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Adults who drank tea 4 times a day for 6 weeks had lower levels of stress hormones, according to research.
updated 8/15/2011 11:20:00 AM ET 2011-08-15T15:20:00

Having a low-energy day? Sometimes the problem is lack of sleep, but even if you’re well rested, certain diet or exercise habits or other lifestyle choices can bring on a slump. And surprisingly little things—like the size of your Starbucks order or how you decorate your office—can hurt or help your energy levels. Make some of these tweaks to recharge your batteries and power through your day.

Have bran for breakfast
Eating a morning meal rich in fiber may make you more alert during the day. A Cardiff University study found that subjects who ate a high-fiber cereal in the morning showed a 10% reduction in fatigue, lower incidence of depression, and better cognitive skills.

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One theory: Fiber helps slow down the absorption of food in the stomach, which keeps your blood sugar levels steady to sustain energy levels for a longer period of time.

13 Power Breakfasts for Instant Energy

Order a small latte – and sip it slowly
Experts say it's best not to rely too heavily on caffeine, but if you're an unapologetic java junkie, try spreading your intake out more evenly over the day. Mini servings of caffeine (8 ounces of coffee or less) every few hours keep you awake, alert, and focused for longer than a single jumbo one would, according to sleep experts. When you quickly drink a large coffee, the caffeine peaks in your bloodstream much sooner than if you spread it out over time.


Eat more often
Following a strict three-square-meals-a-day plan may be sapping your vigor. Eating small meals frequently throughout the day—every 3 to 4 hours—helps keep your blood sugar up, so you don't experience energy crashes or get so ravenous that you overeat. Each meal should have some carbohydrates, protein, and healthy monounsaturated fat, like a salad topped with 4 ounces of chicken and drizzled with olive oil.

20 low-calorie meals from 400 Calorie Fix to help you lose weight

Gulp some water
Many people who complain of fatigue are actually dehydrated. Staying hydrated is one of the simplest ways to keep energized and focused. A recent study of athletes found that 92% felt fatigued after limiting fluids and water-rich foods for 15 hours; they also had lapses in memory and reported difficulty concentrating. Aim to drink every hour or two so you don't feel thirsty.

Or steep a cup of tea
A recent report found that pairing caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, both present in tea, decreased mental fatigue and improved alertness, reaction time, and memory.

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What's more, black varieties can help you recover from stress, according to researchers at University College London. In their study, adults who drank tea four times a day for 6 weeks had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after a tense moment, compared with those who drank a tealike placebo.

Find out which types of tea help your health

Copy your kid’s lunch
... If it's a banana and peanut butter sandwich. Bananas pack potassium, a mineral your body needs to convert sugar in your blood into energy. The peanut butter is high in magnesium, which gives your cells much-needed energy. Aim for 320 mg of magnesium and 4,700 mg of potassium daily. Other good sources of potassium and magnesium: fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Take a 10-minute walk

A short stroll can invigorate the rest of your day, suggests research presented to the American Heart Association. Women who walked briskly for 70 minutes a week (or 10 a day) reported 18% more energy than their sedentary peers after 6 months. They also felt more clearheaded and confident, had fewer aches, and hoisted groceries and climbed stairs more easily.

Cue up your iPod
Feeling dazed at your desk? Consider listening to music while you work.

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One study found that employees who donned headphones while they worked were 10% more productive than without them.

Plop a plant in your office
Flexing your green thumb may help fend off an afternoon slump. Texas A&M researchers found that volunteers who kept a vase of vibrant flowers on their desks, along with green plants elsewhere in the office, generated more creative ideas than those in a vegetation-free setting.

In a separate study, Kansas State University researchers used brain scans to analyze 90 male and female typists; some tapped keys next to plants, while others worked at bare desks. The result: Women exposed to flowers were less stressed. (Oddly, men didn't experience the same benefits.) Look for hybrid varieties of azaleas, cyclamen, and kalanchoe, which flourish in small pots. While you're at it, add a few dracaenas, an easy-to-care-for floor plant, to accent empty corners.


More From Prevention

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9 Sleep Myths That Steal Your Energy

8 New Rules For All Day Energy

10 Ways To Reboot Your Brain

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Video: Simple energy boosting solutions

  1. Transcript of: Simple energy boosting solutions

    BILLY BUSH reporting: This morning on TODAY'S HEALTH , easy energy boosters. Are you, perhaps, right now, on your third cup of coffee, just trying to find the strength to get through the day? Prevention magazine's contributing editor, Dr. Holly Phillips , is here with some better ways to get that instant jolt. Good morning, doc.

