Are You Sure You Want to Buy OTC Stimulants? What to Do Instead For Energy

Modern life is a balancing act, and all those competing priorities can leave you feeling depleted and, frankly, exhausted. Before you shell out money for over-the-counter stimulants for energy, it’s worth making some lifestyle tweaks first. Improving your sleep, incorporating certain foods into your diet, or trying out natural energy supplements might be all you need to fuel your body and your brain, helping you power through your day.

Read on to learn about the five things to do now to increase your energy naturally.

5 Natural Ways to Increase Energy

1. Limit simple carbs

If you’re feeling lethargic and experiencing brain fog, the first place to start is with your diet. Think about how you feel after you’ve eaten a lunch high in refined carbohydrates and low on vegetables, say, a linguine alfredo. You probably feel ready for a nap pretty soon afterwards. That’s because simple carbohydrates have been stripped of fiber and therefore digest quickly, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar, followed by a sugar crash that can leave you fatigued and sluggish. A diet high in simple carbs also puts you at risk for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.[1]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23786819/ [2]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23803881/ [3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30638909/

Simple carbs to avoid:[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459280/

  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice
  • Table sugar
  • White flour

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, digest more slowly because their fiber and nutrient content remains intact. The result? Your energy levels could stay more stable and consistent throughout the day.

The best complex carbs to add to your diet are:

  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats
  • Legumes
  • Fruit, particularly raspberry, apples, and bananas

Make sure you also include high-quality protein, like organic poultry, grass-fed beef and lamb, and wild-caught fish — a wide variety of nutrient-dense, low-inflammatory foods keep your gut healthy. When you have a good balance of healthy gut bacteria, your body more easily digests food and eliminates toxins that weigh you down, helping your body generate more natural energy.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601187/

2. Get more sleep

This is an obvious one, but sleeping is so integral to feeling energized that it bears repeating. When you sleep, your body cycles through various sleep stages — deep sleep or slow-wave sleep is the most important stage for energy production. During slow-wave sleep, levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)— the primary energy currency of cells— increases, powering restorative processes in the brain.[6]https://www.jneurosci.org/content/30/26/9007 You wake up feeling more refreshed and mentally alert than if you remained in the lighter stages of sleep during the night.

Ways to sleep longer and better:

  • Reduce blue light before bed. You know the feeling— you lie in bed scrolling through your phone, and then struggle to nod off. Blame the blue light emitting from your device. Too much of this junk light disrupts your brain’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime.[7]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25535358/ [8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/ Shut down all electronic devices at least two hours before going to sleep. Make your bedroom a screen-free zone, and switch your phone, tablet, and laptop to “nighttime mode,” which reduces the blue light emitted by your screen.
  • Supplement with magnesium. Studies show that this mineral activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body relax [9]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27933574/ and balances melatonin in the body.[10]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12030424/ Low levels of magnesium have also been linked to sleep issues and insomnia. [11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23969766/ Take 600-800mg of melatonin a day, or soak in an Epsom salt bath before bed.
  • Limit caffeine later in the day. That cup of coffee or tea latte is a great way to boost energy and increase focus in the morning. But consuming it later in the day can mess with your sleep.
  • Caffeine lingers in your system for hours — after four to six hours, half of the caffeine you consumed is still in your system.​​[12]https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much A good rule of thumb: Have your last cup of coffee or tea before noon and switch to decaf coffee or herbal tea after that.

3. Take natural energy supplements

Natural energy supplements can power your brain and fuel your cells to give you energy all day long. Here are some of the best supplements for optimal energy:

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are herbal medicines that can help your body break down stress hormones more efficiently. Studies show adaptogens may also increase mental function, boost energy, improve mood, and more.[13]https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/3/1/188

One of the best adaptogens for energy is ashwagandha, which improves stress resistance by regulating cortisol levels in the body. [14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/ Goji berry is another powerful adaptogen — one study showed drinking 120 ml of goji berry juice a day for two weeks increased energy levels.[15]https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2008.0004 Some research suggests Rhodiola rosea, another adaptogen, may boost physical performance and lower mental fatigue.[16]https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-12-70

 

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Nootropics

Nootropics refers to natural and synthetic substances that may enhance mental function. These cognitive enhancers have exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. If you aim to improve mental focus and increase endurance, try L-theanine, an amino acid that is found naturally in green and black tea.[17]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18006208/ It’s generally best to take a supplement that combines various nootropics to supercharge the benefits. To discover the right nootropics formula for you, take this quiz to take your energy to the next level.

Vitamin B12

If you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, you may want to consider supplementing with vitamin B12. Your body needs this vitamin to convert carbohydrates and fat into energy.[18]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/ When you’re deficient in B12, you may feel tired and weak. Learn more about the energy-boosting benefits of vitamin B12.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a powerful antioxidant that helps produce energy in your cells. Your body makes CoQ10 naturally, but CoQ10 levels start to decline as you age.[19]https://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/8/2/28 To up your levels of CoQ10, consume more organ meats (especially beef heart), fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables and avocados. Or grab a supplement— the standard dose is 90-200 mg a day.[20]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19096117/

4. Exercise

It might seem counterintuitive— expend energy to get energy, but it’s true. When you exercise, you increase your mitochondria, the structures in your cells that generate energy.[21]https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/JP278853 The more mitochondria you have, the more energized you’ll feel.[22]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684129/

In an analysis of 70 studies, more than 90% of the research showed that sedentary people who exercised regularly reported feeling less fatigued compared to those who didn’t work out.[23]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17073524/ On average, the improvement in energy levels was greater than stimulant drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Physical activity also increases your insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to more easily store glucose (aka sugar) in your muscle cells and use that sugar for energy.[24]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10683091/

Aim for a mix of aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running, or swimming with some interval or resistance training.[25]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24730354/ You don’t need much to feel the energy-boosting benefits: One study found that participants who engaged in 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise aerobic exercise three times a week saw a 20% increase in energy levels and a 65% decrease in fatigue.[26]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18277063/

5. Meditate

Stress can really sap your energy levels. Mental and physical stress causes your body to pump out more cortisol, the stress hormone, which can leave you feeling worn out and fatigued.

Meditation has long been used to relax the body and calm the mind. Studies show a regular meditation practice can lower mental stress and reduce stress-related health problems.[27]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24395196/ A meta-analysis of nearly 1,295 adults found that transcendental meditation lowered anxiety, particularly in those with high levels of anxiety.[28]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24107199/

For beginners, guided meditations are a great place to start. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations specifically aimed at lowering stress, enhancing mental focus, and increasing energy. Or, you can simply find a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Start with five minutes a day and slowly increase the time as you get the hang of it.

By implementing these lifestyle changes, you should start to feel more energetic and mentally alert in no time. And targeted supplements can give you an extra edge.

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