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Popular Foods That Are Wrecking Your Energy Levels, Say Dietitians

We asked registered dietitians which food and drinks to steer clear of to stay energized.

Summer is nearly here which means it's time for more park hangs, outdoor sports (whether in the water or on land), and parties—and you'll need all of the energy you can get to keep up with all of your upcoming epic plans.

Unfortunately, some of your usual, go-to foods and beverages in the summertime—from sweetened coffee drinks to fried food at state fairs and music festivals—may interfere with your energy levels. You can't afford to have that happen after a year of lockdown, right?

Below, we asked three registered dietitians to share which popular food and drink options are known to drain your energy levels so you can avoid consuming them on the regular this summer! Then, be sure to catch Foods That Can Decrease Your Diabetes Risk, Says Dietitian.

Sugary breakfast cereals

Sugary cereal

"If reaching for cereal to satisfy 'the most important meal of the day,' let it be known most varieties are laden in refined carbs and added sugars," says Sydney Lappe, registered dietitian for bistroMD. "That so-called 'sugar rush' might initially be felt, though a drop in energy is likely to follow shortly after. Those morning muffins, donuts, and other sugary pastries are also bound to sap your energy."

Starbucks Frappuccinos

starbucks frappuccino on table with green straw

"You can't talk about popular foods without mentioning Starbucks. While many of their drinks are more dessert-like with a small punch of caffeine—making them not really coffee in the first place—the biggest culprit is the Frappuccino," says Lauren Hubert MS, RD. "While super refreshing in the summertime and always made with fun flavors, these drinks can pack 50+ grams of sugar without fiber and hardly any protein, leading you to crash shortly after drinking them. My suggestion? If you are indulging, remember that it isn't coffee (it's a sweet treat), and try to order a smaller size to save your calories and sugar. Better yet? Ask for slightly fewer pumps of sweetener and check the nutrition facts on the menu!"

Now, be sure to read We Tasted Every Starbucks Frappuccino and This Is the Best.



"Soda has very little nutrients and a lot of added sugar. Soda lacks protein or fats that help slow down digestion and absorption," says Sakiko Minagawa, MS, RD, LD. "Soda provides a quick rush of energy that is not very long-lasting. The current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that you limit your consumption of added sugars to no more 10% of your total energy needs. For example, if your daily energy needs are 2,000 calories, that is 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugar (about 14 teaspoons of sugar) per day. One 12-fluid ounce can of soda typically contains 35-40 grams of added sugar."

White bread and pastas


"Whole grains supply the best natural energy when fiber and other valuable nutrients are still intact," says Lappe. "Overly processed grains become stripped from these nutrients and are digested faster, which can lead to a drop in energy."

Read up on Dangerous Side Effects of Eating White Bread, According to Science.

Pre-bottled fruit smoothies

Collection of bottled smoothies

"When you're rushing in the grocery store and you want something healthy, it isn't uncommon to stop by the produce section and pick up a pre-packaged smoothie," says Hubert. "But just like a Frappuccino, these drinks can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and provide tons of calories, but not keep you full for very long. It isn't uncommon to see some of these smoothies packing up to 70 grams of sugar in one little bottle leading to a massive blood sugar spike, a much-anticipated drop, and major lethargy."


picture of man putting two hands out to refuse a cup of coffee

"Whether to kickstart the day or beat that afternoon slump, coffee (especially those with added syrups and sweeteners) can actually do the opposite," says Lappe. "In fact, too much coffee or caffeine can cause lack of concentration and restlessness amongst the many adverse side effects."

For more, check out Side Effects of Drinking Caffeine, According to Science.


Group of friends at rooftop party

"Alcohol might be enjoyed to crank up the energy or relax, though alcohol can interfere with natural sleep cycles and eventually disrupt quality sleep altogether," says Lappe. "Pair alcohol with a sugary mixer, and that's a double whammy to your energy levels!"

Fried foods

fried food

"We all know fried food is usually high in calories, but what you may not know is fried food (because it's fried in oils) is high in fat, too! While fat is not bad for our body, (in fact we need fat in our diet for satisfaction and hormone health) fried foods are high in not-so-nourishing fats—and in very large quantities," says Hubert. "Because fat takes longer to move through our GI system, it isn't uncommon to feel sluggish and drained of energy after eating a big fried meal due to the pressure it puts on your GI system to break down and metabolize."

Be sure to read Dangerous Side Effects of Eating Fried Foods, According to Science.

Fruit juices

Unhealthy orange juice bottle held in front of fridge

"While often thought to be a healthy drink option, fruit juices tend to be concentrated with additional sugars," says Lappe. "Lacking fiber like a whole piece of fruit, fruit juice can drop blood sugar and energy levels just as quickly as it spiked them."

For more, be sure to check out The Most Dangerous Ingredients in Energy Drinks, According to Dietitians.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne
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