The Richmond Register

December 8, 2013

Boost your energy without caffeine

By Dr. Jack Rutherford
Special to the Register

RICHMOND —

When your energy level starts nose-diving in mid-afternoon, do you reach for a cup of java or that canned energy drink for help?

If so, you’re like a growing number of American men and women. In one recent USDA report, women in their 30s consume about 165 milligrams of caffeine each day, but by age 50, the daily average climbs to 225 milligrams.

While the cup of daily coffee isn’t bad ― the antioxidants in java are good for you ― a half dozen cups a day can be. Not only that, it’s like putting a bandage on the problem. Instead, combat your fatigue with these energy boosters.

Enjoy a sweet whole-grain snack.

Avoid those “great white hazards.” White flour gives you an initial boost, but then you crash soon after.

Try whole grains instead for longer lasting energy. Breakfast is the prime time for packing them in.

When you front-load your good carbs, you set up your metabolism for the whole day. But be careful though not to overload.

A study in the journal Appetite found that more isn’t better. Those who had six servings of whole grains felt sluggish afterwards because of the surge of serotonin which makes you feel drowsy.

Chew gum.

Gum isn’t just for fresh breath. It can also refresh your body. In a 2012 study, people who chewed gum for 15 minutes felt more alert than those who didn’t.

“Chewing gum increases heart rate, which increases blood flow to the brain,” said study author Andy Smith.

Mint-flavored gum seems to be best because it stimulates your nerve fibers. 

Turn up the lights.

Bright light awakens your brain. A 2013 study from the Lighting Research Center in New York found that bright light increases alertness. In particular, blue light was associated with more of a calm alertness than some other colors.

Walk around the office or up the stairs.

There’s no mystery here. Pumping those arms and legs increase heart rate and blood flow.

Learn something new.

When feeling sluggish, the natural tendency is to switch to simpler, mindless tasks like checking email, Facebook or making a to-do list. However, none of these tasks actually increase energy levels, according to a University of Michigan study.

What will energize and engage your brain is learning something new like a new language, reading a scientific article or listening to a short work-related podcast.

Sing a song.

Music is great for changing moods, especially up-tempo, fast music. And it can be energizing if you sing along.

Researchers in London found that singing solo increased arousal levels and decreased tension as much as a cardio workout. Bonus points for standing up while you belt out that tune. Standing up provides an instant surge of energy. 

Take up a hobby, an active one.

Studies show that active hobbies, like gardening, are more energizing than sedentary ones, like reading.

Doing something you enjoy is one of the best ways to sustain healthy energy. And there seems to be something about digging in the dirt that is especially stimulating.

Skin-to-skin contact with soil can fight oxidative stress in your body which can energize you.

That’s why you should ditch your gloves and become one with the earth.

Massage your ears.

This one’s a little out there, but applying pressure to the outer rim of your ear may help invigorate your body. It has to do with “acupressure meridians,” which have to do with energy pathways.

Massaging the ear unites the meridians and gets the energy flowing. Simply pinch the rim of each ear between your thumb and forefinger and rub up and down for 10 to 30 seconds.