While it’d be nice to wake up perfectly refreshed and alert every morning, we all know that doesn’t always happen. And though a caffeine buzz can get you through the day, it can also increase your blood pressure, up your stress levels and even interrupt your sleep -- ensuring you’ll be up all night and groggy the next morning, too. Instead, opt for these (mostly caffeine-free) energy boosting methods to stay alert all day.
Get Moving with a Walk
Of course, a serious sweat sesh at the gym will get your pulse racing, but you can get similar results from a brisk walk outside (and still look office-ready when you’re done). The sun naturally triggers hormonal changes that keep you feeling alert, while the slight increase in your heart rate can help you break through a mid-afternoon slump. Use the time to zone out and recharge, or mentally go over the rest of your to-do list to ease your stress when you’re finished, too.
Satisfy Your Chocolate Craving
Indulge your sweet tooth and feel more energetic? Yes, please! Dark chocolate has just a touch of caffeine -- enough to give you a slight mental boost, but not enough to trigger an all-out caffeine buzz that might disrupt your sleep. Dark chocolate also supplies iron, a mineral that helps carry oxygen to your brain to keep you feeling alert, and it’s modest sugar content offers a small energy boost -- but not enough to cause a blood sugar crash. Just keep your serving size limited to one ounce to avoid eating too many calories.
Look for dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa. Not only will this fit into vegan or dairy-free diets, it’ll offer the most antioxidants and caffeine for the least calories and sugar.
Enjoy Healthy Fats
Fats are essential in a healthy diet, and choosing healthy unsaturated fats -- think olive oil, nuts, fatty fish -- boosts heart health, ups nutrient absorption to prevent energy-zapping deficiencies and serves as a great source of energy, at 9 calories per gram. Up the energy-boosting potential of your diet by adding medium-chain fatty acids, like the ones found in coconut oil. These fats digest fast, so you’ll get an almost-instant source of energy, and they may actually boost your endurance during workouts.
Add a teaspoon of coconut oil to your pre-workout smoothie, or make your own coconut butter -- by blending shredded coconut in a food processor until smooth -- to use on toast.
Invert Your Workout
Yogis have long attributed their daily yoga practice to their increased energy levels (you’d have to feel energetic to get up at dawn for sun salutations!) but you don’t need to be ultra-flexible to get yoga’s energy-boosting benefits. Simply add inversion poses (see our easy list below!) to your daily routine. Inversions help increase blood flow to your brain, providing oxygen that can help you feel energized and alert.
Try these two poses for an instant shot of energy!
Downward dog pose. This staple will also stretch out your calves and hamstrings -- muscles that get notoriously tight if you work long days in an office. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, or longer if you feel comfortable.
Legs Up the Wall Pose. This ultra-gentle pose offers a light stretch for your hamstrings, and, while it’s energizing, it’s also relaxing enough to do before bed. Hold for at least 60 seconds (if you’re trying to relax, stay in this pose for 3 to 5 minutes)
If you have enough time for a full yoga practice, check out this energizing series.
Try Energizing Aromatherapy
Create an energizing, spa-like atmosphere using essential oils for aromatherapy. Invigorating rosemary oil boost your alertness, and it can actually enhance your performance during demanding mental tests, a recent study found. So it’s perfect to set the mood when you’re cramming for an exam or up against a tight deadline at work. Jasmine oil also has stimulant properties, and can actually increase blood flow and help you feel more alert and focused, according to a recent study.
Use an oil infuser to boost your energy at home, or use a rosemary- or jasmine-scented hand lotion to give yourself an energizing mini hand massage at work to feel more alert.
Take Time to De-Stress
Even the best energizing “hacks” in the world won’t help if you’re under constant stress. Not only can stress get in the way of a good night’s sleep, it takes up mental real estate all day, leaving you emotionally exhausted -- even if you haven’t done any work! Make stress-busting activities -- whether that’s time with your loved ones, a killer workout at the gym, writing in a journal, or a few minutes of meditation each night -- a non-negotiable part of your day. Work them into your schedule along with your other commitments so they’re given top priority -- not just an afterthought. You’ll feel relaxed and balanced during the day for easier sleep at night.
Want a long-term solution to fatigue? Check out these all-natural sleep aids that'll help you feel well-rested!
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.