Do your batteries drain in the middle of the day? Welcome to the afternoon-slump club. While serving yourself a second (or third) cup of coffee may seem like the easiest solution, these strategies are proven to perk you up all day, every day.
- Have breakfast… even if you don’t feel hungry
You’ll be a lot perkier: Studies show that people who eat breakfast feel better both mentally and physically than those who skip their morning meal. British researchers at Cardiff University even found that spooning up a bowl of breakfast cereal every morning is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- The exercise physiologist says…fit in easy activity
You might assume that working out on low energy will further drain your batteries, but the opposite is true: Research has found that a single, moderate-intensity sweat session (such as a 30-minute bike ride or a brisk walk) can significantly boost energy levels in about 90% of people. What’s more, the effect is usually immediate and lasts at least an hour. But this isn’t the time to overdo it—longer or more intense workouts can leave you feeling exhausted, so keep it short and simple.
- The sleep doctor says…stop hitting snooze
The short bursts of sleep you get in between grappling with the alarm can disrupt your body clock so you feel drowsy later in the day and have a hard time nodding off at night. The result: a cycle of sleepiness. If you’re not ready to bound out of bed, hit the snooze button just once and use those few minutes to wake yourself up slowly with a few gentle stretches.
- The nutritionist says…have a second lunch
Most people tend to get hungry every three to four hours, so if you eat breakfast at 8 A.M. and lunch at noon, your body needs to chow down again around 3 P.M. or you risk getting that fuzzy, tired feeling. But don’t just reach for a bag of pretzels. For a sustained release of energy that lasts until dinnertime, make this midday snack amini meal that contains a balance of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. Aim for approximately 300 calories—enough to keep you satisfied but not stuffed (you may need to trim calories elsewhere to fit in this snack). Try a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with a glass of milk or a granola bar, yogurt and some apple slices. You’ll stave off fatigue and you’ll be far less likely to binge on junk food later in the day.
- Fuel your brain with omega-3s
Found in fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon), walnuts, and canola oil, these essential fatty acids play a role in keeping brain cells healthy and helping you feel mentally alert. Another potential bonus: Omega-3s encourage the body to store carbs as glycogen — the storage form of glucose (blood sugar) and the body’s main source of stored fuel — rather than as fat.
- Stay hydrated
Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fuelling nutrients flowing throughout the body. To gauge your hydration, monitor how often you urinate. You should be going every two to four hours, and your urine should be clear or pale yellow in colour. Tip: Besides drinking more, you can also consume foods that naturally contain water, such as yogurt, broccoli, carrots, and juicy fruits, like watermelons, oranges, and grapefruits.
- Skip the nightcap
Alcohol depresses the nervous system — the system of cells, tissues, nerves, and organs that controls the body’s responses to internal and external stimuli. So while sipping a glass of wine before bed may help you nod off, the sedative effects wear off as your body metabolizes the alcohol, which may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Alcohol has also been shown to interfere with the body’s natural 24-hour biorhythms, causing blood pressure to rise and heart rate to race at night when it’s normally calm and relaxed.
- Follow the 15-minute rule
If you can’t fall asleep, or if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep within about 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing that will help clear your head, such as reading, meditating, or knitting (but not watching TV or surfing the Web). Then, once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed. If you stay put and fret about being awake, you’ll only make yourself more anxious — and less likely to catch the z’s you need.
- Splash some water on your face or take a shower when you’re feeling burned-out
Some 55 percent of study participants reported using these types of “water therapy” to successfully increase their energy, according to findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Apparently, a little H 2 O refresher can instantly help take the edge off when you’re feeling overwhelmed.