Does Protein Give You Energy? A Registered Dietitian Says ‘Yes’

Posted on December 12th, 2023 By in Diet and Weightloss Read Time: 20 mins.

Have your energy levels been slacking lately? You’re not alone.

Recent studies show that as many as half of our population feels chronically tired and lacking adequate energy levels.10

At the same time, many of us fail to consume an adequate amount of protein to support a healthy, active lifestyle.

Whether there’s a connection between the two, or if it’s simply a coincidence, are what we’re going to explore today.

protein packaging with lightbulb signifying energy with pale green background
A high-protein diet can provide lasting daily energy

Energy is Tricky Topic to Tackle.

…And I’m not just talking about our global climate crisis (which we are doing our part to combat by using sustainable protein, I might add)…

Rather, I’m referring to each of our own physiological energy level.

Energy is a complicated phenomenon to begin with, made more complex by the fact that energy is a perceived feeling, rather than a quantifiable metric. 

You can go get your blood levels tested for an iron deficiency, or other markers of health.

It’s much harder to get your ‘energy’ levels tested. 

Sure, we can measure various sleep metrics, and technology has enabled some pretty cool overall health tracking…

But it’s difficult to solve one’s perceived lack of energy.  

How we measure, analyze, and prescribe solutions for low energy levels is incredibly nuanced. 

And while the underlying reasons for chronic fatigue, and the appropriate solutions to address it are broad…

There might just be an easy fix hiding in plain sight.

But first, let’s address some of the most common reasons why it feels like you don’t have enrough gas in the tank.

Reasons You’re Energy Levels May be Low Lately

There are many reasons your energy levels may be below average.

If you’re experiencing common symptoms of low energy – tiredness, moodiness, confusion, and disinterest in daily activities…there are some common culprits. 

Let’s outline four of the top reasons why ‘I’m so tired’ is your personal mantra lately. 

1. You Aren’t Sleeping Well

I know, I know – Captain Obvious strikes again. 

Sure, this one is a no-brainer, but let’s dig a little deeper. 

If you are tired constantly, of course the first thing to consider is your sleep.

But even within sleep, there are quite a few things to consider.

How much sleep are you getting each night?

Are you getting to bed at the same time each night? 

Do you limit the amount of phone and TV time before bed?

What temperature is your bedroom? 

All of these things make up your overall ‘sleep hygiene’, which has an enormous impact on the quality of your sleep, and how you feel during the next day. 

Getting good sleep requires discipline much like a healthy diet and exercise routine. 

Putting in the work to build good sleep habits is the best first step you can take in addressing chronic fatigue. 

Once you’ve addressed your sleeping habits, it’s worth looking into some other factors – including things like caffeine intake. 

NOTE: Medical conditions like sleep apnea can impact your sleep to a much greater degree than than these other factors, and should be ruled out first by consulting with your doctor. 

2. You’re Too Reliant On Caffeine

Do you find it hard to function until you’ve had that first cup of morning coffee?

Join the club. 

According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee on a weekly basis, with 66% of us drinking it daily.11 

While the United States FDA says that up to 400 mg per day of caffeine is safe, caffeine is a powerful drug (albeit a legal one).

And like many drugs, especially those considered stimulants (nicotine, and cocaine also fall into the stimulant category), it has potential for over-use, and addiction.


Caffeine Is Not All Bad

There’s obviously a big difference between cocaine, and that venti ‘salted caramel cold brew’…

It’s also true that consuming caffeine and caffeine-containing foods can be beneficial.

We even use caffeine in our pre-workout products because of its ability to boost short-term energy, focus, and cognitive performance. 

But large amounts of caffeine are not a long-term solution to improve your energy levels.

Using caffeine daily as your go-to solution for a short-term energy boost, you also run the risk of developing the following symptoms 1:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle breakdown
  • Rebound fatigue

You’ve heard the phrase ‘for every action there’s an equal, and opposite reaction’. 

