6 Ways to Boost Your Energy

Everyone is familiar with all-out energy drain - that exhausted day (or night) when no matter how enticing that new movie, fabulous shoe sale, or friendly barbeque, we just can't psych ourselves up to go.
What can be harder to recognize is a low-grade energy drain. In this case, you may not necessarily feel the classic signs of exhaustion - like achy muscles or that all-over tired feeling. What you do experience is an increasing lack of get-up-and-go for many of the activities you used to love.

Take this quiz to find the best fixes to increase your energy.

These research-proven pick-me-ups will get you going and keep you charged, even if you've had too little sleep.

1. Pull Up the Shades, Pronto
Sunlight is a powerful natural signal that can shift your circadian rhythms from drowsy to alert, whether you're sleep-deprived or not. The light that hits at dawn, just before sunrise, stimulates special cells in your eyes, which then send a wake-up call to your brain's internal clock. In one Japanese study, 16 women reportedly were more awake after sitting near a sunny window for 30 minutes in the middle of the day than after sitting in a dimly lit lab. The boost lasted for an hour.

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2. Walk Around the Block
While it may seem as if moving about when you feel exhausted is the quickest route to feeling more exhausted, the opposite is true. Experts say that increasing physical activity - particularly walking - increases energy. In experiments conducted by Robert Thayer, PhD, at California State University, a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy, but the effects lasted up to two hours. And when the daily 10-minute walks continued for three weeks, overall energy levels and mood were lifted.

Try these easy excercises to boost your energy.

3. Have a Protein-Powered Breakfast
Toast alone or even a granola bar won't do it. You need protein to feel full and satisfied and to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster an all-carb meal triggers, which leaves you feeling tired and cranky. Try whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a banana; whole-grain cereal with low- or non-fat milk and fruit; low-fat plain yogurt with berries, granola, and a handful of nuts.

Healthy breakfast can still be tasty. Here's how.

4. Have a Smarter Caffeine Strategy
The best way to thwart the dreaded afternoon slump is to drink two ounces of coffee (about six to eight sips) every hour from mid-morning until early afternoon, says James K. Wyatt, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "Caffeine blocks adenosine, a sleep-inducing brain chemical that accumulates throughout the day," says Wyatt. "If you drink all your coffee first thing in the morning, the boost will wear off just when you need it most." But do cut it off by early afternoon, since drinking too late in the day will interfere with your ability to fall asleep that night. Add more energy by making it a low-fat latte-the protein has sustaining power for extra energy, and a little treat!

5. Add a Wake-Up Spritz
In one Japanese study, volunteers who washed their faces after napping felt more awake than those who just took a nap. If you don't want to mess up your makeup, try washing your hands in cold water and then patting some drops on the back of your neck.

You can still look great on little sleep. These tips help.

6. Drink More Water
If you're dehydrated, you'll feel more blah, and you may function less well, too. A small Swiss study found that when volunteers were deprived of water (in this case, for 24 hours), they were nearly twice as tired and one-third less alert. They also had to work twice as hard at a series of cognitive tests. It's unlikely you'd be that dehydrated, but to stay on par, sip frequently. Don't gulp, though - your body can't absorb too much at a time.


TELL US: What do you do when you need an energy boost?

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.