial to all cellular functions, including energy production. Make sure to drink enough water and stay hydrated throughout the day to avoid feeling tired and sluggish.