If you rely on a cup of coffee to give you the energy you need to get through the day, it’s safe to say you’re not alone. 63% of Americans drink at least one cup of joe daily. In fact, the average coffee drinker has over 3 cups a day. And while there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a caffeine boost to start your morning, the jitters, crash, and digestive issues that often come with excessive caffeine consumption aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (no pun intended). However, reducing your intake can seem daunting–especially because caffeine can quite literally be addictive. Even sticking to just one cup a day may become difficult when the afternoon rolls around and that midday fatigue starts to set in. But as it turns out, when you find yourself slipping into the dreaded afternoon slump, you don’t have to go for an extra dose of caffeine. There are tons of other ways to keep your energy levels stable all day long–no coffee required.
To discover some of the best ways to boost energy (and morale) when the clock strikes 2 PM, we spoke to nutritionist Monica Russell of Acquired Coffee. While Russell is certainly a fan of coffee, she told us that there’s a range of healthy alternatives, from high-protein snacks to natural energy-boosters like maca powder. Find all of her tips below!
1. Eat an energizing snack
Next time you're considering going for that second (or third, or fourth) cup of coffee, it may be more beneficial to ask yourself when the last time you had some protein was. As it turns out, one of the most important parts of staying energized is nourishing your body with the right foods–which is why Russell says eating a healthy snack in the afternoon is a great alternative to overloading on caffeine. "One of my favorite ways to boost energy levels is by snacking on foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as a piece of fruit with a handful of almonds or a hard-boiled egg with a slice of whole grain toast," she says. "These types of snacks can help to keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing the crash that often comes with a caffeine fix." Perfect!
2. Stay hydrated
Sometimes an energy boost can be as simple as sipping on some much-needed water. Hydration is everything when it comes to your health, and that includes your energy levels. If you think you might need caffeine, you may actually just need a good old glass of water. "Dehydration can contribute to feelings of fatigue, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day," Russell confirms. And if that tastes too plain to you compared to your favorite coffee drinks, there are plenty of ways to spice some water up and add some flavor to the mix. "If you find plain water boring, try infusing it with slices of fruit or herbs for a flavored boost," she recommends. It's definitely worth a shot!
3. Get some exercise
"Another tactic for combating the mid-afternoon slump is to incorporate regular physical activity into your routine," Russell suggests. If you've been sitting at a desk all day, the solution to your mid-day slump may be getting up and moving around. Listen to your body–if it's telling you it needs to stretch or get outside, take a break from your work and move! "Exercise has been shown to improve energy levels and increase overall well-being," Russell says. "Even something as simple as going for a brisk walk or doing some stretching can make a big difference." And getting outside is always a great idea; some fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for your energy levels, not to mention your mental health.
4. Try natural energy-boosters
If snacks, water, and movement really aren’t doing it for you but you still don't want to face the inevitable caffeine jitters, there are several natural remedies Russell says you may want to give a try. "It's worth considering natural energy boosters like maca powder or ginseng, which can be added to smoothies or other beverages," she says. "These herbs are traditionally used to increase energy and improve mental clarity." The best part? You won't deal with that dreaded crash later in the day.
The bottom line
While caffeine is just fine in moderation for most people, it can be damaging to your health (both mental and physical) in large quantities. And if it doesn't make you feel your best, there's no reason to subject yourself to it! If you're trying to kick the habit or just cut back, you have plenty of other options to help you stay energized all day. As Russell concludes, the key to staying energized throughout the afternoon is to make sure you're fueling your body with the right nutrients and staying hydrated. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can beat that mid-afternoon slump and keep your energy levels steady all day long.