Well, your overall energy level when taking stimulants kind of follows that trajectory. 

You take caffeine and get a rush of energy, but then later on, you have a bit of a crash. 

The ‘afternoon crash’ is often explained by that initial energizing caffeine burst wearing off.

This can start a bit of a vicious cycle when more caffeine is then used to remedy the situation, and get the energy back up. 

The key takeaway?

Experiment with Cutting Back 

Experiment with limiting coffee consumption to a few days per week to see how you feel on those ‘off’ days. 

You may experience some caffeine withdrawal symptoms at first, but ultimately you may end up feeling more consistent energy throughout the day without it. 

NOTE: Weaning off of caffeine gradually might be a more sustainable way for you to cut down on your caffeine consumption, than quitting ‘cold turkey’. 

So first, consider your relationship with caffeine.

If that’s not the culprit, it’s time to look at your diet. 

3. Your Diet Might be Part of the Problem

Just like how coffee can have a huge impact on our daily energy level, the other nutrients we put in our body play an equally important role. 

The foods you eat (or don’t eat) go a long way in keeping your brain and body energized.

And its not just choosing the right foods, but how much of them we consume, and even when we are eating them. 

Choosing the Right Foods

Some foods, like foods high in protein, can help give us a great deal of lasting, sustainable energy.

Others can end up making us feel more tired and sluggish than if we hadn’t eaten anything at all. 

(Yes, I’m looking at you, sugary junk foods!)

Eating foods packed with high-glyemic ingredients like sugars and refined carbohydrates, sets off a series of hormonal responses in our digestive system.

These changes occur as our body tries to process the corresponding blood sugar spike of eating sweets and junk foods. 

The ending result is, of course, a strong desire to take a nap.

In the next section, we’ll go in-depth on which foods provide energy, but an important takeaway here is that junk food can compromise both your waistline and your energy levels. 

Making the right food choices is key – and so is eating the right amounts of those foods. 

Eating the Right Amount of Food

Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing when it comes to our diets.

Eating too much food, even healthy foods, can lead to a caloric surplus, which leads to weight gain.

Caloric Surplus: Eating more calories than you burn throughout the day.

There is an undeniable link between obesity and feeling tired.12

We’ll cover the reasons why in the next section. 

Conversely, when your diet is low-calorie, low-nutrient, or even repetitive in the same foods day after day, it can create a chronic imbalance in your energy levels2.

This is because the food you eat delivers calories and nutrients into your body that are required to produce energy, a process known as metabolism.2

Some popular weight-loss diets, and even a basic calorie deficit can leave us feeling tired before our body adjusts to the lower amount of calories coming in.

So it’s important to pay close attention to how many calories you are consuming.

It’s also important to be aware of when you are eating.

Choosing When to Eat, and When NOT to Eat

We mentioned earlier in the article that being on a consistent sleep schedule is important in order to give yourself the best shot at a great night’s sleep.

We’ve also shared our thoughts on this blog about when to drink a protein shake depending on your goal.

The point is – timing matters sometimes.

And in a similar way, having consistent timing with your eating routines can be helpful too.

If you’ve ever skipped a meal when you usually eat, you know what I’m talking about.

You might get tired, or even irritable (you know, when you’re just ‘hangry’?) if you get off of your regular eating pattern.

It’s also a good idea to avoid eating too late at night, as it can be hard to get into a deep sleep state if your digestive system is activated and alert from a late-night meal. 

Try eating on a regular schedule to keep your body, and your energy in rhythm. 

So your diet is important in having enough energy throughout the day, but sometimes fatigue goes beyond these dietary decisions. 

3. Physiological Reasons

There is also a chance you may be experiencing low energy due to genetic or environmental factors beyond your control.3

The following physiological reasons could also be hindering your energy levels:

  • Metabolic deficiencies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Food allergies

If you suspect you have any of these medical conditions, seek diagnosis and course of treatment from a medical provider.

