If we all knew how to get more energy during the day, we'd have a lot less people walking around feeling lethargic, droopy, and depressed once the late-afternoon rolls around. Since that's the time of day our body rhythm tends to take a natural dip, we tend to feel our vim and vigor drop right along with it. Luckily, help is on the way! You can beat the midday slump just by following our science-backed step-by-step pick-me-up plan.
Start with an omelet. Eggs are rich in amino acids, which rev energy by boosting your brainpower. Eggs also help your body produce compounds that improve memory and focus. They make you feel so alert, in fact, they’re even effective against jet lag. Why an omelet? Because you can fold in another “energy star”: red pepper, which douses fatigue by heating up your metabolism.
Soak up five minutes of sunshine. Humans, it turns out, are solar-powered — which is why simply stepping outside for a few minutes in the morning can send your energy soaring. Exposure to sunlight triggers your brain’s hypothalamus to stop its secretion of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone, and release anti-drowsiness hormones instead. And the effect lasts all day: Studies show folks exposed to morning light report feeling less tired in the afternoon.
Pop the a.m. energy pill. Rhodiola is an herb that amps energy by helping your body use oxygen more efficiently. In one study, women who took a rhodiola supplement were able to work out longer and recover from strenuous activities 50 percent faster. “Take 100 mg. 20 minutes before breakfast,” advises Patricia Gerbarg, M.D., coauthor of The Rhodiola Revolution.
Blast hot and cold. Turn your a.m. shower into an all-day invigorator by switching between hot and cold water to rev circulation and boost alertness. The cool blast will even perk up your mood, since sudden cold triggers the release of happiness hormones. Start on hot, then every few minutes give yourself a five-second blast of energizing cold.
Do DIY “acupuncture”. According to the ancient Chinese practice of qigong, tapping strategic spots on your body produces some of the same health-boosting benefits as acupuncture. How to use the ancient practice to boost your energy? Just tap your tummy, suggests expert Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D. “A lot of energy is stored in your lower belly,” she explains. “Simply stand up, slightly bend your knees and gently bounce up and down. At the same time, make a ‘relaxed’ fist, tapping just below your belly button for two minutes. It’ll unleash the energy stored in your lower dan tien, the energy reservoir in your lower body.”
Take a six-minute “snooze”. You know a nap is good for you, but catching some Zzzs in your cubicle can be awkward. Luckily, says Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D., author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, just closing your eyes for a few minutes for a “virtual nap” can generate the same calming alpha waves as a light snooze. How many minutes exactly? Six, say researchers, who found that’s all it takes for you to be able to return to your work feeling revitalized.
Pile on the protein. A lunch high in protein and low in carbs, such as grilled chicken over greens, zaps afternoon fatigue a whopping 67 percent. That’s because protein-rich foods contain tyrosine, an amino acid that produces long-lasting pep.
Sip lemon balm tea. This herb increases activity of acetylcholine, a brain chemical linked to concentration. In fact, when British researchers gave students lemon balm tea before an exam, the students found it easier to concentrate and correctly answered faster than those given a placebo. Not a tea drinker? Just the scent of lemon balm stimulates the brain’s alertness center.
Recharge your brain. Feel so tired, you just want to splash cold water on your face? There's a dry way to get the same effect. “Put one hand on your forehead and the other on the back of your head,” says expert Donna Eden. “Stress causes blood to leave the front of your brain. But putting your hands on opposite sides of your head creates an electromagnetic charge that draws blood back up, for a quick lift.”
Pause for two minutes. “Short breaks throughout the day keep you going strong,” says Dr. Chiasson. “Dance to a favorite song for two minutes or just get up and stretch.” And try to make your breaks private: “When something is just for you, it boosts your energy even more,” says health pro Beth Reardon. “That’s why I make a cup of green tea just for me at the end of the day. Private pampering ensures your energy has only one place to go: Back to you.”
Take a mini-stroll. Fitting in a short five- or 10-minute walk after a meal helps you sidestep the sluggishness associated with digestion. In fact, research at the University of Georgia shows a quick post-lunch walk cuts afternoon fatigue as much as 65 percent.
“Hug” your hand. Need a fast jolt of energy? Using your thumb and index finger, press the back of your hand in the indentation between your pinkie and ring finger. This acupressure spot (the Gamut point), triggers the release of revitalizing adrenaline. Apply firm pressure for 30 seconds, and you’ll feel revved within minutes.
Nibble on nuts. Nuts are full of CoQ10, a nutrient that helps cells produce energy. And no matter which nut you pick, you can’t go wrong. Brazil nuts, for instance, are packed with energizing selenium, a natural anti-depressant, while cashews boast fatigue-fighting copper. Walnuts are full of
omega-3 fats, which amp focus, while peanuts contain zinc, which builds neural connections.
Refuel with the three R’s. Energy is as much mental as it is physical, which is why health guru Julia Hidy recommends pepping up both brain and body with the three R’s. “The first R is recover,” she says. Recover some of your energy for you. Every week, find what refuels you and carve out time for an ‘energy-expedition’ — go to a play or concert, or enjoy a spiritual pursuit like meditation. The next R stands for retain: Once you’ve pinpointed the thing that gives you energy, hold on to it by savoring it. “For example,” says Hidy, “say ‘I deserve this break.’ Enjoying yourself and staying in the moment keeps your energy flowing.” The final R is perhaps the most surprising: “Recycle,” declares Hidy. “The idea is to share your experience by, say e-mailing your friends about the concert you just saw or the art class you found so invigorating. It’s a chance to relive it, which is like a springboard to more pep.”
Take a positivity walk. It’s free. It’s easy. And even if you do it for only 10 minutes, a nightly stroll can relieve lots of the stress behind everyday fatigue. “If you’re wrestling with something that’s draining your energy, go for a stroll,” suggests Dr. Chiasson. “Walking gives your nervous system a physical outlet for stress — it kind of tricks your body into believing the problem has been worked out, so it goes from ‘high alert’ to a calmer state that allows your energy to bubble back up to the surface.” To maximize the bene ts, walk and talk: Having a power-walking pal by your side to talk out your stress — or distract you from it with pleasant conversation — refuels your brain and body.
Enjoy a bedtime snack. The best choice? An apple! “Apples are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant with powerful soothing effects that promotes restful sleep,” says Reardon. “Plus, the pectin in apples soaks up free radicals and makes your digestive system run more smoothly, so you don’t feel as lethargic.” In other words, an apple a night keeps energy drains away.
Take the sweet dreams supplement. It’s magnesium. This essential mineral is responsible for more than 300 different chemical reactions in the body, and it de-stresses you, so you can enjoy deep sleep. It can even alleviate leg cramps that might be keeping you up. Try taking an Epsom salt bath before bed, or a 400-mg. supplement of chelated magnesium instead, advises Reardon. Chelated means the magnesium is bound to an amino acid. Like putting a letter in an envelope, it’s a delivery system that makes it easier for your body to absorb.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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