8 Tips for All-Day Energy

When does your energy flag? Don’t tell us—we know. We sifted through the latest research on sleep, metabolism, stress, and chronobiology to identify the times when you’re most vulnerable to fatigue—and, with expert help, devised a foolproof plan to help you combat it. These eight strategies ensure you will wake up refreshed and recharged, remain alert throughout the day, and wind down just in time for a good night’s sleep. Never feel draggy with these fatigue-fighting tricks:

1. When to Wake Up

Instead of: Sleeping in
Try: Getting up at the same time and bathing yourself in light
This enables your circadian rhythms, which are governed by your body’s “master clock” in the hypothalamus gland, to stay in synch with the 24-hour day. In the absence of light, your body’s sleep-wake cycle wants to delay by an average of 12 minutes every day and work on a 24.2-hour rhythm. (Scientists don’t understand why but think it may relate to the sun’s seasonal shifts.) “That means your body wants to keep pushing your bedtime to later,” says Mariana Figueiro, PhD, program director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center. “But if you let that happen and still have to get up at the same time every day, you’re going to be tired.”

To keep your circadian rhythms in time with the 24-hour day (when they get out of whack, you feel like you’re jet-lagged), aim for 30 minutes of light first thing, even on a Saturday when you’ve decided to sleep in. An easy way to get it is to go for a half-hour stroll outdoors or have your breakfast by a sunny window. If your schedule requires you to rise when it’s dark outside, crank up the lights indoors—every little bit may help.

2. What to Eat

Instead of: Loading up on carbs
Try: Limiting them to make room for more protein
Although they can provide a burst of “quick burn” fuel, carbohydrates are an energy drain if you consume too many. Women who reduced the amount of carbohydrates in their diets and raised the amount of protein reported feeling more energetic in recent research done by Donald K. Layman, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois.

Keep your daily intake of healthy carbs below 150 g, best apportioned like this: five servings of vegetables; two servings of fruit; and three or four servings of starchy (preferably whole grain) carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. For instance:
Breakfast: one slice of bread or half of an English muffin, one egg, a slice each of ham and cheese, and a glass of milk
Lunch: open-faced sandwich of one slice of bread, 2 to 3 ounces of meat, and 1 ounce of cheese; two servings of vegetables; and an apple
Dinner: 6 ounces of lean meat, three servings of vegetables, one serving of fruit, and one or two servings of starchy carbs

3. When to Drink Coffee

Instead of: Downing your joe first thing
Try: Having a latte later in the day
That’s when you’ll really need it. Caffeine keeps you operating at a high level by blocking the effects of adenosine, a sleep-inducing brain chemical that accumulates as the day wears on. By the time adenosine builds up to the point where you start feeling sleepy—generally, late in the afternoon—the effects of your morning caffeine will have worn off, says James K. Wyatt, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center. “Having 1/2 to 1 cup of coffee or its caffeine equivalent during the late afternoon, when the pressure to sleep is high, will keep you energized,” he says. But if you’re highly sensitive to caffeine’s effects, push your break back to early afternoon so you don’t have difficulty falling asleep at night.

4. Time Your Meals

Instead of: Grazing all day long
Try: Eating your meals at the same time every day
Your body’s caloric needs are closely tied to its other daily rhythms, including when you get up and go to bed and when you expend the most energy (during your late-day fitness walk, for example). “What will make you tired is if your body expects a 7 a.m. breakfast and a 12 p.m. lunch and you skip one of those,” says Layman. “Chaotic eating leads to greater hunger and overeating.”

Prepare breakfast the night before so you’re sure to start the day with a boost even if you’re running late. Pack a lunch to take to work in case you can’t get away from your desk midday. On the weekend, make and freeze several meals that you can quickly heat up so you and your family eat dinner at the same time every night.

5. Relieve Stress

Instead of: Meditating for 20 minutes
Try: Shorter, more frequent sessions
“Even in the span of 3 minutes, meditation can decrease the stress hormones that tense your muscles and constrict your blood vessels,” says Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist at UCLA and author of Positive Energy. “It increases endorphins too.” Quick time-outs throughout your workday are also easier to fit into a busy schedule than a longer one at day’s end.

Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. (“In a busy office, that may even mean going into the bathroom,” says Orloff.) Sit down and close your eyes. Listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale, and when thoughts intrude, imagine that they’re like clouds floating by in the sky. Then visualize something or someone who makes you happy. It could be someplace you’ve been on vacation, someone you love, or something you love doing (like lounging in a fragrant bath).

6. Beat an Afternoon Slump

Instead of: A power nap
Try: A walk outdoors
Just as it does in the early morning, light later in the day may blunt an afternoon energy dip, which often comes on like clockwork. “Because of the way the homeostatic and circadian systems interact, most people feel a lull 17 to 18 hours after they went to bed the previous night,” says Figueiro. Step outside into revitalizing sunlight for a short walk. Vary your routine by taking a different path every day, doing a short errand, or catching up with a friend on your cell phone. If you can’t get outside, plant yourself next to a window, open the shades wide, and look out.

7. Get Pumped before a Workout

Instead of: A light snack
Try: Music
Exercise is a prime energy booster, but what if you’re too tired for an antifatigue workout? Put in your earphones while you lace up your walking shoes: Music will help you forget you’re whipped. Volunteers who worked out for 30 minutes while listening to tunes felt they weren’t exerting themselves as much as when they exercised without music, Japanese researchers reported in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

Load your iPod or mix CD with your favorite up-tempo tunes. If you’re the literary type, an audiobook can also help distract you from feelings of fatigue.