Now that we’ve covered four possible reasons for chronic fatigue, let’s dig a little bit deeper on the nutrition side.

4 Key Nutrients for Daily Energy

As we’ve learned, the foods that you eat are essential to sustaining balanced energy levels.

Our digestive systems break down our meals into important nutrients that support our bodies and minds.

In order to identify the best foods for energy, we need to consider which key nutrients they provide, and how those nutrients support our health.

There are about a hundred micronutrients that support our complex human bodies, but here are 4 of the essential nutrients for energy:  

1. Prebiotics and Probiotics

The gut microbiome is a colony of beneficial microorganisms located in your gut (AKA: large intestine).

In addition to helping us maintain a healthy weight, our gut bacteria also play an essential part in keeping us energized.

Microbes of the gut, especially bacteria, assist in regulating energy metabolism and hormone release via the gut-brain axis4.

This axis is a communication system that links the brain and gut and is controlled by the gut microbiome.7

This relay has a massive influence on your overall health and almost all physiological functions within the body, including those related to balancing energy levels.

Probiotics helps perform the following roles, which aid in energy production:7

  • Absorption of energy nutrients in the intestines
  • Regulating production of energy hormones (i.e., leptin and ghrelin)
  • Maintaining energy homeostasis

Fermented foods – like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha – are also probiotic foods, delivering live bacteria strains to the gut to fortify your microbiome.

Making sure to get enough foods containing prebiotic fiber like fresh fruits and vegetables is also important to keep your gut bacteria happy.

Now let’s talk about one particular nutrient that we happen to know a great deal about. 

Yes, I’m talking about protein. 

2. Lean Protein

Getting enough lean protein is essential for preventing mental and physical fatigue.

Most people know that proteins are required for maintaining healthy bones, and building those strong biceps, but protein is absolutely critical for your energy levels – in more ways than you might think. 

Let’s start with something that might surprise you – protein is itself an energy source for your body.

Protein is an Energy Source

Oftentimes we think of those tasty carbohydrates, or those deliciously salty fats when it comes to the calorie sources that our bodies use for energy…

But protein too is an alternative source of energy in the body.2

While the carbohydrates you eat are used as quick-burning fuel in the body, proteins take longer for the body to process and utilize – meaning that consuming the recommended daily amount of lean proteins can improve long-term energy.2

Proteins also provide the crucial amino acids that your body – and mind – need to produce those energizing hormones. 

Protein Supports Healthy Hormone Production

Remember how we talked about how energy is a tricky topic because it’s a perceived feeling, rather than a measurable data point?

Well, that’s because our endocrine system is heavily involved in the way we perceive whether we have energy, or not. 

Neurotransmitters like dopamine are our brains natural chemical messengers which essentially tell us that we are energized and motivated. 

Protein gets broken down into amino acids when we digest it – several of which play critical roles in our ability to produce dopamine. 

Phenylalanine, lysine, tyrosine, and methionine are all involved in the process of producing dopamine, and all of them come from the protein that we eat. 

Supports a Healthy Weight & Lean Muscle

We know that protein can help build muscle, and also that protein is essential for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. 

So how does that tie in to energy? 

Easy – we already learned that obesity is directly linked to feeling tired constantly. 

So to eliminate the possibility that being overweight is the cause of excessive tiredness, it’s a great idea to get down to a healthy weight. 

…Not to mention that being at a healthy weight is much better for your cardiovascular, and overall health.

Make sure you get enough protein per day to benefit from all three of these ways that protein gives you energy. 

Other nutrients that support healthy energy levels are healthy fats, and other specific vitamins.

3. Healthy Fats & Omega 3s

Healthy fats like omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids are unsaturated and provide numerous benefits to the body and brain

Like protein, they provide a stable energy source while also helping the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients essential for the metabolism process.2

Healthy fats are also necessary for normal brain cell function because of their omega-3 content.2

Omega-3’s are critical for normal brain function and maintain homeostasis within and communication between brain cells.2

Consuming omega-3 containing foods, like salmon, regularly can assist in maintaining regular brain activity and reduce symptoms of poor brain energy levels. 

