The 6 best drinks when you need an energy boost

We all have times when we feel sluggish and need a cure-all. In fact, about a third of workers in the United States reported emotional exhaustion, while nearly half said they were physically fatigued, according to 2022 data from the American Psychological Association. All this adds up to a lot of delays.

Problems with energy and fatigue typically go deeper than just a quick fix. However, as you work on the underlying cause, whether it’s a health issue, work or life stress, or lifestyle habits that need adjusting, there are also things you can do in terms of diet to give a little more energy at your step. Certain drinks can help boost your energy in a pinch. But remember to try and get some extra sleep tonight too, okay?

Recipe in the photo: You’ll want to drink this anti-inflammatory beet smoothie every day

1. Water

Feeling a little lazy? Surprise! You may need water and not coffee. How come? You may be dehydrated. This affects the cells in your muscles and brain, and you may feel like brain fog or lethargy. “Every cell in your body needs water to function. If there isn’t enough water in your body, this means that every cell will be deprived of it, and although it can still function with what little water it has, it will do less in optimally,” says Samantha Cochrane, RD, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. In a 2019 study of Chinese male students published in the International journal of environmental research and public healthdehydration led people to feel less energetic and had lower moods, along with memory and attention problems.

In terms of how much water you should drink, women should aim for 91 total fluid ounces from food and drink per day; for males, it’s 125 oz. Cochrane recommends drinking water when you’re thirsty. He says that having a bottle of water by your side, choose a bottle that keeps water at your preferred temperature (i.e. drink more.

2. Coffee

Naturally, coffee is on this list. Caffeinated coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine makes you feel sleepy, but caffeine prevents this process from happening, which ultimately makes you awake and alert, explains JN Learning (a division of the JAMA Network).

Coffee offers many health benefits, from a reduced risk of heart disease to a healthier brain. However, there are a few things to remember if you have a Java habit. Cochrane warns against substituting coffee for breakfast. “Caffeine may provide a short burst of energy, but the energy you get from food in the morning is more likely to help you with sustained energy throughout the day,” he explains. Also, pay attention to how much sugar your cup contains. Sugar can also temporarily boost your energy, but you’re also more likely to experience an energy crash due to fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

3. Smoothies

Unlike water, coffee or tea, a well-planned smoothie contains macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, which provide calories to give your body energy. “Most drinks alone will never give you a good balance of all of these nutrients, but shakes or smoothies may be an exception,” says Cochrane. Additionally, a smoothie is also a source of hydration due to the added liquid, ice, and fruit. (Most fruit is water.) But just because it’s a smoothie doesn’t automatically make it healthy, you can add sugar bombs from sugar-spiked juice or even sherbet. Cochrane suggests making sure yours is made with a source of protein (eg, protein powder, yogurt or milk), healthy fats (eg, nut butters, avocados), and rich carbohydrates of fiber (eg, fruits and vegetables).

Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

4. Matcha tea

Stress is such a drag on your energy; it can make you feel depleted fast. If you’re entering a stress crisis, try a hot or iced matcha. Healthy adults who consumed 2 grams of matcha (about 1 teaspoon) every day for two weeks had better cognitive function during and after stressful conditions than the placebo groups, a 2021 study found in Nutrition research. The catechins in the tea fight the damage that free radicals can have on the brain; matcha also contains theanine, a compound known to increase alertness, and some caffeine as a perk.

Matcha, especially when purchased at a coffee shop as a “matcha drink” (rather than tea), can be high in added sugar. Look for those in your favorite matcha, or better yet, make your own at home with one of these healthy matcha recipes.

5. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices

According to a 2017 study published in PLoS One, people reported experiencing increased vitality, a measurement that captured how energetic and “full of life” they felt when they were given two additional servings of fruit and vegetables to eat, compared to a control group. Whole fresh fruits and vegetables differ from juice, of course. However, researchers suspect that the variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants may influence one’s well-being through mechanisms such as improved blood flow to the brain or changes in the gut microbiome.

An idea? Take two golden kiwis, blend them in a blender and then add sparkling water or coconut water to refresh the kiwi. Eating two kiwis a day has been found to improve feelings of “vitality,” as well as energy and mood, perhaps thanks to the fruit’s high levels of vitamin C, according to a small 2022 review in Nutrients.

6. Beet juice

Beetroot juice may not be your first choice in a drink, but it could improve your physical performance. A systematic review published in 2020 in Critical reviews in food science and nutrition found that beetroot juice helped reduce fatigue during a running sprint test, while other research published in 2020 in Nutrients concluded that beetroot juice improved performance during resistance exercise. Beets contain nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide, a molecule that helps dilate blood vessels to improve blood flow, thereby increasing oxygen to your muscles and brain, something that can help you feel like you’re not working as hard (and therefore you have more energy to tackle exercise).

More tips to boost your energy

In an energy crisis? Here are three lifestyle habits that can make you feel more energetic and about it.

Improve your sleep hygiene

If you Need caffeine to stay alert, hit the snooze button repeatedly, or become increasingly irritable or prone to mistakes, you may be sleep deprived, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Targeting the more than seven hours of sleep adults need per night, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can help. The key, though, is getting there. Proper sleep hygiene, like turning off electronics before bed, establishing a “chill-out” time, and sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet environment can help you catch the zzz you need.

Exercise regularly

Sweating on you doesn’t get tired, it can pump you up. People who maintain a moderate-intensity exercise routine experience “small to moderate” improvements in fatigue, energy and vitality, according to a 2022 meta-analysis in Frontiers in psychology. The best energy boost came when people did both resistance and aerobic exercise versus just aerobic exercise, so pick up some weights or settle for a few rounds of squats.

Monitor your caffeine consumption

Caffeinated beverages like coffee are actually healthy for you up to a point. If you’re overindulging in caffeine, it’s important to break that cycle, says Cochrane. “Everyone’s sensitivity to caffeine is a little different, but drinking too much caffeine in the morning can lead to an energy crash later in the day. This then results in more caffeine, which could make sleep poor, leading to an amount more and more coffee needed in the morning,” she explains. If you notice that this is a pattern for you, you’re relying on caffeine to sustain your energy in the morning but still feel a slump later, then slowly start reducing how much you drink in the morning and try to cut out afternoon caffeine, advises Cochrane. Replacing it with flavored seltzer water or herbal teas can ease the transition.

The bottom line

The best beverage for sustained energy levels throughout the day isn’t coffee, it’s actually water. Make sure you sip H20 throughout the day. Other beverages, such as matcha tea and smoothies, can also be used to cheer you up.

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