Trust us: when it comes to feeling more energetic, you can do so much better than relying on a cup of coffee to perk you up. In fact, research shows that for regular coffee drinkers, the stimulatory effects of caffeine are actually an illusion – you might feel more alert after a coffee but it’s simply the reversal of caffeine withdrawal, which causes fatigue.
On the other hand, some energy-boosting strategies are genuinely effective. Here are 10 that are proven to work.
When you need an instant hit of energy
Pull your shoulders back
Posture plays a big role in how energised you feel. Whereas walking with a slouched posture drains energy, walking with an upright, open chest does the exact opposite. The reason? Scientists say a positive, optimistic body posture opens up the same biological pathways that exercise works on to increase energy.
Wear more red clothes
It’s a colour that temporarily boosts your energy, so your reactions will be faster and stronger immediately after ‘seeing red’. Experts say this is because of the colour’s natural association with things like danger, emergencies and caution – so when you see it, your brain is subconsciously nudged into a more heightened state.
Skip the snooze button
You might think hitting the snooze button gives you a few extra minutes of sleep, but it can actually make you feel more tired. Just before you wake up, your body reboots itself, raising your temperature, heart rate and cortisol levels. If you drift back to sleep after hitting snooze, a new sleep cycle begins and you’ll feel groggy when you’re woken again. By getting out of bed when your alarm goes off, you’ll start your day more energised.
Drink three glasses of water
Research proves two things: even mild dehydration affects energy levels, and drinking three glasses of water has the opposite effect. When people did so as part of a UK study, their brain reaction times were 14 per cent faster afterwards. This is partly down to the fact that dehydration temporarily shrinks the brain.
Exercise for 20 minutes
Choose a moderate-intensity activity, like going for a jog, for the biggest effect. When you do so, and exercise for at least 20 minutes, you can increase your energy levels by 47 per cent, which is enough to improve your mood for the rest of the day. A single dose of exercise temporarily regulates the levels of hormones such as endorphins and leptin, as well as the neurotransmitter dopamine, to boost your motivation and energy.
The long-term strategy
Build and maintain long-lasting good energy levels by...
Exercising at least three times a week
After six weeks your energy levels will be 20 per cent higher. The energy boost is probably due to the long-term effect regular physical activity has on parts of the central nervous system that are involved in increasing energy and reducing feelings of fatigue, rather than increased fitness.
Going ‘green’ regularly
Spend 20 minutes a day in a natural setting, like a park or the beach, to consistently boost your energy. A New York-based study proved that just hanging round outside isn’t enough to boost energy levels on its own – it really is ‘nature’ that does the trick. So, what’s so great about trees? Spending time in a park decreases activity in brain
regions associated with negative thoughts and feelings – the same feelings that zap energy.
Topping up your vitamin C
Consume 110mg a day – almost 1.5 times the amount some national organisations recommend for good health – and after a month-and-a-half you’ll feel like you have more energy. Vitamin C activates a number of enzymes that boost levels of energy-related neurochemicals in the brain. Two kiwifruit, one cup of red capsicum and two oranges all contain at least 110mg of vitamin C.
Eating more fibre
There’s a clear connection between fibre-rich diets and energy: you’ll boost alertness and reduce fatigue by 10 per cent by eating enough fibre every day. Fibre bumps up the amount of friendly bacteria living in the digestive tract and keeps you feeling fuller for longer, both of which help to maintain energy levels. So how much fibre is enough? The NZ Nutrition Foundation recommends at least 25g a day, which it says is around 50 per cent more than many Kiwis currently eat.