4. Certain vitamins and minerals

A majority of the foods you eat contain many vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health.

However, some specific micronutrients, like B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, iron, and magnesium, are required to keep you energized.5

They are needed for various energy-related processes, from metabolism to delivering oxygen throughout the body.5


Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is required for the metabolism process, specifically turning carbs into energy for the body, brain, nervous system.5

In tandem, zinc also assists with metabolism but is also involved in neuron formation and function.

The health of neurons in your body is essential as they deliver energy to the brain.

Without enough power, the brain can fatigue to cause irritation and difficulty focusing.5

Foods rich in B-Vitamins include: Oats, bananas, salmon, certain lean meats, liver


Magnesium is involved in the function of hundreds of enzyme systems within the body that regulate the biochemical process in the body.5

One of these functions is the production of energy from the breakdown of carbohydrate molecules.

Foods rich in Magnesium include: Dark leafy greens, legumes, seeds, certain whole grains, avocados

Vitamin C

This popular antioxidant is an energy powerhouse involved in various energy balancing processes.

Vitamin C does everything from regulating energy hormones to maintaining collagen and carnitine synthesis for protein metabolism!5

Foods rich in Vitamin C include: Green leafy vegetables, oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes


Iron is vital for many energy-related functions but is most known for delivering oxygen to cells throughout the body.5

Oxygen is essential to keep your cells, tissues, and organs healthy.6

Without adequate iron, oxygen is deficient in your body – known as hypoxemia – resulting in confusion and mental and physical fatigue.6

Foods rich in Iron include: Meats, liver, spinach, collard greens, nuts and seeds

Other Ways to Boost Your Energy

We’ve covered a lot of ground identifying the right foods that can help boost those energy levels.

But implementing other healthy lifestyle habits can, and should be used alongside a healthy diet to boost energy & mood naturally.

In addition to eating more energy-boosting foods like protein, there are other habits you can also adapt to keep you energized:

Keep Hydrated

Dehydration can affect your mood and energy levels as water is essential for maintaining homeostasis in your body – including regulating metabolism.9

Make sure you’re consuming around 8 glasses of water per day, but this amount can vary based on your personal needs and geographic location.

Stay Active

After long periods of inactivity, it’s common to notice an increase in fatigue.

Physical movement is vital for maintaining adrenaline levels in the body.

However, a lack of activity can decrease adrenaline and fatigue muscles over time.9

It’s crucial to find a balance of movements you enjoy for an acceptable amount of time.

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of REM sleep is a common cause of imbalanced energy levels, leading to increased fatigue.9

Improve sleep quality by paying attention to the sleep hygiene elements that we referenced earlier in this article. 

Consider Supplementation

It can be difficult to get all of those energizing nutrients through food alone.

If you’re trying everything and still need an extra lift to your energy levels, you may want to consider supplementing with a quality protein powder.

Try experimenting with the other specific vitamins/nutrients that we outlined to see if they provide the consistent energy that you deserve.

Improve Your Daily Energy Levels Long-Term

To summarize, here’s what we’ve learned in this article that you can takeaway, and use to sustainably balance your daily energy levels: 

  • Common reasons for chronic tiredness and fatigue include poor sleep, being too reliant on stimulants like caffeine, making poor dietary choices, and/or physiological conditions
  • Within your diet, the best nutrients for combatting tiredness are lean protein, healthy fats, probiotics, and specific micronutrients
  • If you suffer from chronic fatigue, consider filling your diet with these recommended foods, paying extra attention to your sleep habits, and try to strike a healthy balance with stimulants like coffee.

Armed with this knowledge, and a little discipline, you can attain a healthy, sustained energy level day in and day out.*














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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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