26 Ways to Get More Energy Without Caffeine

Get the energy boost you need without relying on coffee.

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Though caffeine can be effective at boosting your energy, relying on caffeine can be inconvenient or even unhealthy. Instead of drinking coffee, try these 27 other methods to feel more energized.

01 of 26

Avoid Using Your Smartphone on Breaks

Though using your phone can be enjoyable, that break will not actually re-energize 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 actually make it harder for you to stay focused. According to Herlands, "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."

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

02 of 26

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," Herlands added.

According to a 2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, research subjects 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.

03 of 26

Wake Up to Sunshine

If prying yourself from your bed feels impossible, try leaving your blinds or curtains open. Scientists have known for decades that exposure to the natural sunrise—that is, light that gradually increases in intensity—is an effective treatment for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Its mood- and energy-boosting benefits extend to those of us who cling to the covers, too.

"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, 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."

04 of 26

Try Artificial Sunrises

Sensitive sleepers who favor blackout curtains in their bedrooms can still benefit from morning light, thanks to gradual alarms that mimic the rising sun. The Philips Wake-up Light ($170; amazon.com), 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 like 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!"

05 of 26

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 could help by being an antioxidant and stopping plaque or protein build-up in your brain. Meanwhile, ginkgo may be able to help your memory, concentration, and fatigue.

Though the researchers were unsure whether ginkgo and saffron provide benefits, these plant products had minimal side effects. Ask your doctor whether you should add them to your diet or aromatherapy routine.

06 of 26

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.

07 of 26

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."

08 of 26

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.

09 of 26

Breathing Exercises

In kundalini yoga, Breath of Fire—a technique in which you take short, rapid breaths through your nose and forcefully contract your diaphragm and belly—is thought to increase energy and lower stress by detoxifying and flooding your system with oxygen. Will it magnify your invisible life force? Possibly. Will it get your heart rate up? Definitely.

10 of 26

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 lengths 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."

11 of 26

Try Laughing

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

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

12 of 26

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.

13 of 26

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.

14 of 26

Chewing Gum

Chewing gun 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.

15 of 26

Get a Massage

No time for a full-fledged spa retreat? No problem: "Research has shown that 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," says Marilyn Kier, a member of the American Massage Therapy Association and founder of Wellness At Work in Northfield, Illinois.

16 of 26

Press Your "Kiss Point"

"This is the simplest technique I know to quickly boost alertness and energy, no matter where you are," says Kier. "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."

17 of 26

Go for a Walk

"It may seem paradoxical, but increasing physical activity, such as going for a brisk walk, can increase energy and mood," says Herlands. The American Council on Exercise heartily agrees, as one might expect, and points to a University of Georgia study in which sedentary subjects who engaged in regular, low intensity exercise reported 20% increases in their energy levels and a 65% reduction in their fatigue.

18 of 26

Call Friends or Family

Researchers at Johnson & Johnson investigated "microbursts," or small bursts of activity that can impact our energy levels, and found that purely physical acts are just the tip of the iceberg. In their research on subjects' energy levels at their workplaces throughout the day, they found that the act of having a conversation with a loved one was associated with the high end of the energy scale. "Microbursts need not be solely physical," they observed. "Microbursts of mental, spiritual, or emotional activities can also have a strong impact on energy levels." C'mon, you know mom would love to hear from you.

19 of 26

Smell Cinnamon or Mint

A small study published in the North American Journal of Psychology found that people who inhaled aerated cinnamon and peppermint oil were more alert and better able to perform in interactive driving simulations. According to mood profiles and a task-load rating system developed for NASA, they finished their tasks more quickly and exhibited less frustration and fatigue. This suggests that commuters who find themselves drooping during long drives might benefit from all-natural air fresheners.

20 of 26

Try a Short Meditation

If you're feeling overwhelmed, the key to speeding up could actually be slowing down first. New research published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that doing so might actually reduce inflammation markers. "Mindfulness exercises can reduce stress, and stress can sap us of our energy and focus," notes Herlands. "Reducing stress through mindfulness can feel restorative for that reason."

21 of 26

Eat Several Small Meals

You don't need to eat hummingbird-sized meals dozens of times a day to feel fueled, but overdoing it at a single setting—even on healthy choices like whole grains—can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels and leave you feeling lethargic. Comparatively small meals and regular snacks will keep you on a more even keel (and some research has suggested that spreading food intake out over four occasions as opposed to two can improve your mood, too).

22 of 26

Get Enough B12

A vitamin B12 deficiency causes fatigue by compromising one's ability to convert food into fuel (and takes a serious toll on the nervous system). Most adults need 2.4 mcg of B12 per day, according to the National Institutes of Health; a vegetarian or vegan diet, digestive issues that hinder your body's ability to absorb nutrients, and being older than 50 are all risk factors. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may be low on B12, and in the meantime, fill up on B12-rich foods.

23 of 26

Massage Your Ears

Integrative health specialists argue that auriculotherapy—that is, reflexology techniques involving our ears—can boost our energy levels and benefit our entire bodies. Research published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine showed that dementia patients in Spain who underwent regular ear massage and acupuncture showed improvement in behavior alteration, sleep patterns, and participation in rehabilitation. Want to see if it perks you up? Try stimulating your earlobes by using your thumbs and index fingers to massage them in small circles.

24 of 26

Use Cold Water

There's a reason the folks who undertake "polar plunges" in winter months emerge from the frigid water with silly grins on their faces: giving your body a quick, cold shock stimulates deep breathing (which increases the oxygen in our bodies) and jump-starts circulation. A cold shower will do the trick just as well—and if you're bold enough to actually sit in a cold bath (think 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes or so after serious exercise, your muscles could recover more quickly.

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Get Enough Sun

That short, brisk walk we mentioned earlier is extra-effective if you can get your daily dose of vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," while doing it. Exposing your skin to the sun's UVB rays for a brief period of time will enable it to produce the D you need to keep a spring in your step. (If you're feeling shy, know that researchers have found oral doses of vitamin D effective for improving symptoms of fatigue as well.)

26 of 26

Take a Stretch Break

"If you've lost your focus staring at the computer," Kier says, it might be time to get loose at your desk. "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." Think of the blush you'll feel creeping up your face when your cubemates turn to stare at you as a little circulatory bonus.

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