Instant Energy: 12 Ways to Perk Up Fast

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Recharge in 10 minutes or less.

MOST EVERYONE could use an energy burst to get through the day. Simply put, your body creates energy from nutrients, oxygen, and even positive emotions. If you know how to supply these key resources, you'll give yourself an instant lift. The following safe, natural energy boosters suit busy lives, because they take effect immediately and are simple to do.
1 Rub Your Ears

Stimulating certain pressure points on your body increases your blood circulation—and thus your energy—according to proponents of traditional Chinese medicine. As it turns out, your ears are particularly dense with these pressure points. “The ear is a mini representation of the whole body,” explains Mark Hyman, M.D., co-medical director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. Using your fingers, vigorously rub your ears all over for about one minute. (Don't be so rough that you hurt yourself, but do expect your ears to feel hot, a sign that your blood is circulating.) Almost immedk ately, you should feel more alert.
2 Step into a Power Shower

To shake off morning grogginess, sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil (Eucalyptus globulus) on the floor of your shower before stepping in. Stand under steaming hot water and rub your entire body with a loofah or a nubby washcloth. The eucalyptus scent stimulates your brain. The hot water and the rubdown speed blood flow, sending oxygen to your cells where it's transformed into energy, says Shiva Barton, N.D., a naturopath in Cambridge, Mass. Finish up your shower with a blast of cool or cold water. The temperature change instantly triggers your nervous system's fight-or-flight response, which will make you feel wide-awake, explains Barton. (The effect is short-lived, so you won't also feel anxious.)
3 Breathe Fire

If, like most people, you breathe shallowly, carbon dioxide may build up in your blood and make you drowsy. The Breath of Fire, a yoga breathing technique, flushes out excess carbon dioxide, replacing it with energizing oxygen, says Hyman. “This [exercise] will wake you right up.” Breathing through your nose, inhale deeply and then exhale in 20 to 30 short, rapid bursts, drawing in your stomach muscles to force out each burst. Repeat three times, taking a few breaths between each cycle so you don't get dizzy.
4 Supplement with Tyrosine

This amino acid fights fatigue by pumping up your levels of the energizing neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. Studies show that supplementing with tyrosine helps people cope better with mentally and physically challenging situations. “It makes you feel energized, but not in the hyped-up way that caffeine does,” says Hyla Cass, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of Natural Highs (Penguin Putnam, 2002). “You won't get that rapid heart rate and speedy feeling.” She recommends taking 500 to 1,000 mg daily when you're feeling tired (for a quick fix, open a 500 mg capsule and place the powder under your tongue; let it dissolve). It's safe to use tyrosine indefinitely, although Cass advises taking a break every month or so to see if you can manage without it. People with hypertension, mania, melanoma, or phenylketonuria and pregnant or nursing women should avoid tyrosine.
5 Pop a Peppermint

The strong aroma of peppermint wakes you up, much like smelling salts, explains Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. The mint scent stimulates a nerve in your brain, making you feel more alert. Sucking or chewing mints delivers an even bigger energy kick than just sniffing: When you eat the aromatic candies, odor molecules circulating in your mouth drift up your nose via the back of your throat, multiplying the scent's intensity. “We call it flavor, but it's really smell,” says Hirsch. Pop a mint any time you're feeling low.
6 Drink H[sub2]O

So many people are fatigued because they're dehydrated,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., director of the Annapolis Research Center for Effective FMS/CFS Therapies in Maryland and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Penguin Putnam, 2001). If you skimp on water, the fluids in your body become more viscous, slowing circulation and the chemical reactions by which your cells produce energy. “It's like somebody turned down the power,” he explains. Teitelbaum doesn't recommend a specific daily quota of water because he believes that people have different fluid needs. How do you know if you need a drink? “If your lips and mouth are dry, you're dehydrated,” he says. Choose water instead of juice or soda to avoid sugar-induced energy surges and drops.
7 Revive with the Right Snack

Most snacks will energize you. But the best options provide a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat. Your body metabolizes these nutrients steadily, creating long-lasting energy—unlike the sudden spikes and crashes that come with simple carbs, like candy or cookies, explains Jana Klauer, M.D., a weight management and nutrition specialist in New York City. Next time you're running on empty, reach for an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, plain low-fat yogurt with a cup of berries, or wholegrain toast with an ounce of cheese.
8 Take a Short Exercise Break

“About 45 minutes of sitting is all your body can take at one time without becoming fatigued,” explains Connie Tyne, executive director of the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas. So move for three to five minutes every 45 minutes. Stroll briskly outside or walk to the farthest restroom from your office. Or perform some calisthenics, like squats: Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out in front of your chest, parallel to the floor. Bend your knees and lower yourself as if you were going to sit in your chair, but stop before you actually sit down, and lift yourself back to a standing position. “[Exercise] gets the blood circulating around the body, instead of allowing it to pool around the midsection,” Tyne says. More blood moving through your body means your cells get more oxygen so they can crank out additional energy. “Exercise makes a tremendous improvement in how you feel all day,” says Tyne.
9 Try an Ancient Exercise

