I am very much a coffee addict. For a short, sharp energy boost, I reach for my beloved caffeine. Every day in the U.S., 400 million cups of coffee are consumed, so it's safe to say I'm not alone. And while there are plenty of health benefits associated with coffee, such as the fact that it's rich in antioxidants and it may even help extend life span, I do think it would be nice to achieve a natural energy high, rather than be a slave to my Starbucks habit. Sure, coffee may have its benefits, but I get a headache if I don't drink it every morning, and that doesn't sound healthy, does it? So I called on nutritionist Sarah Flower for tips on getting a natural energy high. It's safe to say that I've discovered a few tricks I'll be keeping up my sleeve for long workdays and early mornings.
1. Focus on your diet
"Sticking to a healthy diet throughout the colder months can be tough for many people. The dreary weather and dark days make us more inclined to ditch the lighter and healthier meals in favor of higher fat and calorific meals," says Flower. Sounds so familiar, right? The thing is that the food we consume can have a direct effect on our energy levels. Ever eaten a cheeseburger at lunch and then tried to do work? All you want is Netflix and a nap.
"Fattening foods inevitably lower your energy and will leave you with the constant lethargic feeling. I would also recommend opting for a diet rich in low-GI complex carbohydrates, good protein, and healthy fats, as these will help to keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid you feeling starved," advises Flower. "In times of fatigue, low energy, stress, and depression, it is also advised that people opt for foods that are rich in nutrients, especially B vitamins. This includes nuts, yeast extract, eggs, liver, beef, sardines, and brown rice."
2. Stay Hydrated
Is that silence we can hear? Yep, it's that broken record, but drinking enough water is so important. "Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration," Flower notes. "Even a small drop in your body's water levels can have a noticeable effect on you. The problem is that people are often unaware of the importance of water, especially in the winter, with a recent study claiming that just 4% of doctors said they believed their patients were aware of how much water they should be drinking." So consider this your PSA to pick up your water bottle more often.
"People seem to think that they are only dehydrated when they are thirsty, but this is not the case," she continues. "In fact, tiredness, headaches, and poor concentration can be symptoms of dehydration. It is, therefore, vital that you incorporate drinking enough into your daily routine to reduce your fatigue this winter." The trouble is plain water can be a bit dull. Jazz up your H2O with the addition of sliced fruits, mint, or even basil. Check out some detox water recipes for ideas.
3. Lighten Up Your Environment
"Natural light is an effective treatment for people who find themselves bed-bound with no energy during the winter," says Flower. The trouble is that with sunrise occurring after most of us need to be up and out and sunset taking place while we're sat at our desks, getting your quota of light in the winter is tough. Try incorporating some blue light into your day. You know how we're told to avoid the blue light on our phones before bed? Well, harnessing it in the morning or afternoon can fight fatigue. This Philips lamp mimics the light on a clear sunny day and can leave you feeling more energized in just 20 minutes.
4. Set Your Thermostat to the right temperature
Who doesn't love to be cozy? The thing is that being warm can lead to being sleepy. "This is because we often associate being warm as being comfortable and ready to sleep," explains Flower. "So when you're sitting in a warm room, your mind is likely to see this as sleep time, and you, therefore, react accordingly." Try to get outside in the fresh air for a brisk walk or set up a desk fan. Sure, you might get some odd looks, but you'll be far too busy being productive to notice.
5. Fit in Some Exercise
Ah, yes, the endorphin rush you get after a good workout—much loved but easily forgotten about. If you set aside body transformation for a moment, you actually don't need to do too much for exercise to make you feel energized. "A walk outside during your lunch break would suffice. Just that small bit of exercise will do wonders for your fatigue," says Flower.
"Not only does exercise help you to reduce stress and clear your mind, but it has also been proven to boost your energy and overall mood as a result of a reduction in blood pressure that exercise causes," she adds. Of course, when you exercise in summer, you get the added benefit of the sun serving up a hit of immunity- and energy-boosting vitamin D. "I would recommend taking a daily D3 supplement to try to help boost your energy," says Flower.
6. Set a Strict Sleep Schedule
Tiredness is one of the most common complaints doctors hear. In fact, the Royal College of Psychiatrists says that at any given time, one in five people feel unusually tired. "One of the predominant reasons is because they are suffering from a disturbed sleep pattern as a result of their lifestyle," says Flower. "If you have an inadequate sleep routine, for example, if you work the night shift, have a lot of evening events or you're simply working later, it's likely that you will suffer the next day, and this will continue until you change your lifestyle," Flower tells us. "There are two things I would recommend doing to achieve this; reduce your stress levels and try to sleep well."
If stress is an issue in your life, a habitual nightly routine can help. "Stress uses up a lot of energy, so you should try to introduce relaxing activities throughout the day, and especially before bedtime to make sure that your mind is relaxed and ready to turn itself off," she continues. "This will in turn help you to sleep better, but I would also recommend you get yourself into a good bedtime routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time is crucial to get your body into a good sleeping pattern, and this will in turn reduce your fatigue."
7. Try Herbal Remedies
"I would recommend focusing on ginseng, a Chinese medicine hailed as an all-healing herb—it's proven to improve cognitive function, memory, energy levels, and mood. This is a great remedy for the hectic schedules millennials have," says Flowers. Try to opt for a high-quality ginseng, which will ensure it's effective for you.
8. Try Singing Out Loud
There is some science to the joy of singing in the shower. A study published in the Journal of Music Therapy discovered that subjects who were instructed to sing reported that the musical task "increased energy arousal significantly and decreased tiredness arousal significantly." Treat yourself to a waterproof speaker or get an aux cord for your car (your daily commute could be a lot more energizing).
9. Smell Some Rosemary
Rosemary has been found by biochemists at the University of Northumbria to boost brainpower. The scientists scented one room with rosemary and left another unscented. Puzzles and memory tests were performed better in the scented room. More research is needed to discover why rosemary helps with cognitive performance, but keep a bottle of rosemary essential oil on your desk to sniff before a big meeting or brainstorm.
10. If All Else Fails, See a Doctor
"As a last resort, if you find that none of these steps works in fighting your fatigue, you may need to have a blood test to rule out any underlying health issues. For example, doctors will check your iron levels, B12, thyroid, and adrenal function," says Flower.
This story was originally published on Byrdie UK and has since been updated by Kaitlyn McLintock.