Most of us drag ourselves out of bed, manage to find some semblance of rhythm, and then sag when fatigue sets in again mid afternoon. We then struggle to calm our minds to sleep. Repeat forever.
That doesn't have to be our reality. There are many ways to stay alert, awake, focused, and on top of your game throughout the day without it chipping away at your rest. Some of them are better than others, but they are all better than reaching for synthetic energy drinks or sodas.
Coffee - This is first on our list not because it is the best, but because it is the most obvious. We all know coffee can get us energized and moving first thing. It does have some side effects though. Coffee can raise blood pressure, make us feel jittery, make the afternoon crash even harder, and leave us wide-eyed in the evening. It has it's place though. Try to pair it with food to slow down it's effects and drink plenty of water.
Green Tea - Green tea has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, so it energizes with fewer side effects. It also comes with a handy bonus in the form of L-Theanine. This amino acid counters caffeine with a calm, focused feeling that makes it more suitable to workdays, exercise, or simply living with enhanced concentration.
Matcha - This is technically a green tea, but it is grown in a special way to keep L-Theanine levels at their highest. It also makes the tea leaves tender and sweet enough to powder, rather than steep, which boosts chlorophyll, antioxidant, and fiber content. That extra L-Theanine is important. It makes matcha one of the best ways to get energy without jitters, high blood pressure, or crashes. The energy doesn't come on as strong, lasts longer, and helps you stay focused all at the same time.
Guarana - This Brazilian seed is used to flavor and energize many an energy drink, so it doesn't have the best reputation. On it's own or in a more natural beverage, guarana isn't necessarily the enemy. It's full of antioxidants. It hits fairly hard and fast though, so expect some crashing as it wears off.
Yerba Mate - Another South American plant, this stimulant also has caffeine. It makes a delicious tea with bonus antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and essential amino acids.
The Not Quite Caffeinated
Cacao - The natural source of chocolate hides a compound very similar to caffeine, theobromine. This is a stimulant, but it tends to have a calmer effect on the body. So enjoy a square of dark chocolate for a lift to your body and mood.
Theobromine - Theobromine is in Yerba Mate, Guarana, and Green Tea. You can find this by itself though, often extracted from cacao. This can be added to other beverages or taken in pill form.
L-Theanine - Like theobromine, this natural calming stimulant can be found by itself. Add it to coffee to take down the jitters.
The Fun Guys
Chaga - This orange, cold-loving fungus is making its way into many a coffee replacement. It works well with chocolate, gives a subtle boost to energy levels, and loads you up on immune bolstering phytonutrients.
Cordyceps - This strange mushroom is also working its way into many beverages and supplements. It is supposed to boost cognitive function, raise the energy bar by increasing ATP production, and fight inflammation.
Lion's Mane - This mushroom grows covered in fuzzy threads that do resemble a mane, but it also may grow brain cells.
Ashwaghandha - Besides being fun to say, this herb helps the body adapt to stress and change. This means a lift to cognition, memory, focus, exercise, and energy.
Ginkgo Biloba - Another fun one to say, this fan shaped leaf improves memory and brain function.
Gotu Kola - Not to be confused with Kola Nut, which has caffeine and helped give cola its name, this adaptogenic herb is related to parsley. It helps ease stress and anxiety for a calming boost.
Rhodiola Rosea - Another herb that combats mental fatigue by tackling anxiety and stress, this flower gives the brain a lift that can improve exercise, depression, and memory.
Maca - This starchy root gained some popularity as a libido enhancer, but it may do so by improving endurance, energy, and athletic performance. It also makes a good addition to coffee or a smoothie.
Black Ginger - Similar to maca, this is known for libido effects, but this lesser known relative to ginger and turmeric seems to gain this reputation by improving blood flow, athletic performance, energy levels, endurance, and mental focus.
Coconut Oil - Gone are the days we believed all fats were bad for you. Coconut oil provides coveted medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that the body easily converts into energy. It has some powerful anti-inflammatory effects too. Your brain loves its healthy fats too.
Artichoke - This prickly food may help us form memories, fight mental fatigue, and help us process data faster.
The Non Foods
Deep Sleep - Quality sleep can definitely improve your energy levels, of course. Try to make sure you don't consume caffeine too late, even from the more calming matcha. Try breathing techniques to help you relax. Avoid screens a couple hours before bed too.
Naps - A quick 10 to 20 minutes can rejuvinate the body and mind. Keep it to these maxes though. Any longer and you may feel groggy and tired rather than refreshed.
Exercise - Exercise can help tire you out, but it also aids circadian rhythms, stress responses, and energy efficiency. Try not to do it a few hours before bedtime as well. It can make you too energized to sleep.
Meditation - Being mindful and present can help you focus, clear away fatigue, reduce stress, and maintain balance as you juggle all life throws your way.
Sunlight - Light exposure helps us keep circadian rhythms, push off fatigue, stay awake through the day, and sleep better at night. It also affects mood and appetite.
Nutrition - Eating better in general may be what you are missing in your less energetic life. Vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients are to be found in fresh vegetables and fruits. Eat more of them.