Mornings get more awesome as we get older: no parents to veto the snooze button, and the only grownup who can stop you from grabbing a delicious, gooey breakfast sandwich is you. Plus, early-morning runs or even occasionally getting up to watch the sunrise become unexpected—but pretty satisfying—pleasures.
However, if you’re often low on energy way before quitting time, it could be time to step up your morning routine. Here are some morning habits to break for better afternoons and evenings.
1. Not Preparing for a Good Morning
Sleep hygiene is just as important as showering and brushing our teeth, but many of us are sacrificing shut-eye to stay late at the office, finish household chores, or get caught up on Outlander (completely understandable). But establishing a bedtime routine that results in 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep can mean much better mornings.
“You don’t have to go to bed super early but try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) to help your body adapt to a routine,” says registered dietitian and running coach Heather Caplan.
2. Ignoring Your Gut
So much of your overall health depends on how healthy your gut is. In fact, 70 percent of the body’s immune system is located in the gut, and studies have shown that it can impact everything from your mood to your stress levels. So how do you keep your gut in check? Experts suggest eating a diet high in fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut, and steering clear of processed foods, which may harm your microbiome (a sciencey word for your digestive tract). Adding a probiotic supplement like Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 30 Billion to your morning routine may also help boost your digestive health.
3. Having a Snooze Fest
The snooze button giveth, and the snooze button taketh away. On one hand, yes, it’s awesome to get five, or 10, or 15 minutes more shut-eye, but hitting that button over and over can get your day off to a sluggish start, says Rachel Goodman, certified dietitian/nutritionist and founder of Rachel Good Nutrition.
“More often than not, pressing snooze starts the day in a rushed manner,” Goodman says. “Think about how you feel when you wake up late to work. The thought is probably stressing you out. Stress can spike your blood sugar levels, leaving your body feeling not so great and making you less mindful of your food choices.”
Goodman recommends setting an alarm clock with no snooze button, putting it far from your bed, and leaving ample time to get ready. “Starting your day in a calm manner can make all the difference in your day,” she says.
4. Drinking Your Breakfast
If you cringe at the idea of a big breakfast, it can be tempting to reach for liquids, like protein shakes or thin smoothies, just to get something in your stomach. But when it comes to feeling full, substance matters. According to a study conducted in the Netherlands, it was the thickness of the morning smoothie that caused respondents to report feeling full, not the calories.
Maria A. Bella, founder and registered dietitian at Top Balance Nutrition and clinical nutrition coordinator at NYU School of Medicine, actually advises clients to avoid drinking their first meal of the day. “Stay away from any liquid meals,” Bella says. “Our brains register fullness when we chew food. Drinking does not accomplish the same goal, and it takes less time for liquids to pass through our stomach, leaving us hungry much sooner.”
5. Dining While Dashing
Even the most diligent meal-preppers sometimes skimp on breakfast, which could be a mistake, says Taylor D’Anna, a New York-based registered dietitian who specializes in pediatric and adult nutrition.
“A typical American only allows for five to 10 minutes to prep and eat breakfast before running out the door,” D’Anna says. “The key to a successful day of eating is planning.”
D’Anna suggests taking Sunday to prepare breakfasts that can be stored or frozen and making sure they are adequately packed with fiber, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. “Try prepping egg whites with veggies the night before,” she says. “In the morning, you can just heat them up and wrap them in a whole-grain tortilla.”
6. Sweetening Up
If you find yourself running for the bathroom an hour or so after you get to the office, an artificially sweetened breakfast could be to blame. Sugar alcohols, which are technically not sugar or alcohol but carbohydrates, are often found in processed foods and artificial sweeteners. They go by myriad names—mannitol, sorbitol, and isomalt, to name a few—and could cause all kinds of uncomfortable bathroom problems, according to Bella.
“Using products with sugar alcohols can give people horrible gas and potentially diarrhea,” Bella says. “Think coffee with sugar-free syrup, fiber bars with added sugar alcohols, or any other ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free’ breakfast options.”