Whether you’re trying to build muscle, burn fat, or just make it through the workday without pouring your second sixth cup of joe, energy is a big deal.
We all have energy, but it can feel like the number of options you have to increase energy (drink more coffee, energy drinks like 5-hour energy, drink more coffee) is supremely outnumbered by the number of things that drain your energy. Not to mention, when you start loading up your caffeine intake, the downsides and side effects like jitters, headaches, and dependency, start to outweigh the benefits. In fact, in a paradoxical way, less caffeine makes the caffeine you drink more impactful.
That means finding healthy alternatives to boost energy doesn’t have to become a test of how many mg of caffeine you can tolerate before your body breaks down. In fact, if you’re focused on your wellness, rethinking the healthy alternatives to boost your energy can be life changing.
And, the best part is that the healthy alternatives that give you the most energy have nothing to do with caffeine alternatives like ginseng, B vitamins, or antioxidants.
When you think of energy, it’s best to understand why you get drained. From work and a lack of sleep, to stress, decision making, and even your workouts, there’s no shortage of lifestyle variables that drain your battery.
So, to help you power up when you need it most — or, ideally, before you hit empty — you need to find other lifestyle factors to naturally recharge. We found the best experts who know the tips that have endless health benefits, pulled studies, and found 13 ways to get more energy so you can power through your workouts, feel more productive, and make the most of each day. No caffeine required.
Let in Light
Here’s a new reason work toward an office with a view: Research from Technische Universiteit Eindhoven in the Netherlands shows that exposure to bright light during the day immediately boosts people’s energy levels.
Light is critical to regulating your circadian rhythms and letting your body know that, yes, it’s time to be awake. Lamps work, too, FYI.
Check Your Vitamin D
Everyone loves talking about the importance of antioxidants for energy, but there’s another Vitamin that is your natural power plant. There’s been a lot said about Vitamin D (a lot of it, unfortunately, not so accurate), but low levels of Vitamin D can be a reason why you’re feeling sluggish.
More vitamin D means more energy, says Toronto-based dietitian Abby Langer, R.D. It’s a domino effect that works in shocking ways. Without a healthy supply of the essential nutrient — up to 41.6 percent of Americans are deficient, according to Nutrition Research — your levels of drowse-inducing melatonin rise, and your mitochondria (your body’s microscopic power plants) don’t produce enough energy to keep you humming along at top speed. The end result? You feel tired.
The solution: ideally, you get your Vitamin D the natural way by finding your way outside into the sunshine for, at least, 15 minutes per day. Those 15 minutes are enough to give you an energy boost. If not, you can supplement with Vitamin D3, approximately 2,000 – 3,000 IU per day.
When you’re feeling groggy, working out is probably the last thing on your mind. But, you don’t need to set a PR to receive the boost you’re looking seaking. Almost any type of movement, whether it’s a brisk stroll around the block or an intense sweat session can perk you up big time, says chiropractor and certified sports and conditioning specialist Robert Silverman, D.C., C.S.C.S.
As the saying goes, movement is medicine. You’ll get the well-known mood boost, and exercise (moreso with high-intensity exercise) causes your muscles to increase their number of mitochondria, the power plant of energy we just discussed. This supplies your body with more natural energy day in and day out.
Simply looking at the color can make your muscles move faster and work harder, suggests research out of the University of Rochester . The study authors explain that since we subconsciously perceive danger at the sight of the ruby hue, the color automatically trips our energy-revving sympathetic nervous system.
Crank Up Your Spotify Playlist
Fast-paced music, with a tempo between 170 and 180 beats per minute, is generally best at boosting your energy levels. Singing or tapping along can increase your energy even more, per Journal of Music Therapy research.
What might the playlist look like? Here’s the most eclectic (random) mix that will get the job done by hitting the ideal beats per minute when you need a spark.
- Hey Ya (Outkast)
- Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
- The Pretender (Foo Fighters)
- American Woman (Lenny Kravitz)
- Wake Me Up (Avicii)
- Lose Yourself (Eminem)
- Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen)
- Hold My Hand (Hootie and the Blowfish)
Sleep at the Same Time Every. Single. Night.
On the most fundamental level, constant bedtimes and wake times will guarantee that you get an optimal amount of sleep and stay energized throughout the day.
Think about it: bedtimes are considered essential for children, but for some reason we don’t apply that logic to adults. Sleep routines remove error — sleeping too much or too little — and help synchronize your body’s sleep clocks.
There’s an entire field of study based on chrononutrition, or the way that circadian rhythms impact your metabolism and other aspects of your health. The tl/dr version: if you’re sleeping and waking at different times, it can negatively impact your metabolism, hormones, appetite, digestion, immune system, and energy.
Not to mention, if you’re looking for the best natural anti-inflammatory solution, sleep is the answer.
In one Nutritional Neuroscience study, people who chewed gum for just 15 minutes felt more alert and were better able to concentrate. Researchers say chewing increases blood flow to your head.
Be One With Nature
Head to the park, open a window, or just invest in some potted plants. A series of studies in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outside — or simply looking at nature pics — can immediately increase your feelings of energy and vitality.
The old trick of splashing cold water on your face really does give you a jolt. By increasing your adrenaline levels, it activates your flight-or-fight response to increase energy, explains Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., an internist and fatigue expert. And, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, sticking your foot in cold water also works.
Feeling tired? You might just be thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water. “If you’re even a little bit dehydrated, you’ll likely see that your energy will dip,” Langer says. And most people don’t start to feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated.
The power of water impacts your energy in many ways. Research shows that it not only helps fight off lethargy, but can influence metabolism, hunger, and how well your organs function.
Langer recommends drinking six to eight glasses of water each day, and even more if you’re sweating it out at the gym.
Watch That Cat Video
In a classic Motivation and Emotion study, men and women who watched a funny video walked away with far more energy than those who watch documentary (yawn). And University of Oxford research shows that laughter’s ability to hike up your endorphin levels may be to thank.”
How long have you been sitting at your desk? Try taking a stretch break. Just 20 seconds of stretching at the computer every 20 minutes can help get the blood flowing and energy rising. In general, exercise — even at low-intensity — influences neurotransmitters like serotonin, which can give you a temporary mood boost.
Plus, by helping to reset your posture and loosen any tight muscles, it can help prevent mojo-sapping headaches.
You know that when you’re stressed pausing to take a few deep breaths can help you calm down. But, it can also help to increase your energy levels.
After all, stress is one of the biggest contributors to fatigue. When we get stressed out, our bodies go into overdrive and release cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Once your brain has decided the stress has passed, you enter the exhaustion phase where your body and mind need to rest and recover.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.