Grabbing that power bar, bottle of gatorade, or candy bar may not give you the energy you think it will. High sugar foods burn off too quickly leaving you feel sluggish perhaps before you even finish your workout. Some carbs can be too heavy before a strenuous exercise routine. So what kind of food is best to charge up your energy batteries?
First, let’s talk about the different types of sugar, as people are often very confused about them.
Glucose: A simple sugar found in many foods, including carbs like pasta and bread, as well as fruits. It’s the sugar your body burns most efficiently because it’s a monosaccharide — the primary type that cells use. This makes it the best option for a pre-workout pump-up, but don’t try to get it from high sugar junk foods like candy bars or even some power bars. Opt instead for whole grains and nuts to get your fix because they will sustain your energy longer instead of quickly being burned up.
Fructose: The natural sweetness of fruits is derived from fructose. Although fructose is also a monosaccharide, it differs from glucose in that the liver breaks it down before it moves through your blood and then to your muscles. Another drawback: Free radicals and triglycerides (a type of fat), form as by-products as your liver processes fructose. Thus, you are more likely to gain weight eating a lot of fructose-containing foods such as fruit, fruit juice, honey and vegetables. That does not mean you should avoid these foods, just be careful how much fruit juice your and your kids are consuming. Try to limit your consumption of fruit and fruit juices to two cups a day.
Sucrose: Commonly know as table sugar, is a dissacharide derived from plants like sugarcane, sugar beets and sorghum. Sucrose breaks down into equal parts glucose and fructose in the small intestine, where these simple sugars are eventually absorbed through the intestinal wall. It then gets into the bloodstream, where a protein takes the glucose to muscle cells to use for energy or store for later use.
Maltose: Found in molasses, this sugar consists of two-parts glucose. It doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, but manufacturers use it to produce beer; which explains why beer makes you gain weight if you consume a great deal of it. Also a dissacharide, maltose takes some time for the glucose to get to the muscles because it first needs to go through the small intestine.
Lactose: You are probably familiar with this sugar in dairy products. It’s also broken down in your small intestine, where it’s converted into the monosaccharides, glucose and galactose. After that, it travels to the bloodstream to power up your muscles.
Your body needs sugars, and the different types of sugars are all necessary. Kim Larson, RDN, CSSD, a sports dietician and media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. “Each sugar uses a different metabolic pathway to provide energy to the muscles,” she explains. “You can pump more sugar into the muscle if you are consuming two or three different types, as opposed to one. That’s a distinct advantage that delays fatigue and increases training intensity and performance.”
“A lot of sugar just isn’t necessary and only adds unwanted, excess calories,” Larson explains. And, if you get your sugar from the wrong source, it could actually zap your energy and leave you running on empty. Many people actually crash from sugar rather than get an energy boost from it. It depends on how your body metabolizes sugars.
Best Sources of Sugar Energy:
Sugar from whole foods is far superior to sugars from prepackaged power bars or candy or junk foods. The fiber in whole foods like peanut butter or hummus, slows down the absorption of sugar, giving you energy extended over a longer period of time, instead of that quick boost and then fall caused by refined sugars. Larson adds, “A candy bar just dumps all of the sugar quickly into the blood stream,” she says. “After eating, blood sugar may fall even further, making you feel lousy and potentially causing headaches and fatigue.”
Here are a couple recipes for making your own high energy power balls.
Blueberry Energy Balls
• 2 cups nuts (I used 1 cup of cashews & 1 cup of almonds)
• 1 cup dates
• 1 cup dried blueberries
• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
• Zest of 1 lemon, juice of half a lemon
• 1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Add nuts to food processor. Process until nuts are pea-sized.
2. Combine nuts with dates and dried blueberries and process until all ingredients have broken down and are a bit sticky.
3. Add in lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract.
4. Process until all ingredients come together to form 1 large sticky ball.
5. Roll into small balls and store in fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer.
30 pitted medjool dates
½ cup cashew meal or ground cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
pinch of salt
Place 30 pitted dates in a small food processor. Process for about a minute or until your dates are chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is combined. Using an inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough. Wet hands a little, then roll in your palm to form a ball. You shouldn’t need too much moisture, but wet hands does help! Repeat x 10.