What do you turn to when you start running out of steam?
If you’re like most people, you immediately go for caffeine. Whether it’s espresso, iced coffee, or sugary energy drink, drinking caffeinated beverages is a deeply embedded habit in our culture. Since most of us associate increased energy with those drinks, we may forget that there are a number of other ways to get a pick-me-up.
We’ll admit there’s something special about the smell of a pumpkin spice latte or the swirl of foam on the cappuccino from our favorite coffee shop. But unfortunately, caffeine can also have a number of unpleasant side effects. Anxiety, restlessness, and sleep issues are the most well-known effects of excessive caffeine use. And ironically, drinking too much caffeine may make you more tired, as it activates the stress response in your body, making it harder to get real rest.
In this article, we’ll explore simple, practical ways to gain energy fast using natural techniques. If you can get moving, go for a walk, cool down, or get some fresh air, you can conquer the afternoon slump. Ready to learn more? Let’s get into it!
#1: Drink Water
It’s amazing how much hydration impacts our well-being. Without enough water, the cells in our body can’t work properly, leading to both physical and mental fatigue. The next time you start feeling afternoon brain fog set in or like you’re dragging your feet, drink a glass of water and see if it doesn’t give you a boost.
#2: Try Coconut Water
Water isn’t the only way to hydrate. Coconut water contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which help support our body processes. Fatigue or a dip in energy is one major signal of an electrolyte imbalance. While you don’t want to overdo it with electrolytes, a glass of coconut water is a refreshing way to hydrate and boost your energy levels.
#3: Eat Eggs
Food and sports scientists frequently recommend eating eggs before sports events because they’re brimming with vitamins to boost energy. The B vitamins contained in eggs are essential to energy production, as are the amino acids. High in protein, eggs also provide sustained nutrition and don’t cause blood sugar spikes and dips, unlike your favorite sugary coffee drink. Combine eggs with energy-enhancing whole grains, like whole grain toast, and you won’t need that second cappuccino.
#4: Connect with Nature
Connecting with nature is a proven way to fight feelings of fatigue and a host of other issues such as depression, anxiety, and overwhelm. Whether it’s a walk through a forest, a run on the beach, or a dip in a lake, immersing ourselves in the elements can calm and uplift us at the same time. The next time you’re hitting a wall with fatigue, try going on a walk, sitting in a park, or walking under the stars. Just a few minutes of connection to nature can give you the boost you need.
#5: Try Adaptogenic Herbs
Ashwagandha, reishi, rhodiola rosea, gotu kola, and other adaptogenic herbs are known to protect your brain health, boost energy, fight depression, and stimulate the nervous system. Each individual herb has its own primary benefits — rhodiola is best if you want a serious pick me up that lasts all day, but gotu kola will make it easier to stay mentally alert. The best part about these herbs is that even while they boost energy, they still support the nervous system and adrenal glands, rather than wearing them down like caffeine does.
#6: Diffuse Peppermint Essential Oil
This stimulating, invigorating essential oil will wake you up, help you breathe more deeply (which alone can help boost energy), and even help you think more clearly. Use a diffuser or an essential oil inhaler, or sniff it directly from the bottle. If you don’t have peppermint around, try rosemary, lemon, or sweet orange oils. A word of caution: don’t ever ingest essential oils or put them directly on your skin.
#7: Try a Stimulating Breathing Technique
Spoiler alert: if you’re like most people, you probably don’t breathe to your lung’s full capacity, which means you’re depriving yourself of precious oxygen. Most of us are used to shallow breathing, which means we’re often unnecessarily activating the body’s stress response and depriving ourselves of energy. Diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing” will allow you to take oxygen into your lung’s full capacity, which can impact your whole body positively and boost your energy.
To do belly breathing, inhale for about five seconds into your stomach area. As you take in air, your belly should expand. Hold it for five seconds, then breathe out. As you do so, your belly should draw in. Your chest should remain neutral throughout. Repeat this for five to ten minutes.
#8: Sit Outside First Thing in the Morning
If fatigue is a problem for you, get some sun as soon as you wake up, ideally outside instead of behind a window, and for at least 15 minutes. Direct light is best, so if it’s winter, try using a light machine. This will reset your biological clock by decreasing melatonin production and signaling to your body to start producing it again 14 hours later. This is called your circadian rhythm, and it’s important for maintaining energy levels, giving you more energy in the mornings when you need it the most and decreasing it in the evenings to help you power down for sleep.
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#9: Get Moving
Exercising might be the last thing you want to do when the afternoon slump hits, but you’ll thank yourself if you can hang in there for the first few minutes of a workout. Just think about the last time you tried to sleep after a workout that went too late — most likely, you couldn’t. Exercise boosts endorphin levels, helps oxygenate the body, increases blood flow, and sharpens the mind, all of which can help you overcome that end-of-day dip in energy.
#10: Try Yoga
If staying alert is a problem, you can turn to yoga to boost your energy. To fight fatigue, many yogis turn to backbends, which stimulate the nervous system, and inversions, which may increase oxygen and nutrient intake and boost endorphin production. However, there are plenty more poses that can combat sleepiness! Making yoga a regular part of your self-care can also help your energy levels overall by reducing stress, promoting sleep, and calming the mind.
#11: Cool Down
Heat tends to make us feel sleepy. If you find yourself beginning to nod off, try turning on the AC or opening the windows. A blast of cold air might not be the most pleasant way to jolt yourself awake, but it works quickly and effectively. You can also try taking a cold shower or alternating heat and cold before you get out. Not only will this wake you up, but it can also reduce stress and anxiety.
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#12: Try a Cleanse
The foods and drinks we consume will determine how energetic we are. If we’ve been indulging in heavy foods and drinks, such as meat, pasta, starches, sugar, and alcohol, we’re going to start feeling it at some point. When you start feeling yourself getting sluggish more easily, consider trying a cleanse for a day or two. Remember, not every cleanse is for everyone. A few days of eating light salads and fruits might be all you need to recover from unhealthy eating habits, while someone else might go for a juice cleanse. Find the right option for your lifestyle and body type, then see if you don’t feel more energized afterwards.
#13: Take a Nap
A cat nap might be a better option than pushing yourself to keep going when your body is exhausted. A 2021 study showed that naps increased cognitive performance and mental alertness among study subjects. For best results, take 20 to 40 minute naps. Any shorter and you’re not getting restorative sleep, any longer and it may be harder to get up without feeling drowsy.
#14: Put the Phone Away Before Bed
A 2015 study found that “people who used light-emitting e-readers before bed had a harder time falling asleep, lower levels of sleep-promoting hormones, and shorter and delayed REM sleep — all of which reduced their alertness levels in the morning.” To get enough quality rest, use blue-light blocking glasses or put away your devices.
#15: Eat Leafy Greens
Most leafy greens are chock full of nutrients that can sustain your energy such as potassium and iron. Plus, they’re light and full of fiber, which helps your digestion stay regular. The nitric oxide contained in greens will also help boost your energy levels and can enhance athletic performance. On the days you’re exhausted, opt for a green smoothie, salad, or sautéed greens.
You Can Feel Awake and Alert, Naturally
Caffeinated drinks and sugary treats are an easy way to get energy quickly, but they’ll leave you with an energy crash, can affect your mental health, and can even cause fatigue in the long run. It’s important that you understand how many options you have to increase energy naturally. Boosting energy really boils down to healthy living — getting enough water and nutrition, moving your body, and using restorative techniques like yoga. Try replacing one of your daily coffees with an alternative, and see how you feel.
Here’s to supporting your body in a sustainable and healthy way!
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