As college students, many of us often find ourselves crawling out of bed to our coffee pots, stopping by the nearest café in between classes for a much-needed espresso or surrounding ourselves in the library with a cluster of empty paper cups. However, this wild coffee dependency may not be doing us much good (no matter how enticing that cappuccino looks. Here are some ways to bring up your energy level without indulging your caffeine addiction.
1. Water, water, water
Swap out your morning Starbucks for a refreshing glass of H20. The water will not only keep you hydrated, but also kick-start your energy by delivering a surge of oxygen to your system.
“Your body is about 60-70% water, so dehydration can make you feel fatigued,” says Christina Chiu, dietitian at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
“I drink lots and lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day,” says Kayla Lewkowicz, a recent grad working at a Cambridge start-up. “You really have to listen to your body!”
Wellness expert Peggy Hall recommends that you add fruit slices to your water. “When you put in the slice of fruit, all of the vitamins and minerals that are in the fruit—in terms of your electrolytes like sodium and potassium that keep you hydrated—all of those are going be absorbed in the water,” says Hall. “Now when you’re drinking the water, you’re hydrating yourself better so your brain is going to work better.” Keep chugging that water all day to boost your energy. Your body, your mind and your wallet will thank you.
2. Straighten up, brighten up
Whether you are working at a desk job or studying at your dorm room desk, hunching over a table can be incredibly draining.
Surprisingly enough, just the way you are sitting can determine how energized you are. “You need to sit up straight,” says Hall. “Sitting hunched over is going to zap your energy. You can’t breathe because the lungs are collapsed.” It’s time to make perfect posture a priority.
The light coming from your desk lamp may also be contributing to your midday yawns. According to Hall, compact fluorescent light (CFL) gives off an undetectable flickering. “It’s fatiguing to the eyes and fatiguing to the brain,” she says. Replace the bulb with an LED and feel much more awake!
3. Smart snacking
When the late afternoon rolls around and you start to fade, many turn to a snack for a caffeine-free boost. However, munching on chips or high-sugar granola bars won’t give you a sustainable, filling source of energy.
“Pair carbohydrates with protein when you eat,” says Chiu. “Putting protein together with a carb ensures that you not only get energy after eating but that it will still be there to sustain you a few hours later.”
“I make peanut butter energy bites that I refrigerate and take to work. It's honey, peanut butter, flax seeds and chocolate chips, rolled in oats,” says Alaina Leary, a graduate student at Emerson College. “I bring them to the office and eat them when I'm tired.”
Sydnee Lyons, a second year graduate student at Florida Atlantic University, notes that the first meal of the day is the key to her energy upkeep. “What's really been working is having a good breakfast before I do anything else,” she says. “I usually have oatmeal or toast, with a homemade fruit bowl and smoothie on the side.”
Hall suggests a nutrition-packed smoothie. “The green smoothie is my number one go-to for energy throughout the day,” she says. “Anything that’s green that you eat is full of oxygen in the form of chlorophyll…it’s basically stored energy.”
4. Catch some ZzZs
Being the busy collegiettes that we are, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always an option. When you feel your eyes getting drooping in the late afternoon, opt for a quick midday nap.
“Generally less than 45 minutes is suggested [for a nap],” says Chiu. “This provides your brain the rest it needs to spring back into action. Longer naps will make you more tired because of the different stage of sleep you’ll be waking up from.
“I'm lucky enough to work at a company that encourages quick naps if that's what you need,” says Kayla. “I take advantage of [them] usually once a week.”
5. Get moving
Although it’s pretty counterintuitive, the reason you are exhausted AF could actually be because you haven’t gotten your blood flowing in hours.
“Getting up and taking a walk always helps! It gets your energy flowing and refreshes you,” says Rachel Petty, a senior at James Madison University. Alaina agrees, saying, “I recommend taking a walk, especially if you can get outside even for 15-20 minutes.”
“Energy production involves the mitochondria in your body,” says Chiu. “Getting more exercise sends signals to your body to make more mitochondria, which in turn helps your body make more energy.” She recommends heading outside, as sunshine is known to boost serotonin, your body’s natural happy hormone.
The next time you find yourself reaching for the coffee pot, try out these some of these natural tips to pump up your energy. You may be able to finally say goodbye to long lines waiting for a double espresso and caffeine-withdrawal headaches!