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8 Healthy Energy Boosters

Feel Alert and Energized without Pills or Energy Drinks
  -- By Erin Whitehead, SparkPeople Contributor
You're sitting at work, and you feel yourself drifting off. Your head is bobbing, and you're minutes away from zonking out completely. Sure, you plan to hit the hay early tonight to make up for it, but you need help NOW. (Snoring or drooling through that important meeting won't make a good impression on your boss or clients.) Lucky for you, there are a few things you can do to increase your energy during the day that don't involve chugging five cups of coffee. Read on for eight healthy ways to get a boost when you're feeling sluggish.

Go Outside
If possible, get thee to the great outdoors for a quick energy boost. Spending time outside can help you kick sleepiness to the curb, and studies have shown that exposure to nature has been linked with increased energy and a heightened sense of well-being. Other research has found that those who got active outside scored higher on measures of vitality and enthusiasm and lower on depression and fatigue. It'll only take a few minutes, too. Take a quick walk, a few breaths of fresh air, or even enjoy your lunch or coffee break outdoors whenever possible during a busy workday.

Get Some Sun
Light and darkness help set your internal clock, so it's only reasonable that a little light can perk you up, too. Sunlight especially provides the body with natural cues to promote wakefulness. For a bigger bang for your buck, head outdoors to get some fresh air and sunshine. But if that's not possible, head to a window for a few minutes of natural light to help you snap to your senses.

Drink Your Water
Drink up! Instead of heading for the coffee pot, hit the water cooler instead and sip on some H2O. One study showed that being dehydrated caused a loss of focus and a sense of fatigue, among other negative symptoms. It doesn't even take much dehydration to have this effect; the dehydration that was induced in this particular study was only one percent lower than optimal hydration levels. So keep a water bottle with you at all times, refill it often and drink throughout the day to fight off both dehydration and the tiredness that comes from an unquenched thirst!

Just Move
It seems counterintuitive, but exercising regularly doesn't wear you out—it actually increases your energy over the long term. Studies have shown that sedentary people who exercised reduced fatigue more than in people who weren't active. When you need a quick energy boost, going for a short walk or doing a few jumping jacks are an instant way to shock the fatigue out of your system. Anything that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing can do wonders.

Try an Inversion
Does a boost of extra blood flow to the brain perk you up when you're tired? It's difficult to find any hard evidence that yoga inversions (poses in which the heart is above the head) are beneficial to fatigue or focus, but anecdotal evidence from those well-versed in inversions say that they can be physically and mentally invigorating because gravity provides the brain with more oxygenated blood, thus improving mental function and concentration. Yoga in general does stimulate the brain. One study showed that a 20-minute hatha yoga session improved speed and accuracy on tests; it appeared that participants were able to better focus after practicing yoga. So if you're not up for some of the advanced inversions (they're not safe for everyone), try a few standard yoga poses like downward dog or a few sun salutations to perk you right up.

Take a Cat Nap
Sometimes the only way to truly fight fatigue is to actually sleep. To avoid waking up groggy, set your alarm for 30 minutes or less. And you'll want to avoid napping past 3 p.m. so as not to disturb your night of sleep. (Some say 2:16 p.m. is the ideal time of day to nap.) A quick power nap can give you a burst of alertness that you need to get through the rest of your day.

Caffeine
Caffeine in the form of coffee or tea is a tried-and-true energy booster. It's OK and even beneficial for healthy adults when used in moderation. But if you find yourself hitting the coffee pot for a pick-me-up every day or needing more and more coffee over time than you once used to use, you could be perpetuating the cycle of exhaustion by over-caffeinating and preventing yourself from falling asleep easily at night. For most healthy adults, two to four cups of coffee a day aren't harmful. You can also enjoy caffeine in the form of a couple squares of dark chocolate or some green tea for additional antioxidants.

Take a "Caffeine Nap"
Never heard of a caffeine nap? You down a cup of coffee right before you take a 15-minute nap. The 15 minutes is long enough for the caffeine to take effect, and your nap is short enough that you don't wake up groggy. Click here for a complete how-to!
 
No matter how you get your energy lift, be sure to avoid energy drinks and questionable supplements as too much caffeine may increase blood pressure and disturb heart rhythm, whereas supplements can have unintended effects and interactions with other medications or health issues. Just know that a good snooze is always the best solution, but when you can't get the sleep you need, these safe and healthy energy boosters can help get you through your day.
 
Sources
GaiamLife, "10 Benefits of Yoga Inversions," blog.gaiam.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

Mayo Clinic, "Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?" www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

NHS, "Beat the Workplace Energy Slump," www.nhs.uk, accessed on August 28, 2013.

ScienceDaily, "Energy Drinks May Increase Blood Pressure, Disturb Heart Rhythm," www.sciencedaily.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

ScienceDaily, "A 20-Minute Bout of Yoga Stimulates Brain Function Immediately After," www.sciencedaily.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

ScienceDaily, "Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive," www.sciencedaily.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.
 
The New York Times, "The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors," www.nytimes.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

Time Magazine, "Bad Mood, Low Energy? There Might Be a Simple Explanation," www.time.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.

WebMD, "The Secret and Surprising Power of Naps," www.webmd.com, accessed on August 28, 2013.