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How to Have More Energy in Your Day, Naturally

Keeping after those with an unending supply of energy, or heading to work after being up at night with an unsettled child, can leave parents feeling drained most of their days. Here are some ways to stay more awake, without coffee or stimulants.

As I sat on the I-5 south last week, slugging my way home from a holiday with family and fun, I reflected on the best topic to bring to my readers next, deadline fast approaching.

“Hmm, that really got everyone going,” I thought with a sleep-deprived brain (babies sleep so well when not in their own beds, you know). “I guess it’s not just parents who can relate to feeling sleepy throughout their day … if I only I weren’t so tired, I bet I could …”

And there was my answer. The light bulb above my head actually boosted me a bit more awake for a moment. It read: How to have more energy.

Of course I’d already been thinking in the back of my head about which exit would have the best java by the off-ramp. But I‘d had my cup for the day and any more makes me jittery or causes a stomachache.

Tea? Maybe. But even the incredibly healthy green tea can cause a rebound from the caffeine lift—though it’s much less pronounced than the hard stuff. But I knew there were other proven ways to increase energy throughout the day and plenty of reasons, too, to avoid coffee and its depleting effects on the system.

Yes, the anti-cancer and other disease-fighting agents in coffee do seem to exist. But, however fun the high from coffee is while it lasts, there’s always that inevitable booming clang heard throughout your body when you come back down. Too, as I mentioned before, there are also many ill effects to your body from caffeine, such as dehydration and overworking your essential adrenal glands which regulate hormones—which regulate, you know, everything.

So I dismissed my research elves to the farthest corners of the realm to help me find and test ways to keep energy levels high throughout the day without caffeine. Any tips to get more sleep were roundly dismissed before I became angry and charged. Most parents of small kids would agree, if there were a way to get all those late-night chores and obligations taken care of before it was too late, we would. Then we’d at least have a reasonable shot at even seven hours of sleep. But short of giving your kids sleeping potions to tuck them away by 6 p.m., that simply is not happening most nights.

Here, then, are a few other tips I do find to be helpful ways to boost my energy without caffeine:

Cut Out the Caffeine

Yes, that’s what we said, that’s why we’re all here. But it’s important to start with this one because if you truly want more energy throughout the day, you have to cut the boom and bust cycle that starting out with caffeine creates. I can say from firsthand experience, the times in my life when I drank no caffeine at all were those when I had more sustained energy throughout the day, even if it took me longer to wake up in the morning.

Start your day out right

One reason so many parents are so into coffee in the morning is that your kids wake up at an abnormally early hour (to pre-kid standards) every day of the week and immediately insist you be completely awake and ready to jump through hoops right off the bat. Try starting the day with just a little bit of movement, even if it’s just a few yoga poses or a walk outside to get the paper.

Also, light and music can also really help cue your biorhythms to wake up. Finally, rather than reach for a coffee first thing, try a yummy green smoothie filled with greens, good fats like flax, and a quality protein source like Jay Robb’s Vanilla Whey Protein Powder (yum). To many, the lift from the greens is more than enough to take the coffee craving away completely—and it so good for you!

• Eat high-energy foods

Throughout the day, be sure to eat foods that help your energy stay high. This means, first and foremost, staying away from sugar, which like caffeine, is sure to make you crash. Also, balance complex carbohydrates, like whole grains that take a long time to break down, with light proteins (not red meat) and colorful vegetables. The minerals and vitamins, like B, alone will keep you more evenly charged than the nearly empty stomach of a typical coffee drinker for most of the day.

• Get moving

I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to exercise, especially when you’re tired. Still, engaging in physical activity can boost energy levels more than stimulants like caffeine. If possible, load the kids in the stroller or postpone that meeting you had until later to get in a brisk, 30-minute walk early in the day to wake up your body and boost your energy all day long. It really does help.

Sometimes I also take mini yoga breaks from my day’s work and just do a few poses for 10 minutes at a time on my living room floor. This is also really helpful in waking the brain and body up as it tries to slip back into sleep mode later in the day.

• De-stress

Stress is a real drain on your energy. Chronic stress can release hormones and chemicals into your body that affect nearly all of your systems. While initially stress may appear to give you a burst of energy via the fight or flight response, as it progresses, stress saps you of energy and produces a host of physical problems that can further drain your energy, putting you in a downward spiral of stress and physical illness.

Take some time to figure out what de-stresses you best and fit it into your day in a regular, predictable way. For some, a few pages of a good book under a tree can do wonders; for others, it’s a hot bath or shower. And everyone can benefit from some kind of meditation practice, even if it’s just a few minutes of quiet calm where you focus on an internal mantra, like the universal sounds in the word, “amen.”

Sybil November 30, 2011 at 09:27 AM
I really needed this article! Thanks Abi-well done! I am off the caffeine for now (and again) and wondering how to not fall asleep right when the clock ticks for school pick up. I feel like at 2:00 pm everyday I want to pass out in a deep coma. And the point on the stress, I needed that. Thanks and look forward to more.
Chelsea Sauer November 30, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Bikram Yoga gives you natural energy--it is the gas station! Good article!
Abi Cotler O'Roarty December 01, 2011 at 03:02 AM
Thanks Chelsea and Sybil for reading. Yes, 2pm is about my time for a dip too. A quick meditation really helps, when possible, even if I fall right asleep for a few minutes. Often this is done with small child in room...Bikram's sure can get the motor running too!

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