7 Ways to Wake Up Without Coffee
Caffeine-Free Strategies to Stay Energized
Updated January 2023
When you feel tired, you might go straight for coffee. But if you're looking to cut back on the amount of coffee you're drinking, or if you don't like coffee at all, there are easy and healthy habits that can help keep you energized — all without needing a cup of joe.
Anna B. Shannahan, MD, a family medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, shares her top tips to gain energy throughout the day.
Look for foods that have a low sugar index. Your body will absorb these types of food more slowly, and they won't lead to a sudden drop in energy. A combination of carbohydrates (carbs), fats and proteins is good — carbs 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 vegetables can also help you avoid an energy slump. These foods are naturally high in fiber, which influences glucose absorption and helps your blood sugar levels stay steady. Leafy greens also contain B vitamins, which help your cells make energy.
Skipping meals keep you from getting the energy you need, and it can set you up to eat too much at the next meal. Eating healthy meals and snacks regularly throughout the day can keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Exercise, even just a quick walk, can be a great way to boost your energy. Exercise tells your cells you need more energy, your body will rise to the occasion and provide you with more. It also triggers the release of endorphins and a chemical called norepinephrine, which helps you feel awake and alert.
Studies are still being conducted about the chemicals tied to feelings of well-being (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 tells your body to be more alert. 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. Give yourself a break and repeat the exercise several times. It can be noisy, but it is effective.
5. Stay Hydrated
Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration, so make sure you drink water throughout the day. Some experts say that you should drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Others recommend drinking an ounce of water for every pound of body weight.
Talk to your primary care physician or care team about water intake if you have concerns about your hydration.
6. Take a Power Nap
A 20-minute nap is long enough for you to get the restorative benefits of the first couple of stages of sleep. You should be careful napping for more than 20 minutes as you may enter a deeper sleep phase and waking up in the middle of that can lead to grogginess.
You should also avoid napping later in the day as it may disrupt your sleep cycle. Do not 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. Experts think that this may have to do with nature's impact on decreasing stress responses.
Caffeine may be the best-known quick fix when tiredness hits, but there are plenty of other ways to boost your energy and get going. From snacks to naps, healthy habits can be all the jolt you need.