It’s mid-afternoon. You didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before and you’re struggling to get through the tasks that must be done before 5 p.m. So you reach for your secret stash of energy drinks, knowing they’re not very good for you but also knowing that you’re not going to make it through the day without a quick energy boost.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Energy drinks are the most popular non-alcoholic beverage in the U.S., and with our busy, demanding lifestyles, it’s not hard to see why. But there are healthier ways to get energy. If you’re looking for ways to cut back on quick energy fixes that rely on high amounts of sugar and caffeine, this list is for you.
Healthy energy drink alternatives
If a daily pick-me-up in beverage form is working for you, why not start by trying some healthier alternatives? Unicity has a few drinks that fill this need:
Unimate: A yerba mate drink packed with chlorogenic acids (the feel-good elements you get from coffee) that supports your cognitive function and endurance throughout the day.
Matcha Energy: Unicity’s unique chi-oka blend helps increase energy and concentration, without the crash that accompanies most traditional energy drinks.
Never underestimate the power of a simple glass of water, either. Not getting enough fluids can lead to fatigue, so staying hydrated—with water—is a simple way to ward off lethargy.
Adjust your diet
Food is one of the best, healthy ways to get energy—as long as it’s the right kind of food. Specifically, foods with a low-glycemic index.
This means whole foods that have a higher proportion of complex carbs, like leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains. A food high in simple carbohydrates like a candy bar will burn off that energy quickly, but a low-carb snack will absorb sugars more slowly, giving you more sustained energy levels for longer, without the crash that often comes after a sugary snack or drink. So look for foods that have a higher proportion of carbs defined as “dietary fiber” rather than “added sugars.”
In summary: avoid simple, refined carbs (found primarily in sugary foods and many processed, convenience foods). Focus instead on natural whole foods that contain higher fiber and protein content—these foods won’t cause that sugar crash and will support longer-term, more consistent energy. A few ideas:
Fruit (opt for whole fruit over fruit juice)
Probably the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling sluggish is get up and move around. But it’s actually one of the most effective ways to quickly revive your energy. If you start to feel yourself nod off, get up and walk around the block or building.
Now that you have a quick-fix solution for when you need an immediate burst of energy, let’s turn our attention to the ways exercise helps you maintain energy long term. Many athletes talk about the exercise high they feel after a good workout. That’s because exercise releases endorphins, hormones that are released when we’re physically active. There’s no room for sluggishness once those endorphins are flowing.
Exercise also supports cardiovascular health. A strong heart means more endurance for your daily activities and less of a likelihood that you’ll feel drained at the end of the day. And don’t forget the role exercise plays in quality sleep. More sleep means more energy and focus for the next day.
Use naps to your advantage
Most people fall into one of two camps when it comes to naps. One side swears by the short afternoon power nap, while the other side says to avoid naps at all costs.
Both arguments hold some weight, and people have seen benefits with both practices. It comes down to what works best for you. Do you often have trouble falling asleep at night? You might be better off avoiding naps. Are you often tired or unmotivated in the afternoons, especially after lunch? A 30-minute power nap could be the quick reset you need to recharge your energy for the rest of the day.
One thing nappers and non-nappers tend to agree on? Don’t sleep for more than an hour. If you nap too long, you’ll likely have a harder time waking up and getting back into the groove of things. Plus, long naps, while satisfying at the time, will most likely mean a restless night awaits you.
Reduce your workload
All the energy boosters in the world will not be able counteract the effects of having too much to do for too long. We all go through our busy periods, but if that “busy period” becomes the norm, your physical and mental health will start to suffer. One of the first signs is chronic tiredness.
If you feel like you’re tired all the time, take a moment to jot down the tasks you have to do. Then see if any of those can be eliminated or delegated, or if there is a more efficient way to complete them. This is something you may need to do regularly—say, once a quarter—to make sure you’re not overworking yourself.
Whenever you have the opportunity, let the great outdoors recharge you. Whether this means sitting in the sun, going for a walk, or working in a garden, the outdoors can revive you—both mentally and physically—in ways an energy drink can’t.
Healthy habits lead to more energy
We all want to have the energy to work hard and play hard. Establishing healthy habits, like those listed above, is the best way to get the energy you need to sustain your lifestyle. Not only will you have more energy more consistently, but your overall health will benefit as well.