By Kristen Rogers
An hour after you’ve gotten out of bed, you still feel sleepy and haven’t started to tackle your big to-dos for the day. You want some pep in your step, but drinking coffee could makes you so anxious you feel like you could scale the walls. Or perhaps you’re trying to kick a caffeine habit?
Many people are stressed these days, and sometimes they want to feel energized but not nervous or overwhelmed, said Nancy Z. Farrell Allen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
For some people, coffee can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea, Farrell Allen added. Some people with cardiac issues might not drink coffee if it increases their heart rate or blood pressure.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is still the best way to ensure you rest well through the night and feel more stable energy during the day. But if you’re working on improving your sleep regimen or still need a little help, here are six quick ways to wake up without relying on that morning brew.
- Do a 5-minute yoga routine
Doing a brief yoga session in the morning can significantly improve energy levels, according to Stephanie Mansour, a CNN wellness and fitness contributor and women’s weight-loss coach.
You’ll wake up your body by improving circulation and loosening up stiffness or soreness, and jump-start your brain by “creating feel-good endorphins from your yoga movements,” Mansour said.
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Any movements that get your arms up over your head, stretch the backs of your legs or speed up your heart rate will help to increase energy, Mansour added. “I focus on stretching the chest and then the back and lower body to improve circulation and energy.”
That’s what Farrell Allen does, too.
“Waking up in the morning in my youth, my mother would sometimes notice my sluggishness and say, ‘OK, 10 jumping jacks to wake you up,'” Farrell Allen said. She still starts her day with exercise after hydrating.
- Go outdoors
Waking up your body and mind through movement is “much more natural and long-lasting than an energy boost from coffee,” Mansour said, and doing this outdoors can double the potential benefits.
“Cardio and getting your heart rate up … serves as an energy boost,” Mansour said via email. “A morning walk can also be peaceful and give you a change in perspective because you’re seeing different things — the sky, trees, nature, etc. Walking outside boosts your energy because of the temperature — even if it’s hot instead of cold out, it wakes up the body.”
- Play some upbeat music
Listening to upbeat music in the morning could give you some pep in your step, and especially if you do so while exercising.
Music with a high tempo equating to around 170 heartbeats per minute can boost mood before exercise, lessen perceptions of pain and fatigue during a workout, and improve performance and endurance, according to a 2020 study.
Not sure how fast that is? Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is 171 beats per minute while Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” is 173 BPM and Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” is 199 BPM. Feel more like a Swiftie? Taylor Swift’s “Untouchable” is 200 BPM.
- Hydrate for health
After a night’s sleep, your body tends to lack hydration, which is “important for many brain and body functions,” Farrell Allen said. When your organs — such as kidneys — have to function in an insufficiently hydrated environment, there is a greater cost in energy, according to a 2011 review on water, hydration and health.
“I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is have a 10-ounce glass of water from the tap or slightly warmed with a twist of lemon,” Farrell Allen said. “It is my go-to to help me start the day.” (Add to that her morning exercise, and she’s set.)
- Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy — the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils for therapeutic inhalation, massage or baths — can work for some people, Farrell Allen said. Or just change up your soap. “Shower with an energizing body wash such as citrus,” she said.
You can also bring some coffee into your life through other products, she said. “There is a coffee-scented body wash on the market that I enjoy using in the morning only. You could (also) light a coffee-scented candle during breakfast.”
- Snack smart
A meal made of protein, healthy fats, and complex, fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates releases sugar to the blood at a slower rate, supporting longer-lasting energy.
This type of breakfast is what Farrell Allen has suggested for her patients looking for a morning energy boost.
“Typically, mine includes low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, topped with berries, granola and walnuts,” she said.
“My family loves my pumpkin bread and zucchini bread recipes. I make them ahead of time for quick grabs in the morning.” For a protein boost, Farrell Allen also includes either an egg, an egg substitute, cheese slices or cottage cheese.
Farrell Allen’s other protein- and fiber-rich breakfast ideas include:
• Avocado over whole-wheat toast (with an egg if desired), sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning
• Cinnamon brown rice pudding with walnuts, which can be made in advance and reheated quickly
• Farro breakfast bowls, which could be made sweet and filling by adding ground cinnamon, apples or berries, or pecans or walnuts. Or go the savory route with a Mediterranean-style bowl including tomatoes, olives, cucumber and feta; or a bowl with eggs, avocado and spinach.