Practitioners of qi gong, a system of gentle movements practiced for thousands of years in Asia, believe that certain exercises can help you tap into the energy within you and in your environment. To pull you out of a slump quickly, Linda Sandel, Ed.D., a psychologist in Grantsville, W.Va., recommends doing the qi gong movement called Wood Exercise,” she explains. “As I'm doing it, I'm thinking that I'm pulling energy into me. In a short period of time, I feel more centered, more energized, more able to concentrate.” Stand with your arms by your sides. As you inhale deeply, slowly raise your arms up to your head, twisting your wrists so that the backs of your hands meet and touch each other. Then, still inhaling, turn your palms in and pretend that you're firmly grasping a column of wood. Pull the column down until your hands are level with your throat, about six inches away (as pictured); stay there for a few seconds as you hold your breath. Exhale deeply and press the column toward the floor, keeping your back straight and stopping your hands at groin level. Repeat nine times.
10 Go for Green Tea

Green tea edges out coffee as an energy-boosting beverage for several reasons. A cup (8 ounces) of green tea contains 20 to 30 mg of caffeine—enough to pep you up, but not enough to cause jitters. (Coffee contains more than five times as much caffeine. For information about Java's side effects, see “When Coffee Is a Bad Choice,” page 102.) Theophyllin, a stimulant in green tea, increases blood circulation and dilates bronchial passages, which improves the flow of oxygen in your body. Green tea also provides 40 mg per cup of the amino acid L-theanine, which can keep you focused yet calm. That's one important reason why monks sip green tea before meditating, according to psychiatry professor Cass. Bonus: Green tea is loaded with disease-fighting, anti-aging antioxidants. Steep one tea bag in 8 ounces of boiling-hot water for four to six minutes. Some people may feel a lift after just one cup of green tea, while others need more; four cups is a good daily limit.
11 Splash in Cold Water

Try this old yoga trick to stay alert, says naturopath Barton: Wet your face and the back of your neck with cold tap water, and then gargle with more cold water for a few seconds. Because your face, neck, and throat are so sensitive, shocking them with cold water temporarily activates your fight-or-flight reaction, diverting blood to your brain and all the muscles in your body, he says.
12 Let Go of Perfection

Having unrealistically high expectations for yourself can tucker you out, says James Rouse, N.D., a Denver-based naturopathic physician. That's because the emotional stress from fretting over a task squelches your mood-lifting neuro-transmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, sapping that I-can-conquer-the-world feeling. It also lowers glucose levels in your brain, reducing the brain's ability to function. Whenever you notice that you're expecting too much of yourself, repeat the mantra “let go of perfection.” You'll feel at peace and full of calm energy.

Emotional stress saps energizing brain chemicals.

PHOTO (COLOR): Boost energy by rubbing pressure points on your ears.

PHOTO (COLOR): Add this headclearing scent to your shower.

PHOTO (COLOR): Take tyrosine to feel alert.

PHOTO (COLOR): Perk up with a peppermint.

PHOTO (COLOR): Prevent a slump with apples and peanut butter.

PHOTO (COLOR): Stimulate your body by doing squats.

PHOTO (COLOR): Grab extra energy with this exercise.

PHOTO (COLOR): Tap cold water if you need a jolt.

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By Norine Dworkin, Narine Dworkin is a freelance writer in New York City and Las Vegas. Tea and exercise keep her energized.

When Coffee Is a Bad Choice

For most people, drinking coffee daily—up to 18 ounces—safely boosts energy. But in some cases, the kick you get isn't worth the risks. If any of these apply, you should say no to joe.
You Rely on it.

Java wakes you up by causing an adrenaline surge akin to having a near-miss with a bus. But relying on that surge can eventually exhaust your adrenal glands, leaving you with all the negative side effects of caffeine—like anxiety—but none of the benefits. If your morning cup doesn't clear the cobwebs, you need constant infusions to get through your day, or you feel headachy or snappish when you go without coffee, you're hooked, says Stephen Cherniske, a Boulder, Colo.-based biochemist and author of Caffeine Blues (Warner Books, 1998). You should quit, but don't do it cold turkey, because the headaches can be excruciating, says Cherniske. Instead, reduce your intake by a cup or half a cup a day. Or consider switching to green tea, drinking no more than four cups a day. It contains enough caffeine to prevent a withdrawal headache. And green tea's calming amino acid L-theanine helps you feel sharp but not wired.
You Have Health Risks.

People who have anxiety or panic disorders should avoid coffee altogether, because it can trigger anxiety or panic attacks. The same advice goes for anyone who has heart disease, arrhythmia, or high blood pressure. Coffee elevates stress hormone levels, increasing the risk for a coronary vasospasm (abnormal contractions of blood vessels in your heart) in people who have these conditions, says Cherniske. Caffeine exacerbates diabetes symptoms including excess hunger, fatigue, and moodiness. And it interacts with several common medications, including bronchodilators, the quinolone class of antibiotics, and anti-anxiety drugs.
You're Losing Sleep.

Caffeine is a potent stimulant. If you're having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, limit your intake to one or two cups in the morning or eliminate caffeine altogether, advises Neil Kavey, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. Sleeplessness can make you short-tempered and accident-prone and may impair your immunity.

PHOTO (COLOR): A cup too many can sap sleep.

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