Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: It’s 6:30 a.m., and you’ve been hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock for half an hour. You make sure to get enough sleep every night, but morning always seems to come a lot earlier than you want it to, especially in the wintertime when it’s still pitch black outside.
If that sounds like you, how do you cope? Do you reach for the coffee? While there’s nothing wrong with relying on a quick caffeine boost every once in a while, drinking large amounts of coffee can become habit forming over time, reducing its overall effectiveness and even creating withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability or headaches.
Instead, why not rely on the natural, energy-enhancing benefits of these healthy foods. Here’s a look at the top five foods that can give you a sustained increase in energy and alertness:
Whole Grains — These healthy, high fiber, complex carbohydrates are an important part of a complete breakfast. They are chock full of energy, but unlike sweets and other simple carbohydrates (such as white bread) they break down more slowly in order to keep your body running strong over a longer period of time. Hot cereals like oatmeal are a natural choice for increasing your intake of whole grains, but you can also find whole grain versions of bread, cold cereals, muffins, and even decadent treats like pancakes or waffles.
Fruit — Delicious, vitamin packed fruits and berries deliver a shot of energizing sugar right to your system. Like whole grains, these sugars often come packaged with fiber, so they don’t precipitate the energy crashes that often accompany processed sugary snacks. In addition, many fruits are high in vitamin C, which was shown to improve exercise endurance among subjects in an Arizona State University study. Oranges, strawberries, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, and blueberries are among the richest sources of vitamin C.
Eggs — This breakfast staple has gotten a bad rap over the years, but they are a rich source of protein, which is metabolized more slowly than carbohydrates and provides a longer-lasting source of energy. Omelets or scrambled egg skillets that contain chopped up vegetables are an excellent source of not just protein, but also multiple vitamins.
Nuts — Like eggs, nuts are high in protein. They are also a good source of healthy, unsaturated fats, which can help to keep your mind sharp and alert. In addition, they make a great portable snack. If you find yourself feeling sluggish in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, a few hours after breakfast or lunch, a handful or almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, cashews, or whatever else you like can make a great pick-me-up. Or spread a little unsweetened peanut butter onto come celery, apples, or whole grain crackers.
Water — One of the symptoms of dehydration is tiredness. It’s hard to feel energetic and alert when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to run properly. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your day — not just when you feel thirsty. Keeping, and refilling, a water bottle with you as you sit at your desk or run your errands is an excellent practice and can help to ensure that you stay hydrated. In addition, cold water stimulates the nerve endings in your mouth and throat, which are near your brain stem. This can help to give your mind a jolt when you find yourself struggling with drowsiness.