When you're feeling sluggish, an obvious remedy probably comes to mind first: Get more sleep. And while adequate sleep is vital for supporting your energy levels, it's not the only contributing factor to feeling alert. Your diet also plays a big role in helping you stay energized.
Take it from Monster Energy athlete and Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy — whose workouts now consist of skiing for four hours, stretching and then a light gym workout — learning how to optimize your diet for energy can help you to operate at your best day-to-day. "Your body really is a machine, and so the better you can take care of it and make sure it's properly fueled, the better it will perform for you," Kenworthy says.
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Kenworthy has been a professional skier for 15 years — he won the silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — and throughout his career he's learned several useful tips for keeping his energy up. Keep reading to see how his advice can apply to your daily life.
1. Time Your Caffeine Intake Properly
Caffeine can be your friend when you're trying to energize your diet, as long as you're timing it properly and being mindful of your intake. The effects of caffeine peak approximately 30 to 75 minutes after consumption, according to a November 2009 American College of Sport Medicine's (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal article. Around four or five hours later, only about half of the caffeine is left in your body, which is why you might feel sleepy by the afternoon even if you started your day with a cup of joe, although it may last longer when caffeine intake is higher than 300 milligrams, according to the ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal article.
To combat that slump, Kenworthy recommends spacing out your caffeine intake as needed, and timing it around exercise if you want an extra boost before you work out. "I start every day with an iced coffee, which perks me up, but the energy from that doesn't last all day," Kenworthy says. "Whenever I go to the gym — the timing always fluctuates and depends on what else is on my schedule that day — I have a Monster as my pre-workout."
His favorite is Monster Zero Ultra, which has no sugar, 10 calories, 150 milligrams of caffeine and other energy-supporting ingredients like B vitamins, taurine and ginseng extract.
2. Carbs Are Your Friend
Blood sugar (aka glucose) is your body's main energy source and comes from the food you eat. So, ensuring you're consuming enough ingredients that get converted into glucose — carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and fruit — can help support healthy energy levels.
Kenworthy starts off the day with carbohydrates in the form of oats he adds to a protein shake, and he continues to consume them throughout the day. "What you ate for dinner the night before will also play a large role in how you feel during a workout," Kenworthy says. "For this reason, if you know you have a big workout or physical challenge one day, eat plenty of carbs the night before. Either basic carbs like pasta or, preferably, complex carbs like sweet potatoes."
3. Add Blood-Sugar-Supporting Ingredients to Your Breakfast
Speaking of complex carbs, you want to be sure you're eating the right types of carbs to support sustained energy. Simple carbs (such as candy or other sugary foods) cause your blood sugar to spike, which gives you a sudden burst of energy that depletes quickly. Whereas complex carbs, such as legumes or whole grains such as oats, provide a more steady source of energy, according to the American Heart Association.
In addition to prioritizing complex carbs over simple carbs, Kenworthy also likes adding blood-sugar-supporting ingredients such as cinnamon to his breakfast to help his morning energy last as long as possible throughout the day. "Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your shake or yogurt in the morning," he says. "Cinnamon contains tons of antioxidants, and helps to maintain your blood-sugar levels."
His go-to shake recipe checks all the eating-for-energy boxes: vegan or whey protein powder, superfood supplement, fiber powder, peanut butter powder, water or unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 cup raw oats, a banana and that sprinkle of cinnamon.
"It's an easy way to get everything I need into my system and get my metabolism going," he says. And if he still needs some energizing support later in the day? His fridge is stocked with Monster Zero Ultra.