Ask a Dietitian: What Should I Eat for Energy Without Weight Gain?

Hi Charlotte, What can I eat to give me energy without gaining weight?


From your question I’m going to assume a few things – hopefully I’m right, if not let me know.

I assume that you’re lacking energy and that you’ve pinned down your diet as one of the reasons for this, and there are unhealthier foods that give you energy but you’re looking for some healthier alternatives.

Sugary foods and drinks like energy bars, cakes and sodas can provide energy, but this is a short-term fix. They’re digested and absorbed quickly and this can also correspond to your energy levels; they rapidly increase and then come down just as quickly.

Not only that, but these foods are calorie dense and aren’t that filling meaning it’s not going to be long before you feel like eating again. On top of all of this, these foods release compounds such as dopamine which make us feel like we have more energy. The real kicker is the more tired we are, the more likely we are to reach for these types of foods so it turns into a vicious cycle.

Let’s break this cycle then. Complex carbohydrates release energy more slowly over time and are better at keeping us full. I’m talking about whole grain products, oats, nuts and legumes.

Having meals with a variety of foods is also a good idea as they provide a range of nutrients which together are better at topping up our energy levels than isolated nutrients like protein shakes. We want to be swapping these into our diets for the foods I’ve mentioned previously.

Caffeine is a funny one. I think in the morning there’s no problem having caffeinated teas and coffees to get you going – just be mindful of what you’re adding to it. . By the afternoon though you want to switch to decaf because caffeine can stay in the body for 8-12 hours and affect your sleep at night.

There will also be other factors that affect your energy levels such as sleep, stress, exercise and what you’re currently doing at the time. If you’ve been doing a really boring task at work you’re bound to feel tired after a few hours so take a microbreak, or go for a walk.

If you think you’ve done all you can and you’ve been feeling run down for several months, speak to your doctor as fatigue is a symptom of a lot of illnesses which no amount of lifestyle changes can solve.



Complex carbohydrates and meals full of variety should give you a solid foundation. Caffeinated drinks in the morning are okay but switch to decaf by the afternoon.

Written by: Dan Clarke, RNutr

Reviewed by: Charlotte Marie Werner, MS, RD, CDN

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