Caffeine-Free Strategies to Stay Energized
Many people go straight for coffee when they’re feeling tired. But the caffeine fix is not without its downsides. Luckily, there are a number of easy healthy habits that can keep you energized all day without needing a cup of Joe as a crutch.
Anna Balabanova, MD, family medicine resident at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, shares her top 7 tips to gain energy throughout the day:
Look for foods that have a low sugar index, as they are absorbed more slowly and won’t lead to a sudden drop in energy. A combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is good: the carbohydrates will provide some quick energy, while protein and fats will keep you full and prevent burning through energy too fast.
Try an unsweetened low-fat Greek yogurt with unsweetened granola or an apple with peanut butter. Greens like spinach and other veggies can also help you avoid an energy slump. These foods are naturally high in fiber, which influences glucose absorption so your blood sugar levels stay steady. Leafy greens also contain B vitamins, which aid cell’s energy-making process.
2. Eat Well and Regularly
Skipping meals deprives you of the energy you need and can set you up to eat too much at the next meal, while eating healthy meals and snacks regularly throughout the day can keep blood sugar levels steady.
Exercise, even just a quick walk, can be a great way to re-energize. Exercise tells your cells you need more energy and your body will rise to the occasion and provide you with more. It also triggers the release of a chemical called norepinephrine that contributes to feeling awake and alert as well as endorphins. Studies are still being conducted about the chemicals tied to feelings of wellbeing (sometimes referred to as “runner’s high”). But we know norepinephrine, endorphins and other chemicals all play a role.
4. Try the Stimulating Breath Technique
Also known as the “Bellows Breath,” this breathing exercise originally used in yoga stimulates the diaphragm and signals the body to increase alertness. While keeping your mouth closed, inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose with short, quick breaths. Do this for about 10 seconds, then breathe normally and give yourself a break, and repeat several times. It’s noisy but effective.
5. Stay Hydrated
Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration, so be sure to drink water throughout the day. There are numerous recommendations on how much one should drink to stay hydrated. Some experts say six to eight glasses of water a day, others say more or less depending on body size.
6. Take a Power Nap
A 20-minute nap is long enough for you to receive the restorative benefits of the first couple of stages of sleep. Be careful napping longer than 20 minutes as you may enter a deeper sleep phase, and waking up in the middle of that can lead to grogginess. Also avoid napping later in the day as it may disrupt your sleep cycle, and don’t rely on naps to make up for a full good night’s sleep.
7. Connect With Nature
Studies have shown that being around nature, even for small amounts of time, makes people feel more energized. It is thought this may have to do with its impact on decreasing activated stress responses.
Caffeine may be the best-known quick fix when tiredness hits, but there are plenty of other ways to boost energy and get going. From snacks to naps, healthy habits can be all the jolt you need.