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Foods to Fight Fatigue

Complex Carbohydrate Charge continued...

Simple sugars found in candy bars, soft drinks, and cookies can also provide a quick boost, but then a big letdown afterward.

"You are going to get a rise in energy from the original hit of the sugar," says John W. Finley, associate editor of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, "but then, particularly for diabetics, sugar can drop below the baseline where it started." Finley says the peak effect of simple sugar normally lasts 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the dose.

Without complex carbohydrates to sustain blood sugars, the body loses steam. "A diet that is based in complex carbohydrates," Grotto says, "seems to have less of that peak and valley of blood sugar effect."

It is also important to make sure your complex carbohydrates have fiber, says Dee Sandquist, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Fiber helps the carbohydrates that we eat to be more slowly absorbed by the body," she says. "So, therefore, the body gets a more balanced release of energy, as opposed to the quick burst of energy."

Many processed carbohydrates, such as white rice, white bread, and pasta, contain little or no fiber, resulting in expending energy at a rapid rate. To ensure you have a food rich in fiber, check the label. A slice of bread should contain 2 to 3 grams of fiber.

Fat Force

Fat has gotten a bad rap, too, but it's one that's not entirely undeserved. "Bad" fats are associated with heart disease, some types of cancer, and some chronic illnesses. The right types of fat, however, are a concentrated source of energy. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase the risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

In order to strike the right balance, choose polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils and seafood and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds. The unsaturated variety can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Protein Power

Fats and carbohydrates may supply the body with energy, but protein helps regulate the release of that power. Protein maintains cells, assists in growth, transports hormones and vitamins, and preserves lean muscle mass. Muscles and many hormones are, in fact, made up of protein. You need proteins for your immune system. So replenishing your body's source of the nutrient is very important.

Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products. When you eat these types of foods, your body breaks down the protein that they contain into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Some amino acids are essential, which means that you need to get them from your diet, and others are nonessential, which means that your body can make them. 

In diets where the body does not get its usual fuel of carbohydrates and fat, protein provides the body energy.

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