8. Unwind before Bed

Instead of: Catching up on Facebook status updates
Try: Reading a book or watching TV
“Studies show that very bright light—the equivalent to outdoor early morning light—will increase brain activity,” says Figueiro. “Our work has shown that you can increase alertness with far less.” Some scientists believe that the light emitted by a computer monitor late at night can do just that, confusing your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Wind down by watching television instead. Most people sit far enough away (at least 15 feet) from a TV set to be unaffected by its brightness. Better yet, read a book or magazine. Just make sure the light you use doesn’t exceed 60 watts. And log off your computer at least an hour before bed.

More From Prevention:
7 Ways to Beat Stress Fat

Prevention’s circulation of 2.8 million, readership of more than 10.5 million in the U.S. and 60 years of authority, make it the nation’s most widely read and influential health magazine. Most readers are educated women, 40+, who depend on Prevention to make sense of the overwhelming (and sometimes conflicting) flood of health information in the media. Readers trust Prevention to investigate and interpret the latest research, report on what they really need to know, and explain what to do about it. Prevention provides service journalism at its best: news, perspective-shifting features and practical strategies to enhance — and even save — lives.

By Daryn Eller, Prevention


William C
William C1 years ago


W. C
W. C2 years ago

Thank you.

Sandy Crute
Sandy Crute5 years ago

Right now I am so tired I need some energy! Got to go to work, trying this stuff, thanks!

Jennifer Hahalis
Jennifer Hahalis9 years ago

I am very surprised that anyone would recommend TV-watching as a relaxing activity before bed. I've never heard of television helping anyone fall asleep. Usually it is recommended to avoid TV if a person has difficulty sleeping. The amount of meat recommended for a person's daily intake is a little astounding, as well. Why not cut refined carbs to make room for fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and grains? All seem to fit better in a healthy diet than the half-pound of meat discussed for one day's intake!

Past Member
Daniel N9 years ago

Dear Rose V. I wasn't talking about eating animals being destroying God's creation. I'm talking about what we have done to creation by our current farming of animals. The air pollution has passed that of cars on the road, as well as poisoning water tables, and the hormones they pump into these animals now poisons us. I'm sure God never intended us to poison the earth, the skies, and our own bodies by the way we have chosen to "grow" animals. If you don't yet know how deadly this practice is please read environmental news journals. I believe God calls us to RESTORE the earth He created.

Rose V.
Rose Nunez9 years ago

I like this site because it provides many suggestions and tips on healthy living. I think this article is very informative. I must, however comment on Past Members statement about destroying God's creation. The Bible itself says in Genesis that God gave the beasts of the land to man for sustinence. And why is no one worried about the fact that there are women in this country who abort their babies? Is that not "destroying God's Creation" in a much more terrible sense?.

Rocio C.
Rocio C9 years ago

So great article Robyn! My husband always spends at least 1 hour on the PC because "he does not feel sleepy to go to bed" and after that he has to watch TV till 12 AM or so... then I have sleeping problems too because I just cannot relax with the lights BUT I am going to forward this to him, perhaps now he will hear to me, with this back up! Thank you.

Pat Tyler
Pat Tyler9 years ago

This article is not helpful or healthy
I am surprised it is on this site at all.
This is not the healing or healthy way to eat. Caffeine is acidic, causes anxiety, raises cholesterol,birth defects, urinary tract, bladder cancers, miscarrages,,mineral deficiency meat,dairy,eggs leads to blockages ,cardiac failure and many other diseases . Pat

Mary H.
Mary H9 years ago

Deborah, I think we can agree that the commercial poultry model is horrible. That's why I said to get eggs from farmers who free range their poultry. Most small or hobby farmers prefer less commercial breeds, and unwanted cockerels end up on the dinner table, not in the woodpile. So if your concern is about humane treatment, most local farmers would be happy to talk to you about their farming philosophy, and where they obtain their chickens to begin with.

The hatcheries who sell eggs and chicks do not kill the cockerels, by the way. They sell them to be raised for meat -- and cockerels are NOT useless for meat production, btw. Please see http://www.homestead.org/JanHoadley/GettingStartedWithChicks.htm and read paragraphs 4, 5, and 6.

That said, if you're adamantly opposed to eating any animal products at all, then you and I have basically reached an impasse. I'm not going to try to convince you to eat eggs, but I do wish you'd use facts rather than propaganda to try to carry your own message to the Care2 readership.

For the record, hens will lay eggs even if we don't eat them. And if you want to see what happens to the chickens that are "freed" from captivity, go to Key West. They've got quite the feral chicken problem there.

Deborah Martin
Deborah Martin9 years ago

Mary, check out: http://humanemyth.org/mediabase/1053.htm

Keep in mind that when raising egg laying chickens, the male baby chicks are thrown away like garbage, they are useless for meat, they are put into garbage bins, they are put into woodchippers. If you buy eggs, you are contributing to cruelty on some level. And like Rip Esselstyn at http://www.theengine2diet.com/the-diet/ so eloguently states: "If you are taking in most of your protein from animal-based foods, you’re getting not only too much protein, but also an acid-producing form that wreaks havoc on your system."