5 Healthy Ways to Increase Your Energy

How to safely beat fatigue and be more alert

In recent years, energy drinks have been widely marketed as a fast way to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. These quick boosts of energy, however, can have damaging side effects.

“Energy drinks are different than a cup of coffee,” says Adina Smarandache, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Scripps Coastal Medical Center. “People may drink them much faster than they would sip a cup of coffee, and they might drink a few of them instead of just one, which is a lot of caffeine. Many of these energy drinks also often have other herbal ingredients in them that may not be regulated and can have unintended side effects.”

Energy drinks were responsible for 20,000 emergency room visits in 2011. A recent study revealed that even in a healthy person, consuming an energy drink can alter the way the heart beats.

“There are ways to improve our energy without energy drinks and large amounts of caffeine,” notes Dr. Smarandache. “Just a few simple lifestyle changes can help increase energy and prevent fatigue.”

Getting more energy naturally

1. Get enough sleep.
Balancing a busy work and home schedule can make it difficult to get enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have listed lack of sleep as a public health epidemic in the U.S. Chronically getting an insufficient amount of sleep can make you moody, confused and forgetful.

“Your body needs to rest after a long day. Getting the right amount of sleep is a huge part of living a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Smarandache. “Everyone has slightly different needs when it comes to how much sleep they need. Most people need between seven and nine hours per night of quality sleep, more or less than that can lead to fatigue and other health problems. The key is finding what’s right for you and keeping a consistent sleep schedule.”

2. Drink plenty of water.
One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. Large quantities of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda, or energy drinks can leave you dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water will immediately reduce the effects of minor dehydration and improve focus and energy.

3. Take a walk.
“One of the best ways to beat some afternoon fatigue is to move around,” says Dr. Smarandache. “If you are sitting at a computer all day, the combination of sitting still and staring at a monitor can make you tired. It’s important to get up at regular intervals throughout the day and take a short walk. Even if it’s just around the building, the act of walking will increase your heart rate, improve blood flow and wake you up.”

4. Take a few deep breaths.
Stopping to take a few deep breaths can increase the amount of oxygen to the brain, which can make you feel more alert. Deep breathing is also a great way to relieve stress, which can contribute to feelings of drowsiness. When fatigue hits, try sitting back from the computer, closing your eyes, and taking four or five slow, deep breaths.

5. Limit caffeine and sugar.
While caffeine and sugar can both give you an immediate burst of energy, they are also fast burning fuels that can later lead to a “crash” in energy later on.

“Caffeine and sugar can give you an initial boost of energy, but it’s not sustainable,” notes Dr. Smarandache. “Your body will develop a tolerance if you regularly consume a lot of caffeine and sugar. After a while, you’ll need more of these to achieve the same effect.”

Dr. Smarandache recommends instead relying on a healthy diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

“The better fuel you put into your body, the more energy you’ll have in the long run,” adds Dr. Smarandache. “This will help prevent you from becoming fatigued in the first place and from relying on caffeine to keep you going.”

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