7 Ways to Boost Energy Naturally
Say goodbye to energy crashes
Are you tired, overwhelmed, overworked, and under-energized? Do you wish you could cut back on the coffee and sweets and find other ways to stay alert? Read on for seven ways to boost your energy naturally, without afternoon sugar and caffeine crashes.
The Afternoon Lull
In our experience, nobody is an afternoon person. Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, everybody seems to hit a lull during the mid-afternoon hours. It seems that all the vim and vigor that we somehow channel all morning is about as powerful at 3 pm as decaf.
That afternoon crash can seriously disrupt our day and lead to a significant drop in productivity Conventional and semi-scientific wisdom suggests that our productivity declines precipitously after 3 pm. But let’s set aside, for the moment, the tasks left undone because we just don’t have gas in the tank: What about the rest of your day? The part of the day that’s for, you know, you? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little something left over to make the most of that time? What would life be like if you had the energy after dragging yourself from the office, to actually cook yourself dinner? Or how about spending some non-exhausted hours with people we care about?
The afternoon slump feels about as inevitable as death and taxes. But there is hope.
How to avoid that daily crash
There are some steps we can take to alleviate midday and post-midday fatigue. The key is understanding why we crash. So, before we hand out the tips, here’s a little science …
Why is it that we find ourselves so often out of energy, and so often dealing with it by consuming empty calories that leave us sluggish and sleepy for 30% of our day? Well, energy comes from one place, and one place only: Food. The ‘calories’ in food are energy (a calorie is a unit of energy). Depending on what we eat and when, the process of converting food into energy can go wonky in all kinds of ways.
The following factors greatly affect the way our bodies process food and convert it into energy:
- What you eat
- When you eat
- Environmental factors
- Sleeping habits
- and more …
Although we are never going to live in a perfect world where we always get eight hours of sleep, we only eat healthful and nourishing foods, and nothing at all stresses us out … there are things one can do. Here are 7 tips to help you boost energy naturally.
7 Ways to boost energy naturally
1. Improve energy by getting better sleep
We’ve already given you the no good truth about sleep and how you are not getting enough of it. You remember when we lectured about how important it is for keeping your immune system healthy :)
Many of the same points apply to energy: You (i.e. an adult over the age of 18) need 7+ hours of quality sleep a night. If you don’t get it, you’ll be … tired. However, there is some nuance to understanding that afternoon slump, how we cope with it, and how that relates to our sleep.
For most of us, a slump between 1 and 3 pm is natural, due to our body’s natural internal clock (aka our circadian rhythms); that’s why many cultures take a siesta in the afternoon. So, if you maintain a normal and healthy sleep schedule, by mid afternoon, you are already a little behind the eight ball. And here, some of our favorite coffee strate (aka, coping strategies) are part of the problem. That double espresso you are pounding to get over your afternoon lethargy will haunt you. In the wee hours of the morning, you will lie awake counting sheep, or worse, spend time scrolling through those apps on your device which will lead to even poorer quality sleep. And poorer quality sleep leads to yet another worse afternoon slump.
And the cycle continues … unless you find a better and more sustainable pick-me-up than your favorite sugary quad latte to boost your energy throughout the day.
2. Eat more nourishing snacks
In addition to relying on caffeine when we are feeling fatigued, we also tend to reach for something sweet. When we’re tired, we long for the comfort of that quick and easy sugar rush. Unfortunately, it’s inevitably followed by the afternoon sugar crash.
Hi-carb foods give us a short-lived burst of energy, but they can also lead to lower energy levels, crankiness, and of course they increase our cravings for more sugary foods. The underlying cause of this rollercoaster is the rapid elevation and drop of glucose levels in our body. The remedy is to supply our body with foods that will keep those levels consistent at lunch and snack time (aka foods with a low glycemic index).
Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do. Avoiding processed sugars and carbs doesn’t mean giving up snacks completely. Instead of a donut, try some baked cheese puffs or wasabi almonds; instead of cookies, have some pecans and blackberries, or an apple. These have some carbs, but these are the kind that will be released slowly into your bloodstream. And that slow release will keep you from a crash. Take it a step further and try to replace some of those sugars with protein as another was to avoid fatigue.
3. Spend more time relaxing
We don’t need more reasons to reduce stress but here’s one anyway: Stress is a leading cause of fatigue. Because of the physical toll stress takes on your body, and the way it disrupts normal eating and sleeping patterns, it can cause some serious fatigue. We covered some great ways to reduce stress when we wrote about its effect on the immune system -- yoga, meditation, exercise, and social time (see tip #6) all reduce stress. But don’t worry about all the stuff you could be doing instead of de-stressing, because stress just makes you less productive.
4. Exercise more often
We can almost hear you shrieking “No! No! I’ll drink all that water! I’ll sleep better…I swear!” Here is where it gets interesting. To realize the full health benefits of exercise, one must in fact get one’s heart pumping, sweat, and work. However, there is one benefit of regular exercise that is actually increased when we exercise at a lower, rather than a higher level of intensity. That’s right: Persistent feelings of fatigue are significantly reduced by regular exercise at low intensity, and they do not correlate with an increase in aerobic fitness.
In other words, you can in fact shuffle onto that exercise bike in your sweats and pool slides, lazily pedal for a few minutes, and over time you will be, on the whole, less tired! Up to sixty-five percent less tired, in fact. We know, it sounds like an impossible, beautiful dream but it’s true. Counterintuitively, using a little energy is so effective at making us feel less tired, that going for a ten minute walk is actually more effective than eating a snack.
5. Eat breakfast every morning
We won’t remind you to drink more water. You hear that everywhere you turn. Hydration does help with energy levels, but we’re going to focus on breakfast at the moment. You can naturally keep your energy levels up throughout the day simply by starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast and eating regularly throughout the day are both responsible for lower levels of fatigue.
6. Spend time with friends
Social isolation makes you tired. After living through 2020, no wonder you’re tired. Prioritizing time with friends, even masked and/or six feet apart, can help lower stress, thus increasing well-being and improving energy levels. But what about the introvert who finds herself feeling depleted after social time? We say, find something that makes you feel good, whether that’s time with friends or on a solo hike in the woods. Just make sure to get out and about. Odds are, you will feel more energized after getting back into the habit of regularly doing something you enjoy.
7. The secret energy agents you need
Low energy band-aids like the afternoon coffee/danish combo can do more harm than good. The real ‘boost’ involves interrelated and complex factors. Luckily, there are some energy-boosting foods that can give us a little push without the unhealthy side effects. Here is a full list of secret agents that will help you boost energy naturally.
Did we just list all the ingredients in Bailout Energy and patiently explain why they are all proven energy boosters? Busted! We weren’t being subtle, because there’s no time: It’s 2:30! We want you to bounce right past quitting time and beyond into your newly bright and energized afternoon. You’ll need a few little life-hacks, and Bailout Energy will give the extra push for that home stretch to your newly responsible bedtime.