Sure, you could reach for a cup of joe when you need a pick-me-up. But that's not the only (or even the most effective) way to increase your energy levels. We tapped experts and research to find 10 ways to feel more invigorated on the fly. Bonus: They won’t give you the jitters or coffee-stained teeth.
Here are some more details on each strategy:
Your body runs on a lot of things, but its number-one fuel is oxygen. Try taking some deep belly breaths, expanding your ribcage and stomach with every inhale and pushing your belly button into your spine with every exhale. Doing so will get more oxygen to your brain and throughout the body to give you an instant wave of energy, says Barbara Walker, Ph.D., a clinical and sports psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati.
There’s a reason you can’t work out without your favorite tunes. Research consistently shows that people instinctually synchronize their movements and expressions to music. So play some upbeat, energetics songs, and you’ll automatically feel that way yourself, says Walker. (If you manage to bust out a few dance moves, even better, she says.)
Whether you stretch, walk, perform a few asanas, or hammer out some burpees, you can expect a lasting pick-me-up. In fact, in a review published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise, researchers found that workouts as brief as 10 minutes keep you energized for up to four hours. “At the most cellular level, when you exercise, your mitochondria kick into gear in order to produce ATP, which is used for energy to keep up with the demands of your body,” says trainer Mike Donavanik, certified strength and conditioning specialist. Even a walk around the office will get your blood moving so more oxygen reaches your tired command center, he says. If you want to do something a little more vigorous, check out the Fit in 10 DVD from our sister publication, Prevention.
Hitting your high O releases a cocktail of neurotransmitters and hormones, including dopamine, prolactin, serotonin, and oxytocin. “It leads to a greater ability to focus and concentrate and a subsequent burst of mental clarity and energy, if you will,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., coauthor of V is for Vagina. Plus, double clicking your own mouse might be more energizing than a partnered session in the sack, which is more likely to be acrobatic, sweaty, and tire you out, she says.
Work out or sit on a bench; all it takes to increase your energy and feelings of vitality is to be outside, according to a review published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Bonus points if you can combine the trick with number three (a.k.a. getting moving). Walking outside increases energy levels even more than indoor walking, per a review published in Environmental Science and Technology.
Are you really tired? Or are you just thirsty? “One of the biggest indicators of lethargy or low energy is that you are dehydrated,” says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of the best-selling book The One One One Diet. “Because water aids in both body regulation and brain function, it is also closely related to balancing out our moods. If you are feeling that your focus isn’t as sharp as you would like it to be, you can boost your alertness and low energy levels with water.”
In one University of Nebraska study, participants who watched a funny video enjoyed greater post-vid energy levels. That may be because laughing increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of feel-good neurotransmitters, says Walker.
People are truly solar-powered. Light is what clues your body into the fact that, yep, you’re supposed to be awake. That’s why research from Technische Universiteit Eindhoven in the Netherlands shows that people are more energetic and alert after having been exposed to bright light. Try taking a trip to the nearest window, step outside, or fire up the old light box for a few minutes. They aren’t just for the wintertime.
When it comes to energizing snacks, a mix of carbs, protein, and fat are where it’s at. “Combining complex carbohydrates with lean protein and healthy fat provides lasting energy,” says Lori Zanini, R.D., a dietician and certified diabetes educator with HealthCare Partners. “The fiber, protein, and fat take longer to digest and provide sustained energy. Sugary foods can raise our blood-sugar levels quickly and give us energy in the moment, but the crash that follows will leave you right where you started.” Try Greek yogurt with berries and walnuts or avocado spread on a piece of whole wheat toast topped with a scrambled egg.
Besides possibly making you horny, thinking about your lover can give you a jolt of energy, per research from University of Western Ontario in Canada. While working with 183 men and women, scientists found that thinking about their current partners increased their blood-sugar levels and, thus, their energy levels.