Taking a shot of 5-Hour Energy or popping the top of a Red Bull might seem like the easiest way to get more energy—but, unfortunately, most health experts say quick fixes like these aren’t a long-lasting cure for fatigue, and could, in fact, be dangerous. But there are a number of ways you can naturally boost energy levels and stay more focused without winding up in the ER. Of course, scoring 7 to 9 hours of high-quality shut-eye is your best bet for keeping energy soaring all day. But when demanding work schedules, needy children, and long to-do lists interfere with sleep cycles, try one of these 30 ways to help you instantly zap fatigue and score more energy.
1) Drink a glass of water. Even mild dehydration can deplete energy levels. There is no “magic” amount of water you should be drinking daily, but aim for at least eight 8-oz glasses a day to optimize energy.
2) Eat breakfast. No, we’re not talking about a shot of espresso: A high-fiber, high-protein breakfast (think eggs with whole-grain toast, or Greek yogurt with berries) fires up your metabolism and energizes you for the day ahead.
3) Take a 10-minute walk. Working out may be the last thing on your mind when you feel like you’re running on empty, but studies suggest that a little heart-pumping exercise can give you an instant energy boost. Even a 10-minute walk will do the trick.
4) Cut back on sugar. Refined sugars (aka the white stuff found in processed foods like soft drinks, white bread, candy bars, and baked goods) can create temporary spikes in energy that leave you feeling cranky and tired a few hours later. Get your sugar fix from naturally sweet fresh fruits.
5) Snack on a handful of nuts. Nuts are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that is crucial for energy production. When fatigue strikes, munch on a handful of magnesium-rich almonds or cashews to reboot your system.
6) Eat every four to five hours. Eating consistently throughout the day provides your body and brain with a constant source of fuel and prevents dips in blood sugar levels. Reach for fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes whenever possible.
7) Take a nature break. For an instant surge of feel-good energy, don’t underestimate the power of Mother Nature: Studies suggest that soaking up a little Vitamin D can increase energy levels and ward off depression.
8) Check Facebook. Yawning at your desk? Check Facebook for funny videos in your Newsfeed posted by friends (or go to YouTube and scan the featured videos). Studies suggest that laughter can boost endorphin levels, lighten mood and increase energy.
9) Eat chocolate. For a quick (and tasty!) pick-me-up, nosh on a square of chocolate. The flavonoids in chocolate have been found to boost cognitive skills and improve mood.
10) Adopt a one-cup limit. Nothing gives you an instant energy jolt quite like a cup of Joe. To avoid those dreaded coffee crashes later on, limit yourself to one cup of coffee a day, and switch to decaf in the afternoon.
11) Take a cold shower. The notion of an ice-cold shower might make you cringe, but try ending your shower with a 30-second blast of cold water—studies suggest that the surge of cold water can improve blood circulation and provide instant invigoration.
12) Surround yourself with red. Studies suggest that seeing the color red can boost energy. Why? The body interprets the color red as a danger cue, enhancing physical reactions and alertness.
13) Take a deep breath. Shallow breathing prevents the body from getting enough oxygen, leaving your body feeling zapped after a long and stressful day. When fatigue strikes, try taking a few deep breaths.
14) Create a energizing playlist. Tune into some lively music to instantly combat low energy. Music improves mood and leaves you feeling more positive and energetic.
15) Sit up straight. Slouching over the computer is not only bad for your back—it’s a sure-fire recipe for tiredness. Sit up tall with your shoulders back to maximize the flow of blood to the brain.
16) Use bright lights. While dim lighting will make you want to nod off, exposure to bright lights resets the body’s daily clock, or circadian rhythm, prompting you to feel more alert.
17) Stand up and stretch. For an instant pick-me-up, sneak in a few stretches throughout the day at your desk. Stretching decreases tension in the muscles and increases oxygen flow.
18) Eat eggs. Eggs pack a powerful punch of key nutrients and protein that helps to satisfy hunger and provide a source of sustained energy, keeping your battery revving all day long.
19) Avoid mid-day cocktails. Alcohol is a depressant, so it strains the central nervous system and causes general fatigue. That mid-day glass of vino may keep the edge off your nerves, but it will have you yawning in no time.
20) Chat (in person). To keep midday yawns at bay, stop by a coworker’s cubicle for a brief catch-up. Social interaction is an easy way to boost mood and ward off fatigue.
21) Keep a plant nearby. Embellishing your house or workstation with ornamental plants and flowers may increase energy and concentration, studies suggest.
22) Change your socks. It sounds silly, but give this energy trick a try: Bring a change of socks to work and swap out your old pair midday.
23) Go for ginseng. Ginseng is a time-honored natural remedy for fighting fatigue. Try taking a daily ginseng supplement to boost energy.
24) Sip on green tea. Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine, making it naturally energizing. It also contains polyphenols, which widen blood vessels and speed up the supply of blood to the brain, increasing alertness.
25) Sniff a lemon. The smell of lemon is credited with lowering stress and boosting mood, instantly reviving you when you’re feeling tired and “blah.”
26) Organize your desk. Desks that are cluttered with pens, papers and other odds and ends can increase stress levels and sap energy. For enhanced alertness, take a few minutes in the morning to de-clutter your work or living space.
27) Tackle a crossword. When energy is fried, try concentrating on another mental task, such as a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle. The activity will stimulate and challenge the brain, combating mental burnout.
28) Blow your nose. Blocked sinuses can deplete energy stores and leave you feeling generally cranky and tired. Try reaching for a tissue and blowing your nose the next time fatigue strikes.
29) Pop some B-vitamins. Power up with B-vitamins to fight fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. B-vitamins are essential for proper brain functioning.