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Does your day start with a zombie-like stagger to the Keurig machine? Coffee’s not bad – but the fake energy rush triggered by caffeine isn’t a true energy boost, and it won’t sustain you throughout the 24 hours ahead. If you frequently find yourself checking the clock at 11AM and wondering how many more cups of coffee you’ll need to power through your busy day, it’s time to find another energy-boosting solution.
Caffeine might get the job done quickly, but there are other ways to get your energy levels up without a significant crash (or a sleepy afternoon). Instead of reaching for yet another cup of coffee, try these caffeine-free morning routines that enhance alertness and support whole-body, all-day energy—without the buzz.
1. Have a snack
Real energy – not the jittery, take-no-prisoners feeling you get after slamming a cup of cortisol-boosting coffee – comes from ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a usable form of energy for cells that’s produced from nutrients in food. Plus, eight hours of not eating makes blood sugar levels plummet, leaving you faint, foggy and utterly exhausted in the morning.
Start your day with a nutrient-dense snack to fuel your body and brain. Protein-rich foods support the brain’s production of norepinephrine and dopamine, chemical messengers that promote alertness, drive and motivation, and studies show high-protein meals increase vigilance and mental clarity. Complex carbs enhance brain wave frequencies associated with attention and arousal. Plus, magnesium and B vitamins are essential for the production of ATP, and low levels are linked with diminished physical stamina and greater fatigue.
Try these top wake-up-fast foods that’ll boost your energy: Oatmeal, peanut butter, bananas, eggs, almonds, pumpkin seeds and Greek yogurt.
2. Go for a sprint
Lace up your running shoes and take an invigorating run around the block, and you’ll wake up quickly! Intense bouts of exercise, like sprinting or cycling fast for 30 seconds to a minute, amp up your energy and trigger endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals. But really, any kind of peppy movement – like running up and down the stairs or jumping rope for a few minutes – enhances circulation, increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and supporting hours-long vitality.
If that’s entirely too ambitious for your sluggish morning self, do long, slow stretches, sun salutations or a short yoga practice; even 15 minutes promotes alertness and motivation. Plus, yoga encourages deep breathing to flood your cells with energy-boosting oxygen.
3. Drink a tall glass of cold water
After eight hours (or more) without water, your body needs fluids, and fast first thing in the morning. Even mild dehydration seriously saps stamina; in one study, women who were only 1 percent dehydrated showed loss of focus, lethargy and depressed mood. And cold water prompts the production of adrenaline to improve alertness.
As soon as you wake up, drink a big glass of icy water to replenish fluids, pronto. Make it more interesting with a splash of grapefruit juice or a squeeze of lemon. Or, drink super-hydrating celery juice and snack on high-water foods like cantaloupe or watermelon. You can also splash icy water on your face. Cold water stimulates sympathetic nervous system activity, amping up blood flow and invigorating your senses.
4. Make a list
Starting your day with a plan in mind fans the flames of enthusiasm, focuses your sleepy brain and enhances mental energy – and when mental vigor is low, you’ll feel cranky, overwhelmed and lethargic.
A laundry list of must-do tasks is a good start to clear the cobwebs and sharpen your thoughts. Take it a step deeper: Set an intention, and make a list of a few things you can do to achieve that goal. If your day ahead includes worries or challenges, list them; simmering fear, anger and anxiety crowd out positive thinking, drain emotional vitality. Or, make a gratitude list to start your morning on an optimistic note. But don’t construct your list on your computer; you’ll be tempted to check social media, and studies show too much Facebook or Instagram saps mental clarity, promotes tiredness and lassitude.
5. Take ginseng
For stamina, without stimulation, ginseng has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to improve Qi – the vital energy or life force. Because it’s an adaptogen, ginseng works by balancing the body’s organs and systems, enhancing endurance, sans jitters. Red Korean ginseng, which is considered more stimulating than American ginseng, appears to work in part by supporting ATP production. Studies show it effectively combats exhaustion, even in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Other research links Korean ginseng with superior alertness, attention and reaction time.
How can you take these different types of ginseng? You’ll find it in capsules, powders, liquid extracts and tea. You can also add a few drops of liquid ginseng to smoothies, or brew a cup of ginseng tea for an energizing alternative to your caffeine-laced morning beverage.
6. Create a routine
A simple morning routine makes it easy for your sleep-fogged mind to comply with vitality-promoting habits and set the tone for the rest of your day. Make your routine more meaningful: Meditate, visualize, listen to inspiring music or read a few pages from a motivational book. Incorporate soulful rituals that ground your ideals and beliefs in reinforcing physical practices; connect with your higher self, read spiritual texts or pray. Having meaning in your life fosters enthusiasm and nurtures spiritual energy. Plus, studies show people with a sense of spiritual connection are happier and have more clarity and drive.
Still need a coffee-free energy boost in the morning? Keep reading and try these tips, recipes and meal plans: