Sometimes, no matter how much sleep you seem to get, you just can’t shake that tired feeling. Stress, poor eating, poor exercise habits, and a web of other daily issues can all play a role in whether or not you’re dragging.
If you’re in need of an instant pick-me-up, we’ve got you covered. Try these 13 different strategies for beating that “blah” feeling to see which work for you.
1. Start a sleeping ritual. It’s tempting to want to “catch up” on sleep and snooze all Saturday, but you may be doing more harm than good.
“Sleeping in on the weekend disrupts the body’s natural rhythm, and makes it more difficult to get good sleep during the week,” says Randy Wexler, M.D., a family physician with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. So, if you need to wake up at 7:30 a.m. for work, set your alarm for that time on the weekend, too.
2. Try deep-breathing. There’s a reason we tell people to take a deep breath when confronted with a stressor. “Healthy breathing enhances the body’s vital energy supply. The breath should be like a wave,” says Joan Pagano, a certified personal trainer in New York City and author of Strength Training Exercises for Women. “As you inhale from the belly, it rises out of the abdomen and flows up through the ribs and the chest. On the exhale, empty the upper chest, then downward through the ribs before expelling from the lower lungs by using a slight contraction of the abdomen.”
How does it work on your energy exactly? “Breathing deeply slows the number of breaths per minute by half, enhances respiratory efficiency, minimizes cardiac output and conserves vital energy,” Pagano says. Woosa.
3. Choose spinach. A spinach-and-berry salad for lunch might be the equivalent of an afternoon energy-boost, says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N. “Researchers found eating about 300 grams of spinach at once helps the body become more efficient at using oxygen to power muscles,” she says. “Scientists believe the high amount of nitrates in Spinach is the reason behind it.” So, nosh away.
4. Skip your evening drink. That glass of wine before bed might not be such a great idea. “Don’t drink alcohol within three to four hours of going to bed,” Dr. Wexler says. “Alcohol actually has negative effects on the body’s sleep cycle.”
5. Opt for eggs. Eggs are a breakfast staple, and you couldn’t choose a better way to wake your body up in the morning. “Egg yolks are naturally rich in B-vitamins, which are responsible for converting food into energy,” says Moskovitz. “Plus, the vitamin D helps maintain strong bones.” Omelet it is, then!
6. Eat lean beef. First things first: red meat is not the enemy, says Moskovitz. “While some cuts can be loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat, there are still plenty of options out there that are considered a lean protein food source,” she says. “Plus, lean red meat contains one of the best sources of blood-pumping iron and zinc, nutrients that are both critical for enhancing energy and immunity.”
Look for ground beef that’s 95% lean, or grass-fed beef (which tends to be leaner and packs some healthy omega-3 fatty acids for good measure).
7. Wake up with a bang. A high-energy workout can lead to a high-energy day. Pagano suggests trying High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in the morning for a boost. “Pick any cardio activity, like jumping jacks, jumping rope, running, cycling or rowing,” she says. “Warm up first at an easy pace for three minutes, then sprint all out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then repeat for a total of eight times.”
Four minutes of HIIT will give you an endorphin high, increase your aerobic fitness and burn off 50 calories. Win, win, win.
8. Go to bed in serenity. If you tend to watch TV before bed or listen to music, you might be doing yourself a disservice in the rest department. “Make your bedroom conducive to sleep so that there are no distractions,” Wexler says. “No TV or reading in bed. Make the bedroom a cool quiet environment. If necessary, white noise like a humming fan can be helpful.”
9. Grab a skim latte. Whether you’re headed into work or need an afternoon boost, a skim latte can be your pick-me-up secret. “A little caffeine can go a long way,” Moskovitz says. “Proven to be effective for improving exercise performance, a cup of coffee might serve as the perfect pre-workout beverage, too.”
On top of that, the skim milk adds bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D, while also providing a few extra carbohydrates–the absolute best source of instant fuel for your body.
10. Try some yoga flow. Some gentle body movements can give you a lift in the morning, so wake up with a yoga flow. Pagano suggests the mere basics: downward dog into Chaturanga pose. “It’s full-body movement that combines stretching with body weight strengthening,” she explains. “You release tension from the muscles as you stretch your hamstrings, back, chest and arms in downward dog. Then as you shift your body forward into plank position, bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor and press up; you are basically doing a modified push-up, strengthening the core, chest, shoulders and arms.”
Reverse the motion back into downward dog, and then repeat the sequence several times to limber up and get rid of tension. “This increases circulation throughout the body, as well as blood flow to the brain,” says Pagano. A great, easy wake-up call.
11. Nosh on edamame. This Japanese staple is an energy-enhancing superfood, too. “Soybeans are not only good with sushi,” says Moskovitz, insisting you can snack on these anytime. “High in all essential energy-producing nutrients–particularly B-vitamins, copper and phosphorous–edamame delivers exercise-friendly carbs, fiber and protein for muscles.” Just one cup of shelled soybeans will give you 8 grams of fiber to fill you up and 17 grams of protein to power you up.
12. Snack on an orange. Convenient, sweet and versatile, oranges are the perfect way to wake up in the morning–or whenever you need a kick. “Oranges pack tons of vitamin C to help fight fatigue-causing free radicals, and increase the absorption of iron,” says Moskovitz. “Oranges, like most fruit, are also a carbohydrate source, which provides fuel that body uses the same way as a car uses gasoline.” Can’t ask for more than that.
13. Change your workout time. If you tend to work out in the evening after dinner, waking up earlier in the morning or hitting the gym right after you exit the office could help you have a more restful night. “Don’t exercise three to four hours before bedtime, as this tends to activate the body, making it more difficult to fall asleep,” Wexler says. If you’re tossing and turning, your workout could be why.
Here’s another easy way to feel less tired. Stimulate your senses with the sound of music. Listen to some upbeat tunes during your morning routine and throughout the day. Choose anything from jazz, hip hop or even talk radio.