Next time you need quick energy, replace caffeine and refined sugar with natural energy boosters from herbs, food and lifestyle choices.
Many of us deal with an “afternoon slump” that leaves us tired, unfocused and in need of quick energy. Caffeine and refined sugar are the classic remedies, but only provide short bursts of energy followed by fatigue. So where can we find natural energy boosters without the unwanted side effects? The answer is in certain types of herbs, food and lifestyle choices.
Written by: Maggie Twaroski
Have you ever noticed that brushing your teeth right away in the morning helps you wake up? This is because most toothpaste contains mint, or more accurately, menthol. This energizing herb works with the brain to deliver a cooling, refreshing sensation which naturally increases alertness. Another benefit to mint is that it’s easy to find (or grow yourself!) and can be incorporated into a variety of foods and beverages. Next time you need a natural energy booster, pour a cup of peppermint tea, apply mint essential oils under the nose or simply toss some fresh mint leaves on a salad.
Rosemary isn’t just for cooking–it’s also for improving cognition and alertness. A study evaluating the effects of rosemary aromatherapy among office workers saw substantial improvement in the speed and accuracy of participants’ work performance. Incorporate rosemary into your daily routine by adding some essential oil drops to a diffuser, apply directly to the skin (a little goes a long way), cook with it or drink rosemary-infused water. This is an easy drink to make yourself. Simply add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary into a glass of cold water and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Strain before serving, and top with citrus fruit slices (these are optional, but delicious!).
Most of us turn to coffee for quick energy, but even one or two cups per day can create a dependence on caffeine that’s tough to break. For this reason, green tea is an excellent alternative to coffee, as it contains less caffeine but is still rejuvenating. This natural energy booster has a special ingredient called I-theanine–an amino acid that enhances brain waves to achieve alertness, concentration, and calmness. Combine that with the small dose of caffeine found naturally in green tea, and you have a perfect recipe for daytime energy and focus.
If green tea is a bit too bland compared to your usual cup of coffee, you can spice it up by adding mint and honey, or mixing it into a smoothie (check out our favorite smoothie recipes here). You can also make beverages from matcha–a type of green tea that’s slightly more bold in flavor, but has the same health benefits. There are many ways to prepare matcha including iced teas, smoothies, and even healthy desserts. Get creative!
Sugar (the right kind!)
Common sense will tell you to avoid sugary items like candy, baked goods, fruit juice and soda. But should you ban all types of sugar or starch? No! Sugars from whole fruit, whole grains and some dairy are natural energy boosters that also provide key nutrients like fiber, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and more. When possible, combine your sugar with a protein or healthy fat–this combination will help to mitigate a spike in blood sugar. Additionally, foods with a low glycemic index (those that are slow to release glucose in the body) will sustain your energy for longer.
Try introducing some of these low glycemic index foods into your day:
- Basmati rice
- Whole fruits
- Greek yogurt
Perhaps the easiest natural energy booster to add to your routine is water! It may seem strange that water is so crucial to maintaining energy–after all, water has no calories. But without water, your cells wouldn’t have the hydration they need to convert existing calories into energy. So even the most energizing meal still needs water to deliver its benefits. That’s why dehydration can manifest as sugar cravings–your cells don’t have enough water to metabolize sugar into energy, so it craves more sugar for a quick boost. You’d be surprised how much hydration can impact not only energy, but your mood and focus as well. Even an extra glass per day can have great effects.
When you’re feeling rundown, exercise may not be the first thing on your mind. But movement can give you quick energy by circulating blood and oxygen throughout the body. Cells need both in order to convert glucose into energy. Exercise also kick-starts your metabolism and releases endorphins which improves energy and focus. Even a short walk or stretching can make all the difference. Try adding in 5 minutes of movement per day to start with.
In many cases, low energy is a normal experience that can be treated with natural energy boosters like herbs, food and exercise. However, sometimes the cause for energy depletion can be deeply rooted and may require a holistic approach. Adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, sleep issues, mineral deficiencies, mental conditions, stress and diet are all potential causes of low energy. If you’re perpetually fatigued or have difficulty picking up energy levels, consult with Dr. Katie who will help you identify the cause and seek natural treatment.