24 Ways to Get More Energy Without Caffeine

Get the energy boost you need without relying on coffee.

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Coffee might boost your energy, but relying on caffeine can be inconvenient or even unhealthy. Instead of drinking coffee, try these 24 other methods to feel more energized.

Avoid Using Your Smartphone on Breaks

Though using your phone can be fun, a smartphone-centered break will not reenergize you. "There is no evidence that using games and puzzles increases energy levels," said Tiffany Herlands, PsyD, assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Instead, increased time with electronics and the associated distractions can make it harder for you to stay focused. "We're becoming less able to use selective attention, which is the ability to screen out distracting information while directing our attention deeply on a single task," Dr. Herlands told Health.

The bottom line—stay offline if you want to keep your energy and focus.

Avoid Using Electronics Before Bed

"Using electronics before sleep has been shown to be disruptive to sleep and can result in feeling tired and less cognitively sharp," Dr. Herlands added.

According to a 2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, people who used light-emitting e-readers before bed had a harder time falling asleep, lower levels of sleep-promoting hormones, and shorter and delayed REM sleep—all of which reduced their alertness levels in the morning.

Wake Up to Sunshine

If waking up feels difficult, try leaving your blinds or curtains open. "The main benefit from morning light is to set your biological clock," said Carl Bazil, MD, a professor of neurology and director of the sleep division of the department of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "Particularly if you travel frequently or suffer from 'social jet lag' (that is, sleeping significantly longer on weekends and then trying to get back in sync for the week), your body becomes set to awaken later and has trouble getting to sleep at night."

Try Artificial Sunrises

Sensitive sleepers who favor blackout curtains in their bedroom can still benefit from the morning light, thanks to gradual alarms that mimic the rising sun. The Philips Wake-Up Light, for example, brightens over the course of 30 minutes and fills your room with golden light and a natural sound of your choice. "The wake-up alarms (set your biological clock as the sun does)," said Dr. Bazil, "but have the advantage of not lighting up the room at 5 a.m. at certain times of the year!"

Try Ginkgo and Saffron

In a 2021 Journal of Clinical and Translational Research review, scientists found that saffron and ginkgo could help your brain function. Saffron is an antioxidant and can stop plaque or protein from building up in your brain. Meanwhile, ginkgo may be able to help your memory, concentration, and fatigue.

Though the results were not conclusive on whether ginkgo and saffron provide benefits, they had minimal side effects. Ask your healthcare provider whether you should add them to your diet or aromatherapy routine.

Get Enough Sun

Getting enough vitamin D could also help your fatigue. A 2019 European Journal of Applied Physiology study found that vitamin D could reduce muscle fatigue by keeping your muscle cells healthy.

Additionally, having enough vitamin D could also help prevent the development of cognitive conditions, according to the Journal of Clinical and Translational Research. The study did not conclude whether vitamin D improves cognitive function, but the other health effects of vitamin D should be enough reason to make sure you have enough.

Make sure to get enough sun so you can produce vitamin D. Alternatively, vitamin D supplements could be helpful.

Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast

A healthy breakfast can affect brain function in adults, according to a 2016 Advances in Nutrition article. The researchers found that breakfasts could improve memory. Meanwhile, high-protein, high-fat meals could help with attention. That may be because of blood sugar—eating protein rather than carbohydrates could help you better control your blood sugar levels and avoid dips in energy.

Cool Down

If you find yourself nodding off in the afternoon, try scooting a bit closer to the A/C or lowering the thermostat a few degrees. "It's common to feel drowsy when it's warm, especially if you are still," Dr. Bazil said. "But don't make it so cold that you're uncomfortable."

Try Singing

According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Music Therapy, subjects who actively made music felt more energetic. The effect occurred for singers, keyboard players, and people who tried "rhythm tapping."

In contrast, just listening to music or a story had the chance of decreasing energy. The next time you listen to music, try participating to feel more awake.

Do Breathing Exercises

Yoga breathing techniques, called pranayama, can affect your mind and how your body feels. According to a 2020 International Journal of Yoga study, using fast and forceful exhales improved reaction time. Meanwhile, slow and mindful breathing improved insight and anxiety. This adds to a 2014 Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research study that found that breathing techniques improved attention, visuomotor speed, and memory. Fast breathing especially improved reaction time.

One fast breathing technique is called "kapalabhati", or the breath of fire. In this technique, you take short, rapid breaths through your nose and forcefully contract your diaphragm and belly. Trying this technique or another pranayama could help you feel more alert.

Take a Quick Nap

Naps can also help you feel more energized. A 2021 article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that naps of any length helped improve cognitive performance and how alert people felt.