    Dr. HOLLY PHILLIPS (Contributing Editor, Prevention Magazine): Good morning, Billy . How are you?

    BUSH: What are some of the things that contributes to lethargy?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure. Well, really not having enough energy is one of the top concerns of our Prevention readers. And the number one reason is that we're not getting enough sleep. But even if you don't have time to get the hours you need, there are just some simple exercise and diet habits that we can develop that will really help to give us more energy throughout the day.

    BUSH: Let's start with bran.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure. Well, actually, starting out the morning, high in fiber, with a high fiber cereal like that bran, will help to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day. The theory is that it helps to slow down the absorption of food in our stomachs, which keeps our blood sugar levels steady. So it's good to start with bran.

    BUSH: Keep it even. All right. Now the latte. Everybody -- people have a very close affinity to their lattes. This OK?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure. It's true. It's true. Well, the disclaimer -- you know what, caffeine is not the right approach for long term energy. But if you just have to have coffee, like me, the idea is not to have a huge venti mocha choca latte or whatever is the trend.

    BUSH: Yeah.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Have several small cups during the day. That way you won't get a big peak of caffeine and big crash afterward.

    BUSH: Keep hitting it all throughout.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Exactly.

    BUSH: What, about a six ounce or something like that every...

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Well, we're doing -- we're thinking eight ounces, three or four times a day is better than having a huge, huge amount at once.

    BUSH: If you have to have it. Water I think, is -- dehydration is a great contributor to fatigue.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: It's huge. Ninety-two percent of athletes who were dehydrated felt fatigued and also had difficulty concentrating. And an interesting thing is you might not feel thirsty, even though you're dehydrated. So you should drink a little bit of water every hour, whether or not you feel like you need it.

    BUSH: All right. L-theanine is an amino acid. I love this. And it's in tea.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: I love it. You have -- you've got your MD as well.

    BUSH: I'm -- but if you can go -- it has the caffeine too, right?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: It does.

    BUSH: If you can make the move from coffee to tea, you're better off, right?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure, yeah. It's a little bit of caffeine, you get your L-theanine which is an amino acid that keeps us alert. And also, black tea is an antioxidant, which helps our body fight off stress. So it's the best choice.

    BUSH: All right.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure.

    BUSH: Let's move down here. We can pick off our kids' lunch it looks like.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Well, you know what, it's no secret that we take better care of our kids than we do ourselves. But, you know, if you look at this lunch, this is a peanut butter and banana sandwich. So the banana's packed with potassium, and the peanut butter has magnesium. Both of those things help our bodies to metabolize sugar and keep those levels steady.

    BUSH: Does potassium -- did the banana contribute to the mood, leveling out your mood? That's what I hear?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: It really does, primarily by helping our body to keep those blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. So it's really a great thing.

    BUSH: And it's kind of filling, a banana, when you need it. If you're on the run, right?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Very much so. And also the nuts and the fruit here are also high in magnesium, which has the same effect.

    BUSH: All right. Well, then let's get into some music then.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Sure.

    BUSH: I love the idea -- that we've got an iPod out here.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Well, you know what, your boss may not be happy about this. But...

    BUSH: Keep it low.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: Exactly. Now, a study showed workers who listen to music were 10 percent more productive and also in a better mood. And any music works. Whether it's classical or 50 Cent , you know, it's all the same. It's all good.

    BUSH: I like the way you said 50.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: 50. That -- isn't that -- isn't his name, 50?

    BUSH: It wasn't 50, you said, 50. By the way, I just like, every once in a while in the office, I just crank up Sir Mix -a- Lot , every like, you know two hours or something, people go crazy. And they feel good.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: That's a good one.

    BUSH: Of course it picks up your energy. What about the plants? Sort of decorating your office, making it a little more workable.

    Dr. PHILLIPS: You know what? People who have plants on their desks have more creative thoughts -- this -- a recent study showed this, and also experienced less stress. Now more vibrant is better. So bright flowers like this. The azaleas, the cyclamen, the brighter the better.

    BUSH: In the study is it women as well as men or more women than men?

    Dr. PHILLIPS: It -- well, in terms of the stress it's primarily women, but all people were more productive and had more creative thoughts when they had plants around. Keeps the oxygen levels up, too.

    BUSH: Doc, thanks a lot. Dr. Holly Phillips , and thank you.

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