Foods for energy

A couple of months ago I read and reviewed a book called Dr Susan’s Chronic Fatigue Cure. The book suggested a number of foods that may reduce energy. This is of particular interest to people like me who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Dr Susan suggests that the following foods can be energy-draining: red meat, lactose, gluten, chocolate, coffee and alcohol.

Since I read the book, I’ve been carrying out a scientific experiment on myself, to see if these foods really do have an effect.

Coincidentally at about the same time as reading Dr Susan’s book, I also discovered Dave Asprey, who makes similar claims, but for slightly different food groups. He also suggests that you eliminate lactose and gluten, but in contrast to Dr Susan is against pulses and in favour of coffee and red meat! He also warns that members of the deadly nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and mango) can have a negative effect on energy levels.

So this seemed like an interesting and useful experiment that I could try out on myself. Don’t worry, I wasn’t harmed during any of these experiments.

First I defined 5 energy levels that I could fairly reliably assess in myself. I used these to “measure” my energy levels throughout each day. Here are the energy levels I used:

1. Need to lie down – exhausted
2. Need to sit down – bit sleepy
3. Ready to do cooking  / light housework
4. Ready to do light exercise / gardening
5. Ready to do intense exercise

I found that during the study I averaged around level 4. Note that during this period I wasn’t suffering from obvious symptoms of Chronic Fatigue. If I was, I would have averaged around level 1-2.

I ate my usual diet for two months (which incidentally doesn’t include sugar or refined carbohydrates (white bread, potatoes, white rice, white pasta) which are also “no-go” foods for both Dr Susan and Dave Asprey.) At regular intervals throughout each day I recorded my energy level. Then, at the end I analysed the effects of the different foods on my energy.

Here are the results:


Lactose (Milk/cheese/yogurt/powdered milk)

Red meat

Gluten (wheat/oats)



Beans / lentils / houmous / peas



Green veg


So coffee (surprisingly), lactose, red meat, gluten and nightshade-family plants had no effect on my energy levels. Pulses actually made me feel tired after eating them (presumably because they are hard to digest). Chocolate and green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, sprouts) gave me a boost.

Eat chocolate and gain energy! I declare the experiment a total success! Seriously though, I wasn’t munching my way through whole bars of chocolate. I limited myself to one small square of dark chocolate per day. I recently read elsewhere that chocolate can help to cure the symptoms of CFS.

In conclusion this was an interesting experiment that anyone could try on themselves. What worked for me might not work for you.

For myself, I’m now relaxed about what I eat, knowing that most things are either neutral or beneficial. I’m making sure I eat a small piece of chocolate every day and packing in as many green veg as I can manage. I’ve reduced my intake of beans and lentils but not eliminated them completely.

It’s not a cure, but it’s another tool in my battle against chronic fatigue. So thank you, Dr Susan. Even though your list of foods didn’t work precisely for me, it set me on the path of finding out what does work.

28 responses to “Foods for energy

  1. This is SO interesting, Steve … and thought-provoking (no surprise). Of course, I have two slices of toast and honey before going to the gym and two slices after. I have for years. Hmm. I’ll have to ponder, a tad. There’s something very real here.

  2. It’s not surprising that you found contradictory advice from two different sources. One day we’re told that even one glass of red wine a day is bad for you. Then it’s good for you and is recommended. Coffee is good, then it’s bad, then it’s good again. Eggs, butter, milk…all bad one day, all okay the next. Red meat, pork, fish, pasta…it doesn’t matter. Someone will sing their praises while someone else will warn you of dire consequences.

    My philosophy is that life is too short, so eat what you like and what tastes good. And hope that whatever it is you’re eating doesn’t cut your life too short.

  3. I think the problem is that the media likes to report the latest study as if it was definitive, rather than take a measured overview of the body of research. Then the story keeps changing and people lose all confidence in “science”.

    What I did here was simple and the results apply specifically to me. I measured short term effects only and perhaps there are longer term effects that I wasn’t able to measure. It’s a start.

    You are right that life is too short. Maybe eating the right foods can make it longer?

  4. “chronic fatigue syndrome” is it something similar to “neurasthenia” … if not, what is the difference…

    • There are a number of conditions with similar symptoms (CFS, ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, post-viral fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia). They are generally classified according to symptoms, but I don’t believe there is a clear understanding by the medical community of the causes of these conditions, how they are related, how they can be tested or cured.

      The old-fashioned view is that they are mental illnesses. Modern doctors think they may be related to disorders of the immune system or a viral infection.

