5 Ways to Increase Energy Without Caffeine

It’s 3pm and you’ve hit that afternoon slump. You find yourself staring at the computer screen, willing yourself to focus and be productive. But you’re struggling to stay awake and keep your mind from wandering. You figure you need another cup of coffee to boost your energy and get you through the day.

Whether you’re trying to exercise or just make it through the workday, having enough energy is important. We all have energy, but there are so many things we encounter that drain our energy. And the options we have to increase our energy (such as energy drinks or more coffee), are limited and often not very healthy or helpful in the long run.

The problem with relying on caffeine for energy is that caffeine doesn’t actually make you less tired. Caffeine keeps you awake by blocking your adenosine receptors to temporarily mask low-level sleepiness. Plus, a recent study shows that while caffeine’s temporary effects may feel like energy, it won’t actually improve any performance that’s been impaired by sleep deprivation.

On top of that, caffeine may affect some people negatively, such as causing jitters or headaches. Even if you don’t feel negatively affected by caffeine, the “energy” you get from caffeine is only temporary and marginally helpful. But more importantly, if you keep relying on caffeine to keep you energized, you’ll grow dependent on it and get stuck in a cycle of sleep loss and caffeine consumption.

There are better ways! We’ve found 5 ways from the best experts to gain more energy to power through your workouts, feel more productive, and make the most of your day, without reaching for caffeine.

1. Decrease Your Sleep Debt

The utmost important factor when it comes to your energy levels is getting enough sleep. For many who feel like they don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish their tasks, cutting back on sleep may seem like the best solution. But it’s important to keep in mind that sleep is directly related to your energy. In order to feel your best and function well, you need to be in a state of sleep homeostasis.

This means getting all the sleep you need. Think of it like balancing scales–your sleep need is on one side, and the amount of sleep you actually get is on the other side. The scales need to be balanced. If these two sides aren’t level, you don’t have sleep homeostasis.

To reach sleep homeostasis, you have to lower your sleep debt. Sleep debt is the running total of the hours of sleep you’ve missed vs. the hours of sleep your body needed over the past 14 days. Carrying a high sleep debt can have negative effects on your emotions, cognition, and physiology. Keeping a low sleep dept (ideally less than 5 hours) can help you feel and perform at your best.

2. Exercise

When you’re feeling drained or busy, working out is probably the last thing on your mind. But any form of exercise, even just a quick walk, is a great way to re-energize. Whether you take a stroll or do an intense workout session, any type of movement can perk you up. Exercise tells your cells that you require more energy and your body will respond and provide you with more. It also triggers the release of endorphins and norepinephrine, a chemical that contributes to feeling awake and alert.

3. Stay Hydrated

If you’re feeling tired, you may just need a glass of water. Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration. Your energy level will dip even when you’re just a little bit dehydrated. And most people don’t start feeling thirsty until they’re already dehydrated.

So make sure to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Experts suggest six to eight glasses of water a day, depending on your body size. Keeping a large bottle or canteen on your desk can help you remember to drink water. Canteens with easy-carry tops make it easier for you to take your water with you.

4. Connect with Nature

A series of studies in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being around nature, even for small amounts of time, makes people feel more energized. Even just looking at pictures of nature can increase your feelings of energy and vitality. It is theorized that this may have to do with its impact on decreasing activated stress responses.

5. Breathe

You may already know that pausing to take a few deep breaths when you’re stressed can help calm you down. But it can also help increase your energy levels.

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to fatigue. When we get stressed out, our bodies go into overdrive. Once your brain assesses that the stress is over, you enter the exhaustion phase where your mind and body need to rest and recover.

A stimulating breathing technique can also help improve your energy. Known as the “Bellows Breath,” this breathing exercise used in yoga practices stimulates the diaphragm and signals the body to increase alertness. While keeping your mouth closed, inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose with short, quick breaths. Do this for about 10 seconds, then breathe normally and give yourself a break. Repeat this several times. It may be a bit noisy, but it’s very effective.