Increase Your Energy Levels With These Caffeine-Free Ways

Glance around the office, the bus, even the movie theater, and you’re bound to see at least a few yawns and maybe even some sagging heads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lack of sleep is affecting everything from our memory to our ability to drive. But hitting the snooze button can seem difficult with so much to squeeze into every day.

There’s always coffee, but there are a couple of problems with that delicious beverage. The Huffington Post reports findings from the 2015 dietary guidelines indicating that as much as three to five cups of coffee per day is completely fine. But too much of the roasted beverage can lead to dependence that leaves you foggy when you forgo that morning cup, according to Smithsonian. On top of that, it can be an expensive habit.

Try something more healthful to give yourself a little bit of a boost. Tons of activities and little life changes lead to sky-high energy levels that will last all day. The next time you’re feeling sluggish, turn to one of these strategies to get you going. No coffee required.

1. Eat breakfast

Healthy breakfast with caffeine

Always eat a healthy breakfast. |

While many health professionals tout breakfast as the most important meal of the day, few seem to pay attention to that advice. According to a 2011 survey released by Kellogg, only 34% of adults in the U.S. regularly eat breakfast. That’s too bad, because those doctors aren’t making it up.

Breakfast is called breakfast for a reason: It’s the first time you’re eating after a prolonged period of digestion overnight. “By the time you wake up, your body and brain are demanding fresh fuel,” Harvard Medical School reports. The article goes on to suggest a number of options for breakfasts to boost energy, including Greek yogurt for protein and whole grains for fiber.

If having loads of energy isn’t reason enough to convert you, consider the other potential health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating a morning meal reduces hunger, which can prevent overeating later in the day. That means fewer total calories and a slimmer waistline.

2. Sweat it up

Man running and checking watch

Remember to get moving. | Thinkstock

Although everyone knows by now that breaking a sweat is good for health, USA Today reports about 79% of Americans don’t meet federal exercise regulations. That’s unfortunate, because exercise has scores of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. But it has implications for alertness as well.

Everyday Health reports that exercise boosts energy in a number of different ways. Physical activity releases endorphins, which help boost your mood and make you feel better in general. Exercising improves physical fitness so that everyday tasks are less draining. Getting your heart pumping can also improve your quality of sleep, so you’ll feel more refreshed when you wake in the morning.

Though many claim there simply isn’t enough time, that may not be true. Science Daily reveals findings from a Swedish study indicating employees who devoted some of their work time to exercise were able to maintain, or increase, their productivity. No more falling asleep slumped over your desk.

3. Cut out the alcohol

Friends having a drink together

Keep drinking to a minimum. |

Few things sound more appealing at the end of a long day than grabbing a cocktail or two at happy hour. You might want to reconsider that second drink if you’ve been feeling tired, though. Forbes explains consuming alcohol suppresses certain neurotransmitters, which leads to a “slowdown along your brain’s highways.” It also slows the part of the brain responsible for subconscious function, which can make you sleepy.

The long-term results might be even more important, though. Time reports that alcohol before bed leads to poor sleep quality, based on findings from the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Night after night of tossing and turning will leave you feeling completely run down, so consider going for something without the booze from time to time.

4. Drink more water

Man holding glass of water

You can’t go wrong with a glass of water. |

Our bodies are composed of mostly water, so it makes sense that quaffing enough of the refreshing drink is important for health. According to CBS News, though, as many as 75% of Americans don’t guzzle enough. Apart from being thirsty, dehydration can lead to other problems as well. The Atlantic reports results from a study finding that even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue and trouble concentrating.

When it comes to beverages, water is the clear winner. If you find yourself longing for more flavor, try adding halved limes or lemons to a glass. For something a little bit more unexpected, a few slices of cucumber and a couple of mint leaves will create a refreshing drink without all the added sugar found in bottled drinks.

5. Take a break

Man taking a break

Taking a break can help. |

When deadlines for projects loom, it can be tempting to go into overdrive and spend more time than ever glued to your desk. But this type of intense work may be doing more harm than good. The New York Times reports that “skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion,” while incorporating a little time away from the desk can do good for both productivity and creativity.

While most people think of breaks as 15-minute segments during the day, longer breaks in the form of vacation can be just as valuable. CNN reveals that 25% of Americans don’t take any vacation, and the average person doesn’t use all of their allotted days off. Why does that matter? Skipping time away from work is increasingly being linked to earlier deaths. The story goes on to say that many workers return to their jobs feeling better and more productive. So go ahead and take that trip to Hawaii.

6. Get busy

Couple in bed

Sex can help you feel more alert. |

Not at work, but in the bedroom. Having sex is more than just a way to connect with your significant other — it’s a great way to feel more alert for the day ahead. Sex is stress-reducing and helps you get more restful sleep so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed.

Not in a relationship? You may still be able to get some of the benefits by simply embracing friends and family. The Huffington Post reveals that giving hugs helps to release some of the same feel-good chemicals. A happier day is definitely a more energized day.

7. Cut back on the sugar

Sugar in a bowl

We all know how bad sugar is for us. |

Despite warnings to back off on the soda and candy, Americans are still eating way too much sugar. A whopping 16% of our daily calories come from added sugars, according to findings from the Food and Drug Administration and reported by WebMD. In addition to treats, the sweet stuff is sneaking into more unexpected foods like bread and ketchup.

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet can do everything from boost your energy levels to promote a healthy weight, according to SFGate. Foods based around sugar or other sweeteners might give you a little bit of a boost, but you’ll soon find yourself crashing and feeling more tired than ever. Focusing on foods rich in protein is a better way to go.

8. Laugh it up

Happy man who is smiling

Laughing is better for you than you think. |

Getting a few chuckles does more than put a smile on your face: It can make you feel more awake. WebMD reports some researchers suggest laughter can give the same benefits as exercise. Consider this permission to goof off, at least a little bit.