      • Yup. Modern medicine does not fully understand them ( if at all ) and there is no pill available as a cure. Generally all of these respond well to lifestyle changes such as regular exercise. (Yoga is great if one can find a decent class, or at home using a good method) and diet adjustments.

        • i’m not a big fan of Eastern wisdom, but yoga YES. i think we still do not fully appreciate its importance for our body! so i’m the best example… aware, in practice, however, less persistent…

  5. and so generally speaking, i’m not surprised that with the quality of food that is in England… and rather, and mainly due to the bad eating habits of english men… one can really get sick!

  6. Reblogged this on trueloveandhappiness and commented:
    Food is a subject that very much interests me. I have been trying out a low carb, low sugar, high protein diet for over a year now and I am leaner but I don’t feel more energetic or healthier. There is probably something I am missing from my diet!!

    • You should lose weight on that diet and it will reduce internal inflammation, making you healthier even if you don’t feel more energetic. It’s hard to assess objectively how much energy you have – that’s why I defined an energy scale and used it to “measure” my energy after each meal.

      Thanks for the reblog!!

  7. I recently investigated why gluten is a bigger problem in these past couple of decades
    – Celiac disease increased from 1 in 500 50 years ago to 1 in 133
    – Hybridized modern wheat different protein structure is a possible cause

    I’m not an expert – but if someone is having frequent upset gastric symptoms and possibly a rash and cramps – check it out because it can get extreme

    • I tested myself for celiac disease (gluten intolerance) as part of this project. I was negative. It’s a very easy test you can do at home using a kit bought on Amazon. The kit came with a booklet explaining how the test works (detecting antibodies) and gave me a lot of confidence it was a reliable method.

      It’s possible that an increase in incidence of celiac disease is due to greater awareness. Until about 20 years ago I had never even heard of gluten.

      • I am unconcerned for myself and closest loved ones… however, a work friend has it and I’ve head a lot from him. Basically, the problem stems from undigested gluten proteins in the intestines that are treated by the body as a foreign invader — the clumps and globs of undigested “food” become irritating in the gut and cause flattening of microvilli on the small intestine walls. Without active microvilli, there is less intestine surface area by which to absorb the nutrients from food. The globs and blocks cause abdominal pain and worse symptoms as well. see:
        Apparently, there may be medical or other reasons for a sharp increase in the disorder… for example: A study using frozen blood samples taken from Air Force recruits 50 years ago has found that intolerance of wheat gluten, a debilitating digestive condition, is four times more common today than it was in the 1950’s. The findings contradict the prevailing belief that a sharp increase in diagnoses of wheat gluten intolerance has come about because of greater awareness and detection. see:
        Hidden gluten may contribute. see:

        Recently there were claims that the type of wheat being grown had higher concentrations of gluten proteins.

        • OK, sounds like a real increase. As you say it could be due to changes in varieties of wheat, or it could be because of the huge increase in consumption of processed food.

  8. “so my diet is not typical” … so what that means in practice? of course if that isn’t too drastic question…

  9. Nice post lovely blog people will get attract to see this……..

  10. I admire your commitment to finding out what makes you feel better. After 60 years of dieting (not just wt loss but also looking for what makes me feel better, (and spending a zillion dollars on the expert books) I’ve come to the conclusion that one diet does not fit all. So, we take what works, disregard what doesn’t. Funny, I’ve found chocolate works for almost everyone 🙂

  11. Hey, back when I was diagnosed in 1987 at the age of 11 in 5th grade (I’m 38 now), my mom finally found an alternative allergist who was considered a quack by most of his contemporaries at the time this is in the U.S.A state of GA. He took me off all foods with Candida (yeast), prescribed Niastatin to kill the yeast/Candida build up in my system, took me off all refined foods and sugar, put me on a rotation diet (meaning I rotated my meals every 5 days: example beef day, poultry day, meatless day, pork day, & venison day [when in season]). When I followed my allergy diet religiously, my symptoms were very mild. However, it’s just a way to manage my CFS, not cure it.

    • I think it’s becoming clear that there are many allergens in food and each one affects relatively small numbers of people. But the number of total allergens means that many people are affected by the food they eat.

      When it comes to refined foods and sugar, these probably harm most people. I gave up sugar and refined carbs years ago and cured myself of hayfever and dust allergy.

  12. Oh, and my mom bought a cook book entitled the “Beat the Yeast” cookbook.

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