Whether you’re trying to build muscle, burn fat, or just make it through the workday without raiding the vending machine, upping your energy is key.
So, to help you get more energy right when you need it, we tapped experts, pulled studies, and IDed 20 ways to get more energy so you can check all your to-dos off your life. No caffeine required.
1.Let in Light
Here’s a new reason work toward an office with a view: Research from Technische Universiteit Eindhoven in the Netherlands shows that exposure to bright light during the day immediately helps you get more energy. Light is critical to regulating your circadian rhythms and letting your body know that, yes, it’s time to be awake. Lamps work, too, FYI.
2. Check Your Vitamin D
More vitamin D means more energy, says Toronto-based dietitian Abby Langer, R.D. Without a healthy supply of the essential nutrient — up to 41.6 percent of Americans are deficient, according to Nutrition Research — your levels of drowse-inducing melatonin rise, and your mitochondria (your body’s microscopic power plants) don’t produce enough energy to keep you humming along at top speed.
3. Get Moving
When you’re feeling groggy, a workout’s probably the last thing on your mind. But regular sweat sessions can perk you up big time, says chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist Robert Silverman, D.C., C.S.C.S. You’ll get more energy, the well-known mood boost, and exercise (especially high-intensity exercise) causes your muscles to increase their number of mitochondria. This supplies your body with more energy day in and day out. Not ready to run five miles? Try signing up for dance workouts to break a sweat in a non-conventional way.
4. Skip the Sugary Snacks
“Eating refined, simple carbohydrates, which are found in sweets, sodas, as well as white breads and pastas, spike your blood sugar levels. Although this can give you a temporary boost, the blood sugar spike will soon be followed by a sharp decline — leaving you feeling exhausted,” says Alexandra Sowa, M.D., a clinical instructor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Opt for whole, complex carbs from foods like whole wheat bread, quinoa, and oats instead.
5. See Red
Simply looking at the color can make your muscles move faster and work harder, says research out of the University of Rochester. The study authors explain that since we subconsciously perceive danger at the sight of the ruby hue, the color automatically trips our energy-revving sympathetic nervous system.
6. Log On to Spotify
And choose a peppy playlist. Fast-paced music, with a tempo between 170 and 180 beats per minute, is generally best at boosting your energy levels, says Mary Pritchard, Ph.D., a psychologist at Boise State University. Singing or tapping along can increase your energy even more, per Journal of Music Therapy research.
7. Sleep at the Same Time Every. Single. Night.
“On the most fundamental level, consistent constant bedtimes and wake times will guarantee that you get an optimal amount of sleep and stay energized throughout the day,” Sowa says. “I always make the point to my patients: Why are bedtimes so important for children but not adults? Sleep routines remove error — sleeping too much or too little — and help synchronize your body’s sleep clocks.”
8. Get Chomping
In one Nutritional Neuroscience study, people who chewed gum for just 15 minutes felt more alert and were better able to concentrate. Researchers say you might get more energy because chewing increases blow flow to your head.
9. Take a Nap
You know that you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function well, but like most Americans, you probably still don’t get that much. Luckily, spreading those hours throughout the day may provide similar benefits to getting that sleep all at once, according to Pritchard. “So if you are only getting six hours of sleep a night, squeezing in a nap can help make up for sleep deficits and increase your mood and energy levels,” she says.
10. Go Green
Head to the park, open a window, or just invest in some potted plants. A series of studies in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outside — or simply looking at nature pics — can immediately increase your feelings of energy and vitality.
11. Cool Off
The old trick of splashing cold water on your face really does give you a jolt. By increasing your adrenaline levels, it activates your flight-or-fight response to increase energy, explains Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., an internist and fatigue expert. And, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, sticking your foot in cold water also works.
12. Drink Up
Feel tired? You might just be thirsty. “If you’re even a little bit dehydrated, you’ll likely see that your energy will dip,” Langer says. And most people don’t start to feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. She recommends drinking six to eight glasses of water each day — and even more if you’re sweating it out at the gym.
13. Watch That Cat Video
In a classic Motivation and Emotion study, men and women who watched a funny video walked away with far more energy than those who watched a documentary (yawn). And University of Oxford research shows that laughter’s ability to hike up your endorphin levels may be to thank.
14. Skip the Low-Carb Diets
“People shouldn’t be afraid of carbohydrates,” says Langer, noting that they’re your body’s number-one source for fuel. So without some quality (think: whole, unprocessed) carbs in your diet, you’re basically running on empty. “It’s fine to have a meal without carbs once a day, but drastically limiting carbs for most people isn’t a sustainable or smart way to eat.”
How long have you been sitting at your desk? Try taking a stretch break. Just 20 seconds of stretching at the computer every 20 minutes can help get the blood flowing and energy rising, Silverman says. Plus, by helping to reset your posture and loosen any tight muscles, it can help prevent mojo-sapping headaches.
After a tough workout, nutrition is vital to replenishing your body’s levels of glycogen, the stored carbs in your liver and muscles that fuel your every move, Silverman says. So if you regularly feel “run down” rather than energized after workouts, you might want to take a look at your post-workout nutrition strategy. Opt for a mix of protein and carbs (like that found in Beachbody Performance Recover) for optimal energy recovery.
The “helper’s high” is a real thing, Pritchard says. Doing something good for someone else — whether it’s playing with shelter pups or working in a soup kitchen — is believed to trigger an endorphin release that results in energy, positivity, and generally good vibes.
18. Breathe Deep
You know that when you’re stressed, pausing to take a few deep breaths can help you calm down. But it can also help to increase your energy levels, Pritchard says. After all, stress is one of the biggest contributors to fatigue. “When we get stressed out, our bodies go into overdrive and release cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine,” she explains. “Once our brain has decided the stress has passed, we enter an exhaustion phase where our bodies and mind need to rest and recover.”
19. Go Greek
Greek yogurt is teeming with probiotics–healthy bacteria that keep your gut and energy levels stable. “We have more bacteria in our colon than there are cells in all the rest of our body,” Teitelbaum says. “Having the wrong kind of bacteria contributes to major immune problems and food allergies, which drain energy.” A 2015 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity even found that probiotics can boost your overall mood.
20. And Get Your Macros
No plate’s complete without a mix of healthy fats, lean protein, and whole carbs. While carbs are critical to supplying your body with energy, fat and protein both help slow digestion so that the energy boost lasts for hours, Langer says. If your meal’s missing any of those three macros, your blood sugar can easily drop and fatigue can set in.