Few would deny the value of remaining energized throughout the day. Whether you need to nail a presentation at work, complete a workout, or tackle errands, it helps to feel invigorated.
Problem is, life can leave you feeling zapped. “In our fast-paced world, low energy levels have become an all-too-familiar companion for many of us,” Miranda LaBant, NMD, a naturopathic physician at Brio-Medical, tells POPSUGAR. The demands of your routine can bring about poor quality sleep or stress, two common culprits of low energy levels, according to Dr. LaBant.
Energy drinks and cold brews aren’t the only answer. By adjusting how you eat, move, and sleep, you can promote sustained energy throughout the day. Here are six different strategies you can put into action.
1. Eat Balanced Meals
Recall that foods each have a particular ratio of the three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. When you eat meals that have a balanced mix of all three, that can help optimize your energy levels throughout the day, according to Natalie Rizzo, RD, author of Planted Performance.
“One of the reasons that many people feel tired is that they are hungry in between meals,” says Rizzo. “To keep energy levels high, eat well-balanced meals that have carbs, protein, and healthy fats.”
By eating balanced meals throughout the day, you can give your body the nutrients it needs to function, avoiding spikes and crashes in blood sugar and energy levels in the process, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap.
“The key to an energizing diet is getting the right ‘fuel mix’ at each meal,” says Jackson Blatner. “An energizing fuel mix means filling about 25 percent of your plate whole grains or potatoes, 25 percent protein (animal or plant), 50 percent colorful produce, and a topping of healthy fat.”
2. Take Breaks
If you work for hours on end without any breaks, that can hinder your energy levels. “Try going for a quick walk between meetings or house tasks, or even find some time to stand up,” says Amanda Frick, ND, naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and vice president of medical affairs at Thorne. “Getting the blood flowing to your extremities can help keep you from an afternoon drag and help re-energize your brain.”
On days when you need heavy focus, Dr. Frick suggests breaking up your work with an afternoon guided meditation or using the Pomodoro method, which incorporates timed intervals of work.
3. Move Your Body
It might feel counter-intuitive to fit in a workout if you’re feeling sluggish, but exercise is a great way to boost your energy. According to Toni Golen, MD, and Hope Ricciotti, MD, writing for Harvard Health, “Exertion spurs your body to produce more mitochondria inside your muscle cells.” You might remember from seventh-grade science class that the mighty mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, meaning they convert the food you eat into fuel for your body. More fuel equals more energy.
Plus, exercise boosts oxygen circulation within your body, which is a boon for your heart and lungs. When your cardiovascular system is in tip-top shape, you feel it in the form of more energy to get sh*t done.
Need exercise inspo? Try this energy-boosting yoga flow:
4. Drink Matcha
Caffeine is an obvious solution for anyone who’s seeking an energy boost, but it’s possible to go overboard. “Caffeine increases the stress compound cortisol, and too much of a stress hormone can make you feel energized at first, but then majorly drained,” explains Jackson Blatner.
That’s why she recommends matcha as a morning pick-me-up. “Matcha has a moderate amount of caffeine — about half of what’s in a cup of coffee — which is a natural energy booster, and it contains a compound called L-theanine for focused, steady energy instead of jitters,” says Jackson Blatner. “Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha a small mug of hot water or plant-based milk, and if you want, add a little of your favorite sweetener.”
No matter your caffeine source of choice, aim to consume no more than 400 mg per day, cutting yourself off at least 10 hours before bed so as not to hinder your sleep, recommends Jackson Blatner. On that note . . .
5. Prioritize Sleep
You’re not imagining it: poor sleep can eff with your energy levels the next day. “When you consistently don’t get enough restorative sleep, your body’s ability to repair and rejuvenate is compromised,” says Dr. LaBant. “This disruption in the sleep-wake cycle can lead to hormonal imbalances, such as elevated cortisol levels, which result in increased fatigue.” Your cognitive function can also take a hit, making it difficult for you to focus and concentrate, she adds.
To encourage quality sleep, create a relaxing bedtime ritual before bed, aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, and avoid blue light exposure at least an hour before bed, says Dr. LaBant.
You can also rely on sleep remedies as needed. Herbal nervines (herbs that affect your nervous system) like valerian root and lemon balm can be helpful, according to Dr. LaBant. “Herbal nervines are a valuable natural resource for enhancing sleep quality by promoting the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter known for its calming and inhibitory effects on the nervous system,” she says
Jackson Blatner recommends tart cherry juice as a natural sleep aid, since they’re rich in the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. In a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, people who drank tart cherry juice for a week spent significantly more time asleep compared to a placebo group.
6. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of “eating the rainbow” in other contexts, and it’s helpful for maintaining your energy levels, too. “When we consistently opt for processed, nutrient-poor foods high in sugars and unhealthy fats, our bodies suffer the consequences,” says Dr. LaBant.
Namely, your body’s cells won’t get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required for you to function at optimal energy levels, says Jackson Blatner. What’s more, ultra-processed foods tend to be rich in simple carbohydrates, which can contribute to spikes and dips in energy levels, she says. While you limit ultra-processed foods, aim to include a mix of orange, purple, dark green, and red vegetables in your diet, recommends Dr. Frick.
Leafy greens seem to be especially helpful where energy levels are concerned. “Leafy greens like spinach, kale, watercress, cabbage, collard greens, and arugula contain natural nitrates which the body converts to nitric oxide (NO) which helps more energizing oxygen get to the muscles and brain,” says Jackson Blatner. “Greens also contain B-vitamins, which help assist the body with energy production.”
7. Stay Fueled and Hydrated
You can maximize the energy-boosting effects of exercise through your diet. “After a workout, it’s important to take in some protein and carbohydrates to refuel tired muscles and replenish glycogen (the body’s stored carb source),” says Rizzo. “Even something small like a smoothie can help keep your energy levels steady for the rest of the day.”
Whether or not you’re an athlete, it’s also important to stay hydrated, says Jackson Blatner. “Fatigue and lack of focus can actually be a sign of dehydration,” she says. While regular water will suffice, you can add electrolyte packets if you want to hydrate faster, says Blatner. Just be sure to find an option with no added sugar, and stick to something with less than 10 percent of the daily value of sodium if you’re inactive and need to watch your sodium intake, she says.
In the quest to stay fresh and alert, balanced meals, sleep, and focus breaks are your friends. Together, they can help you unlock a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
Image Source: Getty / Maskot