10 Natural Pick-Me-Ups That Provide More Energy Than A Can Of Red Bull
Energy is a hot commodity these days, being packaged in everything from drinks to energy bars and even candy bars. Why so much buzz? Americans may be battling severe energy shortages. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, about half of us feel sleepy and run down about three days a week. While swigging coffee by the pot may help you perk up in the short term, you’ll likely get better, more sustained energy by tapping natural energy boosters.
While these natural ways to boost energy may give many people a lift, family and functional medicine doctor Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., points out that medical conditions including hormone imbalances can deplete your energy. “From thyroid hormones to testosterone to cortisol, hormones play a key role in controlling body processes like controlling body temperature and supplying oxygen to the blood. Even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can cause extreme tiredness, fatigue, irritability, and other undesirable side effects.”
If you feel fatigued for more than a week or two, see a doctor to make sure that there’s not an underlying medical cause for your low energy levels, says Cederquist.
But for most men, adopting one or more of these natural energy boosters may help you power up when your energy reserves are low.
10 Natural Energy Boosters
1. Drink More Water
Water is one of the best natural energy boosters. “Dehydration can often manifest as fatigue in the body,” says Mascha Davis, M.P.H., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist in Los Angeles. “When your body isn’t hydrated, it negatively impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain and muscles.”
Even mild dehydration can zap your energy. In one study (1), researchers found that men who lost an average of just 1.6% of their body weight after exercise felt more fatigued.
Men should drink 15.5 cups of water every day, although this varies by activity level and body size, says Davis. That amount also includes fluid from food.
Although many factors impact urine color and hydration status, if your pee is pale yellow, it may mean that you’re well hydrated; if it’s darker, you may need to chug some H20.
2. Wake Up At Your Personal Best Time
What time would you go to bed and get up if 8 am meetings didn’t exist? This question can help identify your chronotype, i.e. whether you’re naturally hard-wired to be a morning person or more of a night owl. Your natural sleep/wake cycle is known as one of your circadian rhythms, and if you have to rise early when you’re more suited to burning the midnight oil, it can mess with your energy levels.
“Most people aren’t sleeping within their genetically based sleep schedule,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sleep expert. “When you wake up when your body actually wants to continue to sleep, your body continues to produce melatonin—a hormone that tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up—leaving you feeling wiped.”
The fix: Determine what your natural get-up time is (you can take Breus’ quiz here), so you can start waking with natural refreshing energy each morning.
What if you’re a night owl and you’re forced to get up earlier than you normally would? While the National Sleep Foundation suggests you can’t change your chronotype, these strategies may help you shift your sleep cycle forward up to two hours:
- Get up and go to bed two to three hours earlier than normal
- Maintain that sleep schedule even when you don’t have to get up early
- Take in as much outdoor light as possible during the morning and limit your light exposure at night
- Eat breakfast immediately after getting up and don’t eat after 7 p.m.
- Avoid sipping coffee after 3 p.m. or napping after 4 p.m.
3. Soak Up Early Morning Sun
Sunlight is one of Mother Nature’s best natural energy boosters. Catching morning rays may help you sleep better and may help you feel less depressed and stressed, according to a study in the journal Sleep Health (2). Plus, you may get a jolt of energy just being in natural light.
You’ll also get a dose of vitamin D. “Many Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and aside from diet changes or taking supplements, enjoying a moderate amount of sun can improve vitamin D levels. Just 20 minutes a day can make a big difference in mood.,” says Cederquist. “Your body can’t make vitamin D if you’re absorbing the sunlight through glass,” she adds. So be sure to physically step into the sun.
4. Practice Gratitude
Studies (3) suggest that feeling and expressing gratitude may generate feelings of well-being.
Expressing gratitude may also help reduce stress, says Cederquist. “It’s critical to manage stress levels to mitigate hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, and so much more,” she adds. Expressing gratitude can also improve sleep quality (4) and even make you more likely to exercise (5), both natural energy boosters in their own right.
Jotting down a few things a day that you’re thankful for is the go-to gratitude practice for many. Struggling to think of something? Consider all the terrible things that didn’t happen to you today—and be grateful for that, a trick suggested by neuroscientist Sam Harris in his meditation app, Waking Up.
