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28 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Energy Instantly

Struggling to stay awake? No need to chug a crazy canned concoction or a double shot of espresso. We found 28 legit tips to up energy levels without any unpronounceable chemicals.
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Proven Energy Boosters

Put down that energy shot! There's no need to chug crazy canned concoctions or buckets of coffee to get through the day without a 3 p.m. slump. We found 28 quick and easy tips to up energy levels—no unpronounceable chemicals required.

1. Work out midday. When that mid-afternoon urge to doze rolls around, hit the gym instead of the sack. Studies suggest working out can actually increase productivity enough to counteract that time away from the office [1].

2. Power nap. Avoid the temptation to pull a Rip Van Winkle, and take a quick midday power nap instead. Studies show the optimal amount of sleep is 10 to 20 minutes to get through the day without throwing off the night's sleep [2].

Chocolate Boost Energy

3. Hit the candy bowl. Sure chocolate's got caffeine, but that's not the only reason it offers a quick pick-me-up. Flavonoids found in cocoa have been shown to boost cognitive skills and improve mood [3] [4].

4. Drink some joe. We can say from experience six back-to-back cups of coffee is a recipe for instant crash-mode. But one cup is usually just right. One study found that a single cup of coffee was enough to keep sleepy drivers on a long haul more alert at the wheel [5].

5. Go outside. Head into the great outdoors—even if some woods aren't nearby, a green park will do. Just 20 minutes outdoors is enough to feel more alive. How's that for an energy boost?

6. Eat regularly. The body needs fuel (a.k.a. food) to function, and without it our energy and mood can spiral downward. However regular, healthy meals and snacks can improve cognitive function [6]. But keep in mind not getting enough sleep can also cause us to eat when we're not actually hungry, so check in with that stomach before munching down [7].

7. Reach for complex carbs. Wondering what to eat to fuel up? Complex carbs (like whole grains) are a good bet. The dose of glucose they provide serves as food for the brain, and one study found a meal of complex carbs made subjects feel more energized [8]. Studies have also found low-carb dieters to be moodier than those who do eat carbs [9].

8. Sip sugar-free drinks. Studies suggest sugary energy drinks can leave us crashing as soon as one hour later [10]. The shocker: The effects are the same even without the caffeine! That's right, caffeine-free sugary beverages can cause a crash, too.

Houseplants Boost Energy

9. Add some greens. In a stuffy office, a houseplant can help filter out pollutants like volatile organic compounds (or VOCs for short) and ozone [11]. And those chemicals can have both long and short-term effects, including energy-draining allergies and headaches [12] [13]. Add a plant, though, and those threats could diminish.

10. Laugh. Laughter's a proven stress-buster, but studies suggest laughing can boost energy levels, too [14] [15]. (Feel free to use this as permission to go on YouTube for the next 30 minutes.)

11. Stretch it out. Just a few desk stretches may be enough, but studies have suggested a little yoga could fight depression and anxiety or other stress-related disorders [16] [17].

12. Open the curtains. Environmental cues play a huge role in thebody's energy grooves (a.k.a. circadian rhythms), and sunlight can also help alleviate seasonal affective disorder. But there's no need to invest in a light therapy box if there's a sunny window available.

13. Chew-se wisely. Instead of nodding off during an endless meeting, eat a small piece of candy or pop a piece of gum. One study found chewing gum can increase alertness and improve mood [18].

14. Think fast. It may not sound so easy when those eyelids are drooping, but making the brain work a little quicker may help the body follow suit! Thinking faster (i.e. reading at a quicker pace, brainstorming in a group, or learning a new concept) made one group of study subjects feel more energized [19].

15. Take a cold shower. It's all about the polar bear swim. Researchers have even suggested a three-minute long cold shower could be enough to counteract some of the effects of chronic fatigue [20].

Lemon Boosts Energy

16. Seek some lemon-aid. Sniffing certain scents (a.k.a. aromatherapy) is rumored to have all kinds of mood benefits, but lemon oil is one of the only essential oils with proven support. Lemon is considered a stimulating scent, and one study showed it improved subjects' moods [21].

17. Take a few deep breaths. Nope, it's not just the key to resisting the urge to scream at that stupid driver. Deep yoga breathing from the diaphragm gets blood pumping, which also may boost energy all day long [22].

18. Drink. Whether at the gym or just dealing with the daily grind, it can be hard to remember to drink enough water. But even mild dehydration can cause sleepiness, so try chugging a glass or two when fatigue strikes [23]. Or, better yet, stay hydrated all day long!

19. Flick a switch. Circadian rhythms can have a big impact on how alert we feel, but one study found feeling more awake (at any time of day) can be as easy is flipping on some lights [24].

20. Be social. Studies have found people who are less social are generally less happy and don't sleep as well [25] [26]. And compared to sedentary or quiet office work, chatting it up made study subjects feel more awake [27].

21. Turn up the volume. Don't just turn on to tunes to chill out. Listening to music and tapping those toes significantly increased college kids' alertness in one study [28].

Singing Boosts Energy

22. And sing along. Even Dummies know singing requires breath control. Belt it for a full song, and there's plenty of extra oxygen pumping to feel energized as well as the adrenaline of taking it to the (karaoke) stage. Plus, one study showed singing significantly increased energy levels among college students (more than just listening quietly to tunes) [28].

23. Choose the window seat. Consistently dozing off in class or meetings? Move closer to a window. The daylight, fresh air, or even simply a natural view can all help boost alertness. On the flipside, a frantic street view may make it harder to focus.

24. See red. Studies have shown the color red is associated with winning and self-confidence [29]. Try looking at some red or violet hues (or wearing them) to feel more awake.

25. Straighten up. Slouching over the computer could cause fatigue earlier in the day. Sit up straight, though—that's shoulders back, eyes dead ahead, and lower back slightly arched—to feel more energized and possibly even get a boost of self-confidence [30] [31].

26. Do something interesting. Plan to do the most engaging or interesting task of the day during the sleepiest time of day (typically around 3 p.m.). One study found that being interested in a task makes it significantly easier to stay awake (despite an energy lull) [32].

Turn Up the Heat to Boost Energy

27. Adjust the temperature. Being too cold may cause the body's temperature to drop, which tells it "time to sleep!" [33]. Throw on a sweater or turn up the heat to fight off that drowsy feeling.

28. Leave the desk. Chowing down in front of the computer makes overeating even more likely [34]. But getting away from the desk at lunchtime could help reenergize and refocus, too. Whether it's a quick walk or a long lunch, take some time to wake up away from the glowing screen. Those emails can wait a few minutes. Really.

Originally published April 2012, updated October 2014.

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Works Cited +

  1. Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise. Von Thiele Schwarz, U, Hasson, H. Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011 Aug;53(8):838-44
  2. Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Milner, C.E., Cote, K.A. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Sleep Research, 2009 Jun; 18(2): 272-281.
  3. Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. Scholey, A.B., French, S.J., Morris, P.J., et al. NICM Centre for the Study of Natural Medicines and Neurocognition, Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2010 Oct;24(10):1505-14. Epub 2009 Nov 26.
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