As a long-time television producer, I'm used to having to work long hours with little or no time to eat. However, when my energy is running low, I am always on the hunt for ways to get an energy boost. These days, I am off my favorite drink, coffee, and other forms of caffeine, so I need a substitute to pick me up.
So I turned to Elisette Carlson, founder of SMACK! Media, a marketing and PR firm focused on innovative and authentic brands in sports, health and fitness. Over the last decade, Carlson has worked with several nutritionists and nutrition companies and has some handy insight. Below Carlson has outlined a few healthy and caffeine-free ways for anyone to increase their energy to be more productive through the work day.
1. Start your day with some exercise.
It's a "kickstart" to the day, a natural energy booster and endorphin. Exercise delivers great benefits for achieving clarity, calm, happiness and most important, gets the heart pumping and delivers rich oxygenated blood throughout the body, which in turn means energy.
2. Carefully choose the first food of the day.
Good fuel is key to good energy. Think of it as gas in a car. Instead of sweet pastries, cereals or lattes, eat a large bowl or plate with greens (spinach, arugula, kale), add veggies (mushrooms, beets, brussel sprouts) and top it with two eggs, complete with the yolk. Add fun toppings such as hummus, tahini, a natural fat-based dressing or sriracha sauce (my favorite). Personally, I also have a piece of toasted sprouted-grain bread, such as ezekiel, and spread that with coconut oil or coconut butter.
If a “salad” is too much of a stretch, try avocado toast (sprouted-grain toast) with an egg or two. If you’re on the go, prep the night before (except for the eggs) or try a protein smoothie, but keep the sugar content low. Too much fruit and too little fat can be calorie overload and will not hold you over and leave you hungry for more sugar. Skip the flavored stuff and sugars.
A good protein shake includes almond milk, plant-based protein powder, raw cacao powder, a sprinkle of chia seeds or raw cacao nibs, two big spoons of raw nut butter or coconut butter (or coconut oil), a big handful of spinach and ice. You can add a quarter avocado to the smoothie for a thick and creamy treat loaded with good omega-3. This has lower glycemic levels than adding an entire banana.
3. Go into the light.
They call sunlight energy for a reason. Create an office environment with natural light. If you are unable to find natural light in your office environment, simulate it with specific lighting created for this purpose.
4. Invest in a standing desk or treadmill desk.
By standing while you work, you have better posture, take in more oxygen and feel more confident. A study by RebelDesk , a treadmill-desk company, shows that those who work at a standing desk are 10 percent more productive and have a 60 percent boost in creativity. Seventy one percent of users reported feeling more focused. Standing naturally drives more confidence than sitting, and the usual back or hip pain from sitting is minimized. You are also burning more calories while you stand.
5. Take a walk during a conference call.
If I am not working on a spreadsheet during a call, I step outside and walk as I talk. It keeps you active. The fresh air is energizing, and it is healthy for your body to move. What’s more? It ends up making for a more productive call as you will be less tempted to answer emails or multitask.
6. Stop, breathe and meditate.
Yes, it sounds counter-productive, but try it. Take that lunch hour away from your desk if you can. In a January 2015 study that appeared in this year's Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), it was revealed that meditation improves learning and memory by increasing gray matter in the hippocampus, which leads to happiness.
Clear the “chatter of the mind” and visualize things that make you smile.Take a five- to 10-minute break and go outside or even at your desk, close your eyes and breathe slowly and focus only on your breath. An alternative is to sneak out for a noon yoga or meditation class.
7. Instead of caffeine, go natural.
Why? Because, the average energy drink contains nearly four times the amount of caffeine found in commercial soda beverages and several of the most popular brands contain the caffeine equivalent of 14 Cokes. Alternative and healthier sources include matcha (try a matcha-tea latte) or a kombucha-probiotic drink. Better yet, try a fruity antioxidant beverage made from coffee fruit such as bai, green tea or even adding some maca powder to oatmeal or a smoothie.
Combine these healthy energy-boosting tips with a good night's sleep and you're sure to see a change in how productive your work day is and how energetic and efficient your body feels.