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We’ve all hit that wall at work or during an important activity when we’re overcome with a tired, fatigued feeling but can’t take the time to rest. Legions of people who reach that point try for a burst by chugging down an energy drink rather than relying on natural ways to boost energy.
Such beverages typically contain huge amounts of caffeine. Jolt, for example, comes with 280 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in a 23.5-ounce can, and Hype comes with 160 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce can. Worse, such drinks typically load you up with sugar derived from high-fructose corn syrup and/or granulated sugar; the aforementioned products have 94 grams (Jolt) and 134 g (Hype) of sugar.
Energy Drinks vs. Natural Ways to Boost Energy
The high doses of caffeine can saddle you with headaches and anxiety, not to mention dizzy spells. And too much sugar can create a higher risk of obesity, tooth decay, liver failure, heart disease, and cancer, among other ailments.
So do yourself a favor when you’re in need of a physical (and mental) lift: Consider the best natural ways to boost energy.
Below you’ll find our list of seven ways to boost your energy level naturally—and to help yourself without hurting yourself.
1. Exercise more.
Yes, getting more physical activity is an ideal way to put some pep in your step. The next time you feel like nodding off at your desk in the middle of the afternoon, take a break and go for a brisk 15-minute walk. Make it a routine and you’ll feel a difference within days. You also may find that a brisk walk in the afternoon will inspire you to do the same before work and/or after work, which will help you get in that minimum of 45 minutes of exercise per day that many fitness experts recommend. The more fit you are, the more energetic you’ll feel. (For related reading, see our post Sedentary Lifestyle? Get Moving to Avoid “Sitting Disease” Health Woes.)
2. Increase your water intake.
We know we should drink several glasses of water a day, but how many days do we fall short? Dehydration and thirst can contribute to that “lagging” feeling; keep a water bottle with you and keep your body well-hydrated.
(See also our post Confused About How Much Water to Drink? A Myth-vs.-Reality Check.)
3. Decrease your boob-tube time.
In that hour before you go to sleep, resist the temptation to settle in front of the TV. Instead, grab a good book, do a crossword puzzle, or simply put on some relaxing music. Wind down before sleep and you’ll give yourself a better chance at an uninterrupted slumber.
4. Snack right.
It’s so easy during those moments of “dragging” to reach for a chocolate bar or two. But you can do better than that: Keep your snack calories in check by keeping the calorie count to around 100, but make them count with energy-producing choices. Go with an apple or a banana (add a tablespoon of peanut butter for a protein boost); crackers and humus; a mix of dried fruits and healthy nuts; a cup of yogurt topped with berries and/or grains; or, in a pinch, a low-fat granola bar with at least 5 g of protein and fiber (look for those on the low side of 15 g of sugar).
And, of course, avoid the tempting treats that have few (if any) health benefits. These posts may help: Junk Food Effects: Stay Away from These 6 Foods and Beverages and Are Chips Bad for You?
5. Add magnesium to your diet.
You may be eating a healthy diet, but make sure it includes enough magnesium. An estimated 80 percent of Americans may be magnesium-deficient. Men should get 420 mg and women around 320 mg of magnesium every day if over the age of 30. Make sure you get yours by eating bran cereals, whole grains, fish, bananas, avocados, and yogurt. And you can’t go wrong with dark leafy greens like raw spinach (157 mg of magnesium in 1 cup) and chard (154 mg in 1 cup), black beans (60 mg in 1/4-cup), pumpkin seeds (92 mg in 1/8-cup), and almonds (80 mg in 1 ounce).
That’s right—taking five minutes every morning or every afternoon to sit quietly and and meditate, focusing only on your own breathing, gives you a chance to clear your head. In the process, you’ll wipe away stress and anxiety, you’ll have a better chance of finding a positive frame of mind and fewer bouts with fatigue.
7. Sleep tight.
Speaking of slumber, make sure you get enough. From experience, you know how you feel in the morning when you get only four or five hours of sleep. Rework your schedule in order to ensure a solid seven or eight hours of restful, unbroken slumber.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.