Whether it’s to hustle during the work week, make the most of your weekends or just feel better within your body – having more energy is never a bad thing. But don’t rely on caffeine, sugar and other stimulants to give you an artificial boost that will have you regretting it later. Adapt these small changes into your routine and your energy will come back in spades.
This may sound like an obvious one – but think of getting a good night’s rest your first step in the following days routine. Modern health advice recommends the average adult needs seven hours of quality sleep per night. If you don’t already have a bedtime routine, now is the time to get into the practice of good sleep hygiene (and we’re not talking about brushing your teeth before bed). Over time, this will make it easier to fall asleep as your body begins to recognise patterns that prompt the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.
Begin about two hours before bedtime, consciously making this period ‘quiet time’ and refraining from anything that will make your mind or body overly active (like exercise, checking emails or playing video games). Try to avoid the blue light from your electronic devices if possible as these disrupt the release of melatonin. Swap scrolling on your phone or laptop for things like reading a book or journaling about the day you’ve just had. If you still have trouble falling asleep, try some calming activities like
Meditation or breathwork
Listening to calming music or white noise
Get Some Sunshine
Try beginning your mornings with as much natural light as possible. This is beneficial because your body runs on an natural internal clock called the circadian rhythm, which dictates the release of energy and sleep hormones and is responsible for feelings of wakefulness, appetite and body temperature. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by environmental factors like sunshine, light from electronic devices, shift work and even some health conditions such as diabetes and depression.
Try something as simple as sleeping with your blinds open so you wake up with the sun to the day ahead. Even better - If you have the time - try incorporating a quick walk into your mornings to harness the power of vitamin D AND endorphins. This will make you feel like you’ve already achieved something before even beginning your work day and set you up with a positive, productive mindset for the day ahead. Ask any morning person, there’s just something about the fresh energy of a sunny morning that’s hard to beat!
Take A Cold Shower
Looking for a caffeine-free kickstart in the morning? Try taking a cold shower for an invigorating boost that is said to improve circulation and get your metabolism moving. This is because the body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature, subsequently making it more efficient at some physiological processes.
Cold showers can serve as a sort of gentle shock, jolting your body by sending electrical impulses to the brain. The knock-on effect is an increase in alertness, mental clarity and even the release of endorphins. Can’t muster the thought of a frosty five-minute shower? Work your way up to it by ending your usual shower with a cold blast, standing under as long as you can bear – it’s a sure-fire way to put a spring in your step!
Time Your Coffee Better
Considering that quitting caffeine is really not a viable or desirable option for most (the smell, the taste, the social aspect – it’s a true highlight of a lot of people’s day!), we’re not going to tell you to stop drinking coffee. But you should be aware of how you consume it. While melatonin is the hormone that makes up sleep, cortisol is the hormone that wakes us up, and it fluctuates naturally throughout the day. Caffeine elevates cortisol levels, hence the ensuing side effects of alertness and awake-ness – or, if you’re extra sensitive, jitters and a touch of anxiety.
Natural cortisol levels peak at around 8:30am and then again at noon. Essentially, this means the optimal time to consume caffeine is somewhere in the middle of this, between 9:30 and 11am. If you are consuming caffeine as soon as you wake up your cortisol likely hasn’t peaked yet, meaning you are not receiving the full benefits of the coffee as your body is already working hard to get you moving. You will, however, be building your caffeine tolerance and dependence as well as interfering with your body’s natural ability to produce cortisol. Try and push your morning brew back and enjoy it as a mid-morning snack instead of part of your breakfast.
Eat For Energy
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most beneficial things we can do for our mind and body, which makes this an obvious starting point when looking to give yourself a boost – food equals energy! Try and eliminate processed junk foods as much as you can; not only are they full of saturated fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates, they are often devoid of nutritional value.
It’s extremely important to make sure that the bulk of your diet is rich in nutrients, fuelling your body and brain with the good stuff - vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Stick to these widely recommended portions each day and you’ll be on the right track:
two serves of fruit and three serves of veg
nuts, seeds and wholegrains
unprocessed proteins such as oily fish, eggs, chicken breast and lean steak
beans and legumes
dairy products like yogurt, milk and some cheeses
starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, cereals, pasta and rice
Use a quality protein supplement if you can't get enough protein in your diet
To give you an idea of what a day of eating for energy might look like, here’s an example of a healthy day on a plate:
1 slice of wholegrain toast with avocado, 2 eggs and side of smoked salmon
1 small pot of low-fat yoghurt, berries, sprinkle of nuts and/or seeds
Salad bowl with shredded chicken
Protein shake and a piece of fruit
Mexican chilli (beans and veggies) and brown rice
A sure-fire way to boost your energy levels long-term is to work on your fitness. Not only will you feel a rush of natural endorphins every time you work out, over time your body’s blood flow will become more efficient, enhancing the passage of oxygen and nutrients. This improves cells ability to produce energy – therefore, the fitter you are, the more energy you’ll have.
If you don’t already exercise regularly, it’s never too late to start building a routine. This can initially be something as simple as going for a walk for 30 minutes each day. Try it in your lunchbreak for a midday pick-me-up or go for a nice stroll in the evenings and listen to an audiobook (two birds with one stone!).
We all know the feeling of a dopamine hit from a mid-morning donut - but what goes up must come down, and it’s never long before the inevitable crash. Most processed sugars (particularly those in processed foods) contain no nutritional value. Fructose (simple sugar) does not affect the pathways in the brain that regulate appetite – essentially meaning the body does not recognise it as sustenance and the calories are rendered useless. Because nourishment is not registered, fructose can actually leave you feeling hungrier than before you ate!
Stress is just one of the many ways the body responds when in a state of ‘flight or flight’. Symptoms can include high blood pressure, tight muscles, increased heart rate and many, many more negatives – all of which take a toll on the body’s energy levels and leave you feeling drained. With the regular practice of techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, you may help your body relax and return to a more comfortable, less-draining state of homeostasis.
Did you know water makes up around 85% of the brain, 80% of blood and around 70% of lean muscle? Water is one of the very foundations of life, responsible for cognitive function, hormone and chemical balance and many other physiological functions. Lack of water is the leading cause of daytime fatigue and poor concentration. As little as a 2% drop in your body’s water levels can trigger a fuzzy short-term memory, inability to concentrate and that ‘spaced out’ feeling.
Make sure you’re replacing fluids by drinking water throughout the day, starting with 500mL-1L of water as soon as you wake up to replace fluids lost overnight. Keep a drink bottle within sight at all times or set a reminder on your phone at regular intervals. If you’re someone who doesn’t like the taste of water on its own, try adding some fruit, a sugar-free cordial or drinking soda water.
Listen To Upbeat Music
Music can have so many effects on the body; it stimulates the senses, releases serotonin and dopamine within the brain, stimulates memory and can even relieve pain. So it makes perfect sense that upbeat music can indeed elevate your mood and boost your energy!
Try pulling together a couple of playlists comprised of songs you love with catchy tunes or higher BPMs. Don’t have the time? Go ahead and use one of Spotify’s countless premade playlists perfect for any mood – they’re bound to have you dancing at your desk in no time.