Whether you’re stuck in a chair or standing on your feet for hours, these fatigue-zapping, energy-upping tricks will help you power through the workday and perform at your best.
Study after study backs up what you’ve been hearing your entire life: A healthy a.m. meal will jump-start your energy and help keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Just make sure your breakfast includes lean protein, which cranks your engine and helps you feel fuller for longer, explains New York City nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg, R.D., founder of Stephanie Middleberg Nutrition. Not a fan of traditional breakfasts? Get creative. Think: egg whites on a tortilla, low-fat yogurt and nuts, a soy milk smoothie or hummus on a whole-grain pita.
Just a few minutes outside — say the time it takes you to walk from the parking lot at your workplace to your desk or from your house to the nearest public transportation stop — can give you enough UV light exposure to increase levels of serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone that has a steadying, calming effect. A dose of direct sunshine also allows your body to synthesize vitamin D, says Middleberg: “Low vitamin D levels can lead to fatigue”.
A 2012 exercise motivation study out of Keele University in the U.K. found that athletes who listened to their favorite up-tempo music while training performed better than fellow competitors who didn’t get their tunes on. Fast beats and poppy melodies can have the same effect on your mental and physical performance, keeping you sharp and focused. Just make sure it’s music you enjoy (and of course, check that you have the okay from higher-ups to put in ear buds or turn up the speakers on the job).
An hour and a half into your workday — and every 90 minutes or so thereafter — give yourself a few minutes to walk around the office or chat with coworkers. Recent research shows that our bodies are hard-wired to feel tired every 90 minutes, and that the best way to ward off exhaustion and boost productivity is to give in and take a quick time-out.
Herbs and spices don’t just boost the flavor of your food, they’re proven to kick up your alertness and mood, too, says Middleberg. Consider it a good reason to order a hot curry dish from a Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant or to infuse your sandwich with basil leaves or cilantro. Even sprinkling cinnamon in your coffee will help you feel more focused — all with no extra calories, she adds.
If you can steal away from the workplace and head outside for a few minutes, do it: Connecting with nature makes people feel more revitalized, according to research done in Germany, Canada and the United States. The study authors found that people who spent just 20 minutes outside had significantly higher energy levels after they got a blast of nature.
If you can’t get away from your desk, there really is something to taking deep belly breaths to supercharge your energy levels. It’s one principle behind yoga: that shallow breathing prevents adequate oxygen from reaching your cells, leaving you feeling tired. But when you inhale slowly and fill your lungs deeply, you force more oxygen into your cells, triggering an energy surge. So the next time you feel like you’re flagging, give it a try: Sit or stand with your back straight, inhale slowly for five full seconds, then exhale for five seconds. Repeat two or three times.
The three o’clock slump isn’t just your imagination; energy levels really do dip in the middle of the afternoon. The best way to beat the drain is with a snack that contains solid protein and complex carbs, which will fill you up and provide quick energy without an energy crash soon after. A few ideas: microwavable oatmeal or peanut butter on veggie sticks [not sure exactly what these are, so I started to delete, but then decided maybe you want them in or whole-wheat crackers or, suggests Middleberg.
Every workplace has them — pessimistic coworkers who do a lot of complaining. Negative moods are contagious, studies show, and spending too much time listening to them can drag you down more than you realize.