If you’ve been dragging, or drinking a pot of coffee a day, or JUST CAN’T WAKE UP, this post is for you. Instead of reaching for the caffeine pills, try these 8 natural ways to increase energy. Bonus: these tips help improve mood and overall health too!
Drink Water to Increase Energy: Being dehydrated by even 1% can make you fuzzy headed, forgetful and less alert. While 8 glasses of water a day is the general rule, you can also follow the even more exciting pee test. If it’s yellow (especially dark yellow) - go drink some more!
If you hate drinking water, check out my tips on how to make it more exciting. I also recommend carrying a water bottle with you. Here are my top picks!
How to Eat for Energy
As anyone who’s ever indulged knows - aka: all of us - eating certain foods can weigh you down and make you groggy. Usually these foods are filled with quick digesting carbs like sugar or refined starches (candy, white bread, chips, etc.), all of which are considered high glycemic index foods. This means that as food digests it quickly spikes blood sugar and then also quickly drops it, which leaves you dragging.
Conversely, low glycemic foods don’t spike blood sugar and are digested more slowly so they give a more even flow of energy. Foods with a low glycemic index include whole grains, high-fiber vegetables, nuts, healthy fats and protein.
So, for example, if you wanted to grab breakfast and got a donut, this would be a high glycemic food and you’d quickly crash and burn. A breakfast with whole wheat toast, an egg, and some fruit has fiber and protein which slowly digests, keeping energy levels and hunger steady longer. Instead of grabbing a bag of low fiber chips for a mid afternoon pick-me-up, reach for a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit or whole grain crackers or carrot sticks with hummus. Both of these options - you guessed it - have fiber, some healthy fat, and protein to keep your engines humming instead of sputtering.
If you’d like more tips on how to figure out what’s in what, check out my nutrition label cheat sheet here.
Drink Coffee, Wisely
While, of course, coffee and other caffeinated beverages perk you up, choose when you drink them wisely. While it may feel like you need a mid-afternoon cup to get through the day, you may also make it harder to sleep that night, perpetuating an endless cycle of sleepless nights. (Trust me, I’ve been there.) Instead of chugging coffee, soda, or tea, try drinking water or get up and walk. Getting your blood pumping, even for a few minutes, is a sure way to shake off the sleepiness.
How Exercise Increases Energy
Exercising works in many ways to increase energy. First, if you’re overweight exercise helps to lose some of the pounds, which naturally gives more energy. Exercise releases endorphins, which perks you, plus it helps you sleep better later.
Conversely, research shows that if you’re having a hard time sleeping, you probably will have no desire to exercise (Makes sense, right?) which can lead to a vicious cycle. If you’ve had a sleepless night, try the best you can to do even a small workout or take a walk. I promise you’ll feel better! If the idea of working out 30 minutes a day seems intimidating, start small and aim for a 10 minute walk twice this week. You’ll be amazed at how much further you can go in just a few short weeks!
What Vitamins Do You Need for Energy
Many different vitamins are needed for the body to make energy. The most popular supplement for energy? B vitamins!
While B vitamins DO help give you energy, it's not instantaneous. (That surge in energy you feel is from the caffeine also loaded into the bottle.) B vitamins help convert the food you eat into energy, but your body only needs a certain amount of these vitamins. Manufacturers load these bottles with astronomical amounts of these vitamins, but the fact is that unless you're severely deficient, you probably don't need that extra bump in vitamins and anything extra is just, well, peed out. (Back to the yellow pee section, B vitamins can also give you a really vivid hue, just FYI.)
You may develop a B12 deficiency if you are a vegetarian, have low stomach acid, have any conditions which affects absorption in the intestines, or take certain medications. If you think you may be at risk for deficiency, check out this post to read the symptoms and find out more!
Having low iron levels also can lower energy, since iron is needed by the body to take oxygen through the body. Low iron can come from a lot of the same things as being low in B12 (vegetarian, low stomach acid..) and both cause anemia. I don’t love recommending iron supplements (they cause constipation) but it wouldn’t hurt to get levels checked out with your doctor, try eating foods high in iron, or combining vegetarian sources with vitamin C which increases absorption.
Spice Things Up to Wake Up
Here’s a simple trick if you’re feeling wiped. Research finds that taking a whiff of peppermint or cinnamon reduces fatigue and decreases frustration. Try popping a mint, chewing cinnamon gum, applying to your wrists (a dab will do - too much can cause irritation), or - my fav- adding to a diffuser and energizing your whole home.
Say “Bye” to Stress
This can be easier said than done, I know, but hear me out. When you’re stressed your stress hormones, like cortisol, remain elevated and keep you on high alert. Over time this can be draining. You’ve heard of the flight or fight response. In this modern, beat traffic, race to a thousand after school activities world, our bodies get that boost of hormones that was meant to help us punch a lion all. the. time. Over time this can wear on you, and lead to lower energy levels.
Luckily many of the above tips also help reduce stress! Eating well, regular exercise, and good sleep all reduce stress levels. You can also try deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, hot baths, and more. Find what works for you! I personally really love the headspace app when I need to cool down or try to fall back asleep.
And at the end of the day, you may find you CAN’T do it all, and that’s totally okay too. Marie Kondo your activities as much as you can and chose what brings you joy!
Get Outside to Boost Energy
You’ve probably seen on instagram or pinterest a few dozen times “Drink water. Get sunlight. You're basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions.” and as cliche as it is, it is true!
Need a pick me up? It can be just as easy as walking out your door and getting some fresh air. One study found that being outside helps make people feel more alive and promotes feelings of happiness and health. Sounds pretty good to me! Sunshine also helps your body’s circadian rhythms sync up, which helps with sleep.