As a dietitian, one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from athletes is “how can I get more energy?” Generally speaking, they are asking about what specific supplement or pre-workout they should buy to assure they get through their workouts. However, there is NO supplement or pre-workout as effective at boosting your energy than whole foods.
Contrary to popular belief, the excessive amounts of b-vitamins found in energy drinks do not specifically provide energy. However, b-vitamins do aid in the transition from glucose to ATP (energy). That is why consuming adequate amounts of both carbohydrates, which provide glucose, and b-vitamins found in lean protein sources will be an effective way to increase energy levels. Carbohydrates are the number one source of energy in any physical activity, which makes them the most important fuel source in boosting energy before a workout or competition. An hour before your workout, try to consume carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads, pasta, rice, or dry cereal.
Going several hours without eating can also lead to a drop in your energy levels. Ideally, you should be eating a snack or meal every 3-4 hours. Consuming foods that are high in fiber and protein will help keep you feel full longer and will allow energy levels to maintain stable rather than spiking & crashing within an hour. Oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, whole wheat bread, and nuts with fruits & vegetables are good examples of snacks to have on hand. Try avoiding high sugar-added beverages such as soda, sweet tea, and energy drinks. Their high caffeine and sugar content will allow for an immediate spike in energy but cause you to crash within a few hours or less.
Another important thing athletes need to consider in boosting energy levels aside from what to eat is getting adequate sleep. It is very common that athletes do not get enough sleep between the countless hours spent in classes, workouts, private sessions, games, etc. Resting and getting proper amounts of sleep is a critical part of training and recovery. Less than optimal amounts can lead to lowered energy levels, decreased metabolism, and decreased performance. Averaging 7-8 hours a night is a good goal to try and accomplish to prevent drops in energy levels and performance.