The innocent little snack in your hand could be a secret energy killer.
The worst foods for you include some of the most common “easy” snacks and meals. They zap your energy and bulk up your waistline. Yet some of the top foods that make you tired also include menu options you might call healthy.
No wonder dieting is such a mess!
So many of the worst foods to eat are the exact same foods that stare you in the face morning, noon, and night. Sugary snacks make the list, but so do “healthy” complex proteins.
It may seem like an elaborate game of “eat this, not that” but you can be a winner. Below are the seven worst foods to eat when it comes to zapping your energy… plus a simple way to kickstart your metabolism back into high gear at the end of the list if you’re worried about adding other non-energy zapping foods back into your diet.
Chocolates, hard candy and soda are easy-to-spot sugar sources, but are your forgetting about fruit juices, cereals, snack crackers, and “enriched” grain products? All of these can be loaded with high fructose corn syrup or added sugars that will zap your energy before you even know what’s hit you.
Sugar is one of the worst foods for you because it kills your energy in two ways. First, it gives you a blood sugar spike and crash that can knock you out cold. And it inhibits your production of orexin, a key brain chemical linked to feelings of wakefulness.
Seafood — including fish, octopus, and scallops — is often praised as a healthy menu choice. When you’re trying for Omega-3 fatty acids or lower calories, that’s true. But when you’re trying to keep your energy levels up, it’s one of the worst foods to eat.
It turns out seafood is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that increases your serotonin and makes you sleepy. This is the same amino acid found in turkey and widely associated with that long Thanksgiving after-dinner nap. Seafood will put you to sleep just as fast. If you have a packed afternoon and need your energy, save the fish for supper!
Hummus is another healthy-but-not-right snack to watch out for if you want to keep your energy level high. That’s because this smooth chickpea paste is also rich in tryptophan.
Eat hummus with its usual companion — pita bread — and you serve your body up a double dose of heavy carbs and tryptophan that will have you snoozing where you sit.
You may think of saffron as a spice, but don’t underestimate its power to zap your energy level. Children in the Middle East are routinely given saffron to calm them down and help them sleep while the Romans prized saffron as a sleep aid. Which is why the saffron teas, saffron rice, and saffron seasoning you enjoy may be quietly soothing you into slumber.
The soporific (sleep-inducing) effect of saffron is considered strong enough that it has been the subject of multiple anti-anxiety and hypnotherapy tests. In mice, as little as .56 grams of saffron extract can slow mental processing and promote lengthier sleep sessions.
Salty Snacks & Meals
Salty food isn’t just bad for your blood pressure — it’s also one of the worst foods to eat if you’re looking for more energy. According to nutrition expert Dr. Cynthia Sass, salt leads to fluid retention, which in turn “puts more work on your heart, ups your blood pressure, and leads to bloating, water retention, and puffiness, all side effects that can drain energy.”
Wait, isn’t coffee a morning pick-me-up? Yes and no. Coffee will give you a short-term boost of energy as your body soaks up the caffeine, but once the caffeine wears off you’ll crash hard. So you grab another cup … and the cycle repeats.
This up and down cycle can really take a toll on your energy levels. Over time, you need more and more caffeine to get any effect, if it still works for you at all. A better choice is to avoid sugar and caffeine alike in favor of more sleep if you truly want more energy throughout the day.
Bacon — or any meat with a high fat content — will zap your energy level fast. The high fat content requires your digestive system to work harder to process the fat, sucking away energy from other key bodily functions like staying awake and alert. Throw bacon on your burger at lunch and you’ll be fighting an afternoon nap before you know it — and that goes double if you opted for the “healthy” tryptophan-filled turkey bacon!
Fight the ZZZZ’s and the Pounds
Reading this list, it may seem like everything you can eat is an enemy of either your energy level or your waistline. But it doesn’t have to be a choice between energy or inches…
That’s because there’s a third option. Give your body the important minerals and amino acids it needs while keeping your metabolism-boosting hormones in abundant supply and you can eat well without packing on the pounds or falling asleep at your desk.
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Instead, you get to enjoy the foods you love while getting weight loss results as much as 200% faster than normal weight loss supplements. And… you get to enjoy high energy levels all day long!
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Baker T. Dream Meal: Food to Make You Sleep. The Guardian UK. 2011 June 8.
Borboa, M. Ask a dietician: 10 best tips for more energy. SheKnows.com. 2011 Nov 18.
Deadwyler S, et al. Systemic and nasal delivery of Orexin-A (Hypocretin-1) reduces the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance in nonhuman primates. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2007 Dec:27(52):14239-14247.
Hosseinzadeh H, and Noraei NB. Anxiolytic and Hypnotic Effect of Crocus Sativus Aqueous Extracts and its constituents, Crocin and Safranal, in Mice. Phytotherapy Research. 2009 Jun;23(6):768-74.
Lehrer J. Why Sugar Makes Us Sleepy (And Protein Wakes Us Up). Wired. 2011 Dec 6.
Sorgen C. What’s Zapping Your Energy? WebMD. Retrieved 2012 April 7.