7 Ways to Boost Your Energy (That Aren't Coffee)
by Tehrene Firman
When tiredness is the problem, caffeine tends to be the solution. It’s why millions of people all around the world start their mornings with coffee... and continue to drink it all day long. But while a cup of joe may give you a quick boost of energy in the moment, it’s not necessarily the best way to power your day.
If you want an energy boost that’s long-lasting—in other words, no crashing 10 minutes after drinking your afternoon vanilla latte—here is a handful of methods you can use to get the job done. Remember, nothing replaces consistent, quality sleep. From tweaking your diet to simply getting outdoors, try these simple tips and see if they work for you.
7 Ways to Boost Your Energy - No Coffee Needed
1. Limit Your Sugar Intake
You might think of sugary foods and drinks as ways to spike your energy when you’re tired. Unfortunately, while things like coffee and energy drinks can give you a jolt of energy at first, it usually doesn’t take long for that energy to be totally zapped.
“Sugar metabolizes fast in the body, giving us a rapid release of energy. But it quickly leaves us feeling sluggish soon after,” says Amanda Steinberg, R.D.N., a registered dietitian in California. “Therefore, focus on the quality of the food you're eating.”
Instead of eating sugary snacks and drinks, Steinberg recommends filling your body with wholesome foods that will help sustain your energy, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and nuts. “These help support steady energy throughout the day, because they digest more slowly,” she says.
2. Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Have you ever experienced the fatigue that comes after eating a big meal? Think Thanksgiving, for example. After you clean your plate, you're basically slouched down in your chair ready for a nap. That's why—when it comes to boosting your energy—Harvard Medical School recommends sticking to small, frequent meals instead.
When you eat small meals and snacks every few hours, as opposed to three big meals, you provide your brain with a steady supply of the nutrients. That means, instead of going hours without eating, sticking to those small meals and eating a snack between them—like a banana or handful of almonds—can help.
3. Make Sure Your Meals Are Balanced
How balanced are your meals, really? If you often find yourself tired and fatigued throughout the day, it might be because you’re not maximizing the nutrition on your plate.
“Carbohydrates are the number one energy source for the brain and body. However, eating carbohydrates alone will cause them to metabolize fast, giving you a quick release of energy followed by a crash,” Steinberg says.
To prevent that energy crash, Steinberg says it’s crucial to slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates by pairing them with healthy fats and proteins. “This can help give you a consistent energy flow throughout the day,” she says. You’ll be more satiated, too.
4. Don't Skip Meals
Some days you might not have time for breakfast or lunch. But the implications of skipping one of these meals could be more impactful than you think. While you might not notice a difference in your energy levels right after skipping a meal, it won’t take long before you start feeling the effects of not fueling your body properly, says Steinberg.
“Skipping meals and under-eating puts your body into starvation mode, as it slows down the metabolism to conserve energy,” she says. “Spending too much time in this state may leave you feeling tired.”
To support your energy, Steinberg recommends eating consistent and balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Even if you’re in a rush, eating something quick, like a protein smoothie or piece of fruit.
5. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Drink in moderation. It is well studied that alcohol consumption before bed can interfere with quality sleep.
6. Trust Your Body's Hunger Cues
How often do you take the time to listen to what your body is telling you? It’s not uncommon to push things off, but your energy levels are depending on you to pay closer attention—especially when it comes to hunger cues.
“There’s so much information about when to eat, which can leave us confused about meal timing,” Steinberg says. “But the best indicator of when to eat is our body's hunger cues.”
When your stomach starts rumbling, Steinberg says it’s a message that your body needs more fuel from food to stay energized. Instead of ignoring that cue, heed the call.
7. Go For a Walk
If you had to decide between a walk and a big cup of coffee in order to get your energy levels up, you’d probably choose the latter (or, more specifically, a latte). Here’s the deal, though: While the coffee might give you a nice jolt at first, spending that time outdoors could benefit you more greatly in the end, says Steinberg.
“Taking a walk can be much more effective than your afternoon coffee,” she says, explaining that “walking increases oxygen supply to the muscles, and can help activate endorphins.”
Your marching orders: “When you’re feeling tired, go for a quick stroll to boost your energy,” Steinberg says.