Everybody wants more energy — and we want it all day! In the insanely busy lives most of us live, balancing the demands of work and home, we go at full speed from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. We need that energy sustained for our workouts, jobs, kids, and spouse — not just for the body, but also the mind. Whether you’re a busy exec or stay-at-home mom, our physical and psychological demands don’t discriminate.
64% of us start the day with a cup coffee, and the average American drinks about 3-4 cups per day. One cup of coffee is the morning is fine, but drinking too much coffee can have adverse effects, and leave us feeling more exhausted. When we feel tired, our brains do too. Not only is cognitive function impaired, but our emotional stability as well. We’ve all been known to “lose it” when we’re wiped out. The goal is to avoid the highs and the lows.
Since fatigue is not an option, we asked our resident nutrition and wellness guru, Sarah Wragge, for some tips and tricks to have more energy now. The good news is you don’t have to give up that morning brew!
Coffee is the number one energy drink and is actually loaded with health benefits. Besides being a mood and performance enhancer, studies have shown coffee can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and certain cancers. The problem is most people drink too much.
Sarah says: One cup in the morning is fine, but don’t add sugar, and in general try to avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine interferes with the release of melatonin, naturally produced by our bodies after dark — and thus sleep — so you’re more tired the next day. A great way to temper the caffeine spike (think time-released) is to add healthy fats like MCT or coconut oil. Adding fat slows the release of caffeine and prevents those big spikes that create the vicious coffee cycle.
2. NO SUGAR IN THE AM!
When you start your day with sugar, it brings you up only to drop you down – and fast!
Sarah says: Ideally you want your first meal of the day to be a combo of a healthy protein and healthy fat, which will provide sustained energy throughout the morning and keep you feeling full. If you need a carb in the morning, make it a gluten-free, complex carbohydrate like oatmeal or a slice of Ezekiel toast.
Matcha is great alternative to coffee if you do need a caffeine boost later in the day. Made from ground green tea leaves, it has 10 times the nutritional equivalent of a cup of steeped green tea.
Sarah says: Matcha actually has about the same amount of caffeine as in a cup of coffee, but it also contains the amino acid L-Theanine, which slows the release of caffeine and has a calming effect. You get the caffeine buzz without the jitters — plus the benefits of 10 times the powerful antioxidants for which green tea is known.
4. MOVE YOUR BODY
A quick and easy way to get a burst of energy is to move!
Sarah says: Exercise gets the blood flowing, even if it’s just doing 10 burpees, jumping jacks, or push-ups. Feeling that afternoon lull? Take it outside! Adding a dose of fresh air helps oxygenate the body and brain!
We’re not talking a Snickers bar, but 85-90% raw dark chocolate which actually has all sorts of health benefits. Another powerful source of antioxidants, dark chocolate can help lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Dark chocolate also encourages blood flow to the brain, so you feel more alert and focused.
Sarah says: For that afternoon lull, I love dark chocolate as an alternative to coffee. It contains theobromine — a neurotransmitter activator that’s similar in structure to caffeine. Its stimulant effects are milder, BUT they are longer lasting. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine. Dark chocolate also contains serotonin — the mood-elevating, feel-good hormone. No wonder we all love it so much! My faves are Taza and Alter Eco which are low in sugar.
For a quick recharge, meditation is an incredible way to reboot the system. When you’re in a meditative state, different brainwaves move from a higher to lower frequency, changing how you feel. An easy and convenient way to get started with mediation is with one of meditation apps you can download on your phone. Headspace, Breethe, Calm, and Inscape are a few of the most popular, offering the convenience of an energy boosting timeout anytime and anyplace.
Says Sarah: There are five types of brain waves, each uniquely affected by different types of meditation. Very summarily: Alpha waves calm the nervous system; Beta waves create awareness and improve concentration; Gamma waves decrease anxiety and increase positive emotions; Delta waves encourage compassion and empathy for others; and Theta waves stimulate creativity, clarity, intuition, and focus.
Theta is also the state your brain is in right before you fall asleep — that fleeting twilight state when we dream. While Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep, they are also dominant in deep meditation like TM – or Transcendental Meditation — so it works like a refreshing catnap. I’ve even meditated before a workout and crushed it!
7. GREEN JUICE
Instead of reaching for a coffee, try a green juice instead. Green juice is packed with vitamins and minerals, and filled with chlorophyll — the green pigment in plants that absorbs sunlight and converts it to energy.
Sarah says: Chlorophyll is liquid sunshine! And here’s an interesting fact: the molecular structure of chlorophyll is similar to hemoglobin, the red blood cells that transport oxygen. Green juice helps oxygenate the blood, creating increased brain function and physical energy.
8. JUST BREATHE
Pranayama breathing is at the heart of any yoga practice. This deep rhythmic breathing calms the nervous system, provides stress relief, and offers mental clarity. Pranayama in combination with Apnea breath holds can also be used to enhance sports performance.
Sarah says: Try this pre-workout breathing routine anytime you want an extra boost of energizing oxygen: inhale – hold – exhale – hold, in a 1-1-1-1 sequence. For example: inhale for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, hold on exhale for 5 seconds. Do that for 10 minutes at an interval that feels comfortable for you.
For sustained energy all day long, try adding Maca to your coffee or smoothie — one of this editor’s favorite of The 10 buzziest Superfoods! I now swear by it, but avoid after 12pm or you’ll be buzzing all night!
Sarah says: Maca is an incredible root! This powerful Peruvian superfood is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. An energizing mood elevator, it is famously libido boosting, hormone balancing, and can increase fertility too. For all-day energy, incorporate Maca into your daily regimen by adding it to your morning smoothie. Start with 1 tsp. and work up to 2 tbs. max. You’ll never need coffee again!
B-Complex is the family of B vitamins that include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folate (vitamin B9), and cobalamin (vitamin B12). Each of the B vitamins has a slightly different function, but as a group they are primarily tasked with converting the foods you eat into energy.
Sarah says: While we recommend getting your B’s from foods like salmon, dark leafy greens, legumes, and meat — with our crazy schedules, a lot of us need that extra nutritional support. B-Complex vitamins helps create brain energy and mood balance, but you need to be sure you’re taking the right one. I like Premier Research Laboratory Max B-NDTM which contains probiotic-fermented B vitamins. This complete B-Complex formula offers advanced support for the liver, the immune system, adrenal glands, mood balance, and energy levels.
Mushrooms boast an impressive list of overall health benefits and have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. These immune boosting, cancer fighting, blood-pressure lowering fungi are a nutrient dense superfood. Certain mushrooms in particular are noted for their energy and brain boosting effects, which can be found coffee blends from Four Stigmatic and Laird Superfood Performance Mushrooms.
Sarah says: Mushrooms like Lions Mane, Cordyceps, and Maitake are powerful energy and brain boosters. For more energy, try Cordyceps, and for more focus, Lion’s Mane. Maitake is a general adaptogen — which adjusts to your body’s needs — for more overall vitality and energy.
12. ENERGY DRINKS
There are a ton of popular energy drinks on the market like Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, and Monster. Most are loaded sugar and caffeine, along with a bunch of other chemicals you don’t want to put in your body. For a healthy alternative with the convenience of an energy drink…
Sarah says: As an all-natural alternative, I like RUNA, a tea-based energy drink made from Guayusa, an Amazonian jungle super leaf. Like matcha, it’s caffeinated but also has L-Theanine for that jitter-free buzz, sustained energy, and mental focus.
Photograph Pete Thompson/Gallery Stock
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