Here’s a little riddle for you: what quickly passes away over the course of each day, that crucial element of life that we all wish we had more of?
Though ‘time’ may have jumped to your mind, the answer I’m really looking for here is “energy.” Some of us start each day with seemingly boundless reserves, but the demands of our lives can quickly leave us feeling drained, sluggish and wishing we had the vigor to keep from crawling to the couch. Others of us wake up already drained of energy and the day ahead fills us with dread.
As time passes and age advances, most people find that their energy levels get lower and lower. Many turn to anti-aging treatments to combat this troublesome result of growing older, but many more may choose short-term solutions like caffeine-filled energy drinks or strong cups of coffee.
If you’re one of those people, you should know that this strategy is much like dumping a bucket of water on a burning building. Though it may temporarily quench the fires of fatigue, they will inevitably blaze back up again until everything comes crashing down.
Coffee and conventional energy drinks mask your fatigue by jacking you up on sky-high doses of caffeine and an amino acid called taurine. Sweet tastes and immediate results may make them tempting as a turbo boost, but grabbing a boost from one of these products will only get you further into energy debt. Think of it as a bank account that has already been drained of funds—your energy drink is the credit card that keeps you spending what you don’t have.
High doses of taurine and caffeine aren’t the only way to get a quick boost of much-needed energy. There are many natural ways to give yourself the extra kick you need to power through the day that don’t come in a tiny aluminum can or Styrofoam cup. To try some of the most invigorating ingredients around, check out some of the natural solutions below.
- Green tea. Though most teas contain some amount of caffeine, the dose in green tea is significantly lower than what you’ll find in any cup of coffee (or another kind of tea, for that matter). Still, that little kick can be enough to get you going again without a disappointing crash, while the warm flavor and scent can both soothe and invigorate you. As an added bonus, green tea contains compounds called flavonoids—powerful antioxidants that boost your immune system, prevent cancer, reduce bad cholesterol and fight high blood pressure.
- Superfruits. Densely nutritious foods may be one of the best sources of energy, and so-called “superfruits” rank among the best of all foods. The beneficial nutrition of fruits like acai, pomegranate and blueberry have long been touted in health-conscious circles, but the calories and natural sugars they contain can also give you a burst of energy in a convenient and delicious package. And just like green tea, these fruits contain the antioxidants your body needs to protect itself.
- Yerba mate. South Americans have long made claims of yerba mate’s benefits, especially as an energy booster. Much like tea, mate does contain caffeine, but at low doses. Many advocates claim that it can produce the energy boost of other caffeinated drinks without the jittery feelings and crash that accompany it. Though mate contains potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins B, A and C, studies of its true health impacts on humans are rare and inconclusive. As such, you should be careful not to consume too much—it has long been used as a medicine in South America, but may contribute to the development of esophageal, digestive and lung cancers in high quantities.
- Air. Yes, you heard me correctly. Fresh air, cheap and plentiful is one of the best energizers around. A few minutes of deep breathing to oxygenate your cells will leave you feeling both relaxed and mentally energized. Combine your breathing exercises with a walk outside and get the benefit of a little sunlight and healthier air than is recycling through your office. Don’t underestimate the deep breathing technique. It is one of the best.
Life can be enough to make anyone tired, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn to Mr. Coffee. Instead of a temporary pick-me-up, choose a natural solution that will help you keep the pep in your step all day long.