Say you’re stuck in traffic. Recognizing that you have a car, and a job or home to go to, can help you remember the good things in your life. Yes, this suggestion might remind you of your mother telling you to clean your plate because there are starving children somewhere else, but hey, whatever it takes.
5. Eat Fruits and Veggies
Only 10 percent of adults are eating the recommended amount of produce, according to new CDC stats. Dietary guidelines recommend that you eat two to three cups of vegetables and 1.5 to two cups of fruit every day.
Because they’re a great source of vitamins and minerals, fruits and veggies are one of the best natural energy boosters out there. “A bounty of scientific evidence supports the strategy of eating a varied, nutrient-dense balanced diet. Nutrients supplied from wholesome, nourishing foods play active roles in supplying energy, supporting brain health and cognition, and so much more,” says Cederquist.
Some of the best natural energy booster foods:
- Bananas. The fruit contains natural sugar but also fiber to help slow that sugar’s release. A study in the journal PLoS One (6) found that noshing bananas during a long bicycle ride boosted performance and endurance as much as energy drinks.
- Beets. The antioxidants and nutrients in beets helped improve blood flow and energy, in a study in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology (7).
- Avocados. The guac base contains nutrients, fiber, and protein to help sustain energy levels throughout the day, according to a study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (8).
Related: The Best Food For Men
6. Take Movement Breaks
You might notice that the more you sit, the sleepier you get. The opposite is also true: get in motion, and you’ll go from comatose to conscious almost instantly. One reason why: When you exercise, your body ramps up its production of mitochondria inside your muscle cells. Mitochondria are the cellular powerhouses that create fuel from oxygen and glucose. Having more mitochondria increases your body’s energy supply.
Exercise also releases endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good hormones that make you want to move. Plus, movement can boost cardiovascular health, which can make it easier to get through your daily activities with energy to spare.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days a week, but research suggests breaking up your half-hour of activity works too: One study (9) from Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that doing three-minute bouts of light walking every 30 minutes decreased fatigue.
Food is your body’s fuel. “Going long stents of time without adequate nourishment can fluctuate blood sugar and decline energy and focus,” says Cederquist. The solution: Snack every three to four hours. Set a reminder on your watch if necessary.
“Think of snacks like a mini-meal,” says Davis. For lasting energy, your snack should have a mix of carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein. For example, a banana with some roasted chickpeas or fruit with yogurt.
8. Drink A Matcha Latte
Matcha, a powdered green tea, delivers antioxidants and nutrients that may naturally boost energy levels without giving you the caffeine jitters. A one-teaspoon serving of the green gem may contain about 70 to 80 milligrams of caffeine (10). The caffeine in coffee can hit peak levels in your bloodstream in as little as 15 minutes, but matcha provides a natural energy boost at a slower pace.
Matcha has a high concentration of flavonoids and L-theanine, an amino acid found in the plant that elevates levels of certain neurotransmitters that can reduce stress. L-theanine can reach peak concentration levels in around 30 minutes, and deliver a more sustained and relaxed energy than a cup of joe, says Davis. Davis cautions that it’s important to note that not all matcha is the same. “Matcha is a concentrated product, it’s essential to use a high-quality brand that has rigorous purity and quality testing—I personally use Pure Synergy’s Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha.”
Studies suggest (11) that when combined with caffeine, L-theanine may reduce tiredness while increasing alertness.
9. Take A Coffee Nap
Make your afternoon power nap more effective by pre-gaming with a cup of coffee. A study in Clinical Neurophysiology (12) found that when ten healthy young adults consumed 200 mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) before a 20-minute nap, they felt more alert upon waking.
Not a coffee drinker? Exposure to bright light and washing the face after the nap also worked to increase alertness.
10. Run Your Wrists Under Cold Water
If you’ve ever hopped in the shower only to find all the cold water has run out, you’ll know that a burst of icy water can wake you up. Science backs up the power of this natural energy booster: a 2004 study (13) found that people who regularly immersed themselves in cold water had more energy and felt more alert than those who didn’t. This may happen because stressors cause your body to release noradrenaline, an energizing hormone.