by Valerie Demetros
When you start dragging in the afternoon, it’s natural to reach for your favorite brew. Caffeine does a decent job pumping you full of quick energy.
And you’re not alone — 74% of Americans drink coffee every day and up to 49% drink three to five cups per day.
But at what cost? For some people, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. For others, caffeine in the afternoon leads to insomnia, headaches, raised heart rate, dehydration and anxiety.
There are other ways to get an energy boost without that caffeine fix.
Water — Don’t knock it, one sign of dehydration is fatigue. If you’re feeling lethargic, you may just need to hydrate.
Walk — Get a change of scenery and stand up. If you’re sitting in the same spot, you may need to get moving. And if you can, make that walk even more beneficial by heading outside in natural sunlight to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Breathe — Yoga breathing techniques, called pranayama, can affect your mind and body. A 2020 study found that fast breathing called kapalabhati, or breath of fire (short, rapid breaths through the nose while forcefully contracting the diaphragm), improved reaction time, attention and memory.
Nap — Don’t laugh, it’s not just for octogenarians. Research shows even a short nap up to 30 minutes can improve cognitive performance and alertness. If it’s possible, give it a try.
Exercise — Exercise releases endorphins and gives you a bit of a natural mood boost. Short bursts of squats, jumping jacks and even dancing can get those endorphins hopping.
Snack — Some foods can take the place of caffeine.
- Bananas are an excellent source of energy, with potassium, fiber and vitamin B-6. The fiber in bananas slows sugar digestion, utilizing energy from the sugars longer.
- Dark chocolate is a superb energy source. High in flavonoids, it increases the sustainability of energy and increases blood flow, which improves delivery of oxygen to the brain and muscles. And hey, it’s chocolate — just go easy on it.
- Nuts are a nutrition dynamo, packed with healthy nutrients for energy. Full of protein, carbs and healthy fats, they provide a slow release of energy.
- High amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants increase energy levels. In addition, manganese and vitamin B battle fatigue.
Note: Don’t get crazy and stop caffeine suddenly. You may experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, nausea, tiredness, muscle pain, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Take a week to wean yourself off slowly.