"Most (studies) suggest that 20 to 40 minutes is the optimal time," Dr. Bazil said. "That's long enough to actually get some restorative sleep (not just the light sleep you get from a brief nodding off) but not so long that you develop what is called sleep inertia, leading to drowsiness and difficulty getting back your alertness."

Try Laughing

Gelotologists—people who research laughter—believe laughing can provide multiple health benefits. It decreases stress hormones like cortisol, which can otherwise cause fatigue, insomnia, and health problems in the future.

If you're stressed, you are more likely to start work fatigued and become more tired during the day, according to a 2015 Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being article. Try to relieve that stress by laughing.

Drink Water

Being dehydrated can make you feel tired, though you may not even realize that you are dehydrated in the first place. Other symptoms of dehydration include irritability, lightheadedness, or confusion. Make sure you drink enough water and watch out for signs of dehydration.

Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains provide steady energy throughout the day since they're absorbed more gradually than white flour and are packed with protein and fiber. Try eating a whole grain diet to avoid blood sugar spikes and the crashes in energy afterward.

Chew Gum

Chewing gum can help with attention and work performance, especially during long tasks, according to a 2015 BioMed Research International article. The act of chewing can increase alertness and reduce chronic stress. The flavor of gum does not seem to affect performance, so you can choose whatever flavor you prefer.

Get a Massage

Even a short massage could help your brain function. According to a 1996 International Journal of Neuroscience article, "even a 15-minute seated massage at work can change your brain wave pattern to increase alertness, improve focus, and boost performance on quantitative tasks," said Marilyn Kier, a member of the American Massage Therapy Association and founder of Wellness At Work in Illinois.

This is supported by findings from a 2018 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice article. Researchers found that both head massages and binaural beat sound therapy could improve attention and long-term memory.

In short—if you need assistance in paying attention, a massage can help.

Press Your 'Kiss Point'

"This is the simplest technique I know to quickly boost alertness and energy, no matter where you are," Kier said. "The 'kiss point' (also known in acupressure as GV-26) is located between your upper lip and nose, about a third of the way down from the bottom center of your nose. Using a fingertip, apply pressure for one minute."

Go for a Walk

Scientists have long known about exercise's effects on your mind. For example, a 2021 Stress and Health article found that increased exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic led to benefits in vigor and a lessening of anger, depression, tension, and fatigue. "It may seem paradoxical, but increasing physical activity, such as going for a brisk walk, can increase energy and mood," Herlands said.

Try Lavender Aromatherapy

A 2021 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found that people who smelled lavender essential oils could experience better attention and reaction times. That effect could be due to the research participant's expectations. However, lavender could also generally increase arousal⁠—the feeling of readiness to take action.

Try a Short Meditation

If you're feeling overwhelmed, taking some time to center yourself could be helpful. A 2016 research article published in Biological Psychiatry suggested that mindfulness can reduce inflammation markers. "Mindfulness exercises can reduce stress, and stress can sap us of our energy and focus," Herlands said. "Reducing stress through mindfulness can feel restorative for that reason."

Eat Several Small Meals

Eating one large meal—even if it contains healthy choices like whole grains—can leave you feeling lethargic. It takes more energy to digest large meals, and eating many carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar spikes.

A 2021 Journal of Sleep Research study found that more frequent small meals were associated with less fatigue in night shift nurses. This adds to a 2009 Appetite article that found that having several meals improved brain speed and reasoning.

Instead of eating a large lunch, try eating several smaller meals throughout your day.

Get Enough B12

A vitamin B12 deficiency causes fatigue by compromising one's ability to convert food into fuel. Most adults need 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, have difficulty absorbing nutrients, or are over 50 may not get enough B12 naturally.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you suspect you may be low on B12. In the meantime, you can try eating more B12-rich foods like yogurt, milk, oysters, sardines, and beef.

Soak in Cold Water

Putting cold water on your skin can instantly make you feel instantly more alert. The experience stimulates deep breathing and causes an adrenaline rush, increasing circulation and the oxygen in your body.

However, avoid submerging yourself suddenly in cold water if you have a heart condition. The stress can cause "cold shock" and increase your chances of heart problems.

Take a Stretch Break

"If you've lost your focus staring at the computer," Kier said, it might be time to take a small break. A 2016 International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that having short periods of moderate-intensity physical exercise throughout the day improved mood and decreased fatigue.

"Here's a quick energy break: Take three deep breaths, shake out your hands, and then use the fingers on both hands to gently tap the top of your head for one minute," Kier recommended.

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