Tune into any conversation and it’s more than likely you'll hear someone say, “I’m so tired.” After all, surveys have found that 76 percent of people feel that way most days of the week. But rather than head straight to the espresso machine, there are ways to get more energy, fast. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to boost your energy....without coffee, whether you're about to workout or just facing an afternoon slump at work.
Actually chew your food.
Your mom’s been saying it for years-when you’re eating your meals, slow down. She has a point: “The slower we eat, the faster we metabolize our food,” says Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation. That’s because the more food gets broken down in your mouth, the more enzymes you produce to digest that food-meaning your gut has to do less work, leaving your body with more energy. But how slow is slow? “Try counting to 10, 30, or even 50 before you swallow your food,” Rosen suggests.
Step into the (bright) light.
“Light that emits cooler blue tones, or that is bright-similar to natural daylight - can provide a stimulus similar to a strong cup of coffee, helping you feel refreshed and more alert,” says Luc Schlangen, principal scientist at Signify who helped develop the Philips Hue smart lighting system. Being exposed to this light within the first one or two hours of waking can support your circadian rhythm, he adds, which helps regulate your sleep system and provides more energy overall.
Go on and vent.
A not-so-surprising fact: Negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness and loneliness are all under-recognized drains of physical energy, reports the Harvard Business Review. And in our non-stop, on-the-go lives, it’s easy to feel constantly bombarded with emotional stress-with little opportunity to get rid of those feelings, says Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of the mental wellness peer support network Supportiv. To minimize fatigue-and very likely feel more energized immediately-she suggests indulging in a venting sesh.
“Do it with a non-judgmental friend," Plater-Zyberk says. Want to be more private about your feelings? Journaling can help too, reports the University of Rochester Medical Center. Regardless of your method, venting means “you won’t have to spend as much mental and physical energy stifling your emotions, and you’ll get a happiness boost from feeling understood,” Plater-Zyberk says. Win-win!
Sneak in a nap.
In today’s overworked culture, it won’t be easy to pull off-but if your schedule allows and you’re feeling a serious energy drain, bow out for a quick 20-minute nap. Doing so can help improve alertness and performance while lowering your stress levels, says Conor Heneghan, director of research and algorithms at Fitbit (whose team analyzes the sleep data logged by more than 9,000 users).
The timing of your nap matters too. “Early risers who wake up at 5am should ideally nap earlier in the afternoon, while those who sleep later shouldn’t nap until mid-afternoon,” Heneghan says. “Overall, it’s best to nap after you’ve eaten lunch, when blood sugar and energy levels have dipped and your body enters a state of mid-day drowsiness.”
Shower with cold water.
It may sound like the most unpleasant thing to do when you first wake up, but Nikola Djordjevic, MD, says showering in cold water is an easy way to get more energy quickly. “Your metabolism speeds up, heart rate increases, and blood flow enhances, all of which gives you more energy,” he says. Those chilly temps can even strengthen your immune system in the long run, he adds.
Smelling essential oils will also boost your energy fast.
"Essential oil aromatherapy invigorates your senses, quickly affects brain chemistry, and can work wonders for your energy and mental clarity,” Rosen says. Take a whiff of stimulating oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and cinnamon to help relieve fatigue and potentially boost brain function, alertness, and memory, she continues. Diffuse citrus oils like wild orange, bergamot, grapefruit, or lemon and it’s likely you’ll feel improved energy, motivation, and mood.
Add some crunch to snack time.
Crunchy foods are ideal afternoon snacks for helping you stay more alert, says Michele Sidorenkov, RDN. “Eating an apple, munching on carrot sticks, or adding granola to that yogurt are all easy ways to healthfully add crunchy foods into your diet throughout the day,” she says. “The crunching sound helps wake your body up, and can help beat the afternoon snooze by involving your auditory senses.”
Another smart idea: incorporating citrus. “It’s light, refreshing, and gives you a natural sugar boost,” Sidorenkov says. “You also have to put in a little work to open the fruit - instead of mindlessly sticking your hand into a bag - which could help to wake you up by temporarily focusing on an easy task.”
