Our rushed, modern and technology-lead lifestyles can leave us with fatigue and a lack of energy often linked to stress. When we are feeling like this, it can be tempting to turn to fizzy energy drinks or endless cups of coffee to find ways to increase our energy levels.
When we indulge in these types of drinks however, then body can increase the amount of a stress hormone called cortisol. When levels of cortisol remain high for a long length of time it can cause anxiety, disrupt sleep and even reduce the actions of the immune system.
Some plant ingredients stand out from the rest when it comes to natural, healthy energy production and helping individuals to increase and sustain their energy levels. Here are five functional plant foods that pack a punch when it comes to enhancing energy:
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) may benefit brain functions including mood, memory and behaviour (2). Research has shown that certain substances in ginseng known as compound K and ginsenosides may help to prevent the damage that free radicals can cause and therefore protect the brain (1).
One study that followed 30 healthy individuals who were given 200 mg of Panax ginseng every day for four weeks. When the study was complete, the individuals showed improvements in mood, mental health as well as social functioning (3).
In another study, 30 healthy adults were given 200mg of Panax ginseng before and after a 10-minute mental test. This study showed that Panax ginseng was effective in improving mental performance and fatigue during the test (4).
Overall ginseng has shown to assist in enhancing immunity, increasing energy and fighting fatigue. Also, a review of over 155 studies suggests that ginseng in a supplement form may not only assist in decreasing fatigue but also boost physical activity (5.)
Some research shows that guarana may be beneficial for brain function and using it as a supplement may assist in enhancing memory, attention and alertness. Guarana contains cell protective antioxidants such as saponins and tannins and is well known for its stimulating effects (6).
A 2019 study of 10 pentathlon athletes showed that supplementing with 300 mg of guarana assisted in helping to lessen any perceived exertion and also served to boost athletic and cognitive performance (7.)
Maca root is full of nutrients including carbohydrates, fibre, vitamin C, iron and copper and many beneficial bioactive plant compounds. Its powder is used as a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders, primarily because it can boost sports performance and energy. It is also claimed that maca root can help to gain muscle and increase strength and some studies have indicated that it enhances endurance performance (12.)
A small pilot study of eight male cyclists found that after taking a maca root supplement for two weeks, the cyclists times improved when completing a nearly 40km bike ride (13).
Other studies have shown that maca root may also alleviate some symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhance mood (17).
Furthermore, maca root may also improve brain function, specifically benefitting learning and memory. In fact, the indigenous people of Peru have traditionally used it to help improve the academic performance of children in school (18).
Matcha can be great alternative to coffee as it can provide a sustainable and healthy energy boost. Matcha contains half as much caffeine as coffee and it is also balanced out by other pigments and compounds such as L-theanine that allows the body to absorb the caffeine slowly, thus promoting alertness and helping to prevent the characteristic ‘crash’ in energy levels that is often attributed to coffee (15).
L-theanine has also been shown to increase the alpha wave activity in the brain; these particular waves can produce feelings of relaxation and ultimately reduce stress levels (16).
Also, some studies have shown that compounds found in matcha could help improve brain function. Researchers studied how 23 people performed on a series of tasks that were designed to test brain performance. The researchers found that matcha improved attention, memory and reaction time when compared to the placebo group (14).
According to research, when rhodiola is given in a supplement form, it may enhance mood and energy levels and improve concentration.
For centuries, traditional medicine systems worldwide have used rhodiola to help boost memory, alertness, and endurance (8).
In both human and animal studies, it has shown the ability to reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function and mood, and increase exercise performance in human and animal studies (9).
Rhodiola has specifically been cited as being especially helpful for people who are suffering from “burnout”, which studies have defined as “emotional, motivational, and physical exhaustion as a result of chronic occupational stress” (10.)
A study of 118 people who were suffering from “burnout” found that after supplementing with Rhodiola rosea extract (400mg daily) for 12 weeks, participants reported significant improvements to feelings of exhaustion, poor concentration, and lack of joy (11).
Activated Nutrients Power Up:
Power Up is a plant-based energising superfood powder that is packed with organic botanical ingredients to promote physical energy production and sustained energy release throughout the day. It will not only boost energy but also support physical and mental performance. Its premium ingredients are also rich in health-promoting antioxidants to help protect the body’s cells from free radical damage.
Our formulation includes a powerful combination of 12 superfoods and adaptogens, including ginseng, guarana, maca root, matcha, red reishi, rhodiola and more, for sustained energy release throughout the day.
Easy to use; just add 1-2 teaspoons of our energy drink powder (4-8g) with water or add to smoothies for an extra boost! Try using this to replace your morning and/or afternoon coffee.
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2. Geng J, Dong J, Ni H, Lee MS, Wu T, Jiang K, Wang G, Zhou AL, Malouf R (2010). Ginseng for cognition. Cochrane Database Syst Rev;(12):CD007769.
3. Ellis JM, Reddy P, (2002). Effects of Panax ginseng on quality of life. Ann Pharmacother;36(3):375-9.
4. Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, (2005). Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. J Psychopharmacol;19(4):357-65.
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12. Eun Hye Choi et al, (2012). Supplementation of standardized lipid-soluble extract from maca (Lepidium meyenii) increases swimming endurance capacity in rats, Journ Func Foods;4;2,568-573.
13. Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, Stevenson E, (2009). A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol;126(3):574-6.
14. Dietz C, Dekker M, Piqueras-Fiszman B, (2017). An intervention study on the effect of matcha tea, in drink and snack bar formats, on mood and cognitive performance. Food Res Int;(Pt 1):72-83.
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17. Dording, Christina M et al, (2015). “A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of maca root as treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in women.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med;949036.
18. Gonzales GF, (2012). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med;193496.