How to increase your energy levels without caffeine
by Alexandra Rothwell Kelly, MPH, RDJuly 2018
As a dietitian, I work with clients on a broad spectrum of health issues, from weight management to fertility to optimizing performance, but there is one common question asked by virtually every client: How can I improve my energy level?
Unfortunately, the idea of “having energy” is often equated to the buzz following a burst of caffeine from a strong cup of coffee or energy drink. It’s easy to lean on quick-fixes to wake up in the morning or get through an afternoon slump. However, true energy is not a state of jitteriness but an alertness and sense of vitality that comes from self care. Occasional periods of fatigue from lack of sleep or a stressful event are hard to avoid but, in general, I encourage clients to practice lifestyle alterations that lead to a calm wakefulness.
Changing sleep patterns tends to be the most obvious place to start when improving. Most people should prioritize getting at least eight hours per night, which, I realize, is not always easy. My best sleep tips include:
- Use blue-blocking glasses a few hours before bed
- Limit caffeine to the morning (ideally before 10am)
- Keep bedroom temperature around 65 degrees
- Use blackout shades and white noise
- Talk to your healthcare practitioner about evening magnesium supplementation
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every day to help to set circadian rhythms
Exercise, or simply engaging in daily movement, can also help improve energy levels by enhancing blood flow to carry nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissue. It can also help balance blood sugar levels and release mood-improving endorphins. Even 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise, such as walking, has been found to reduce fatigue. The best type of exercise is whatever you enjoy and can practice consistently. For people with sleep issues, I recommend exercising within the first half of the day.
Many people experience fatigue, especially in the afternoon, which is accompanied by sugar cravings. When indulged, the excessive sugar can provide a quick burst of energy, followed by a depleting crash. Eating balanced meals based in non-starchy vegetables, which incorporate protein and fat can help keep blood sugar levels stable. Ginger has also been found to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, which is why I recommend that my clients integrate ginger into their cooking. (For more on ginger and blood sugar, see this article)
Once the basics of sleep, exercise and a balanced eating pattern are in place, one can truly feel the benefits of particular foods and nutrients. Naturally, that brings me back to ginger. I love incorporating The Ginger People’s ginger products, especially their ginger juice as part of an energizing wellness routine. As I do not advise caffeine consumption in the afternoon, this ginger juice is a perfect alternative to sugary indulgences or coffee, which may hinder sleep. You can shoot the ginger juice straight or if you want to prolong the enjoyment, add one shot to a big glass of cold sparkling water.
Footnote: Please speak with your healthcare provider before making any major lifestyle adjustments.