Fun fact: the average child laughs 300 times a day, according to Psychology Today. Adults? A measly four. But a solid laughing session (like what you’d expect from watching a really funny movie) can be comparable to a mild workout, contracting your abdominal muscles, increasing blood flow, and lowering stress hormones. And another study found that a workout like that can increase energy by 20 percent. Sure, it may not be a super direct connection, but honestly-are you going to say no to a good chuckle? Take it as the permission you wanted to watch a funny YouTube video, tell some corny Dad jokes, or book tickets to that comedy show you’ve been meaning to catch.
Looking for some pre-workout energy? Breathe controlled, rapid breaths.
If you’ve practiced yoga, it’s likely you’ve put your Kapalabhati breath, or breath of fire, to use. This particular breathing style focuses on a forceful exhale and passive inhale, and its rapid, rhythmic practice helps boost blood flow and circulation for energy when you need it most, says Naz Beheshti, executive wellness coach and CEO of Prananaz. To try it, start in a comfortable seated position, resting your hands on your lower belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your belly about ¾ full. Quickly and forcefully exhale while drawing the navel toward your spine (so you’re breathing from your diaphragm). Repeat 10 times, or until you run out of breath. Breathe in through your nose again, and repeat the process 3 to 4 times.
Take the stairs.
Stepping into the elevator is easier, yes, but research shows that 10 minutes of stair walking can be more effective in waking you up than 50mg caffeine (the equivalent of about 1.5 cans of soda). More research suggests that an afternoon walk can wake you up, too. Instead of that afternoon coffee, take the stairs out of the office, walk around the block, and climb back up for a quickie energy boost.
When you’re feeling the afternoon slump, ask yourself one question: When was the last time you got out of your chair? Taking the time to stretch increases blood circulation and promotes the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that provide an energy boost, says Thanu Jey, CPT, chiropractor, and clinic director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto. He suggests standing and reaching for your toes, a quad stretch, or a figure 4 stretch, as all of these target bigger muscle groups and help get your blood moving.
Take time to play.
If you hate working out, think back to the activities you did as a kid that made movement fun. Maybe it was cranking the music and dancing around the room, or chasing your dog around the house. Whatever it is, getting active can be totally playful, and you only need to do it for a few minutes before you’ll notice a difference in energy, says Beth Vazquez, founder and co-owner of Recess & Results in Miami.
“Engaging in playful activities can increase heart rate, that leads to increased blood and oxygen flowing throughout the body and endorphins being released in the brain, all of which help increase energy,” Vazquez says. So take your kids to the playground, bust out a game of charades with friends, or sign up for a local sports league.
While it may feel counterintuitive to relax when you’re in need of more energy, a 30- to 60-minute acupuncture session can actually increase your body’s dopamine and serotonin levels, which can improve your energy overall, says Kim Peirano, DACM, a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine and owner of Lion’s Heart acupuncture studio in San Rafael, California. “Acupuncture creates a similar effect to meditation-we clear the mind and turn on the body’s own ability to replenish and recharge, which results in more energy without the need for stimulants or other methods of getting energy that could run us down in the long run.”
Research backs her up: a review of 16 studies concluded acupuncture could be effective in treating chronic fatigue; even more so than herbs or stimulants. More research showed that a treatment helps the brain transition into an alpha and theta state-and out of a beta, or stressed, state-which helps the body heal and restore itself naturally.
Eat fatty fish.
When you meal prep for the week, consider including fish that are rich in omega 3 healthy fats two to three times a week, suggests Shahzadi Devje, RD. “Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna are excellent sources shown to reduce inflammation, a common cause of fatigue,” she says. Opt for certified wild and sustainable seafood options, as Devje says they're usually healthier for you and more eco-friendly.
And the skin on your fruit.
Don’t strip the skin off summertime staple fruits, including apples and pears. That’s where the bulk of the fiber is, and “a diet rich in fiber fosters healthy digestion and helps keep blood sugar stable, sustaining your energy throughout the day,” Rosen says. Other high-fiber fruits? Raspberries, bananas, and oranges, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Skip bedtime wine.
While there’s nothing quite like unwinding with a delicious glass of wine, don’t indulge too close to bedtime. “Alcohol can disrupt your circadian rhythm and directly interfere with your sleep cycle and energy levels,” Heneghan says. It’s also super effective at suppressing melatonin, a key regulator of your sleep-wake cycle, so while you may fall asleep faster, it’s likely a contributor to feeling groggy the next day.
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