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Lifestyle Tips

Quick Healthy Hacks for Your Busy Lifestyle
Written By: Mary Perry, MS, RD, LDN

Written by Mary Perry, MS, RD, LDN
on May 15, 2017

We all have our vices. In my case, when my 3-year old started shouting my coffee order from the backseat at the drive-thru because she knew it by heart, that was my sign I was hitting the caffeine a bit too much.

Pros and Cons to Caffeine Consumption

Caffeine is a hot topic of debate. Coffee alone is consumed daily by 54% of American adults.1  Caffeinated foods and beverages like soda, energy drinks, chocolate, and even ice cream bring the percent of caffeine consuming adults even higher. Plus, each day there are more products introduced to the market with caffeine as an additive.

For many of us, coffee is the primary source of antioxidants in our diets, as only 18% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits, and 9% consume the recommended amount of vegetables, each day.2

While there are upsides to moderate caffeine consumption, including antioxidant intake, decreased fatigue, improved mental function and enhanced memory, downsides exist too. The debate continues on how over-consumption may contribute to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and physiological and behavioral problems in adolescents.3, 4  

With our fast-paced lives and the fact that many of us are sleep deprived, caffeine is something many of us use for a morning jolt or afternoon pick-me-up.  While giving up your morning cup of Joe is unlikely, here are tips for how you can boost your energy naturally so you won’t have to keep going back for coffee or soda refills, or overindulge in caffeinated treats.

Tips to Boost Your Energy Naturally Throughout the Day

  1. Avoid the Snooze Button — You may feel like you are gaming the system by getting that extra 10 to 20 minutes once you hit snooze on the alarm clock. In actuality, this can lead to greater fatigue throughout the day. Hitting snooze interrupts our internal biological clock (or circadian rhythm), interrupting our sleep cycle and confusing our hormones. Instead, aim for going to bed half an hour earlier (with the ultimate goal being 7-8 hours of sleep) and stick to a regular rise and shine routine. Just remember, you snooze, you lose.5
  1. Take the Stairs — When you compare the energizing effects of caffeine to a 10-minute bout of exercise, exercise wins. A recent study on sleep deprived individuals showed that 10-minutes of low-to-moderate intensity stair climbing resulted in an immediate rise in energy levels compared to having a low-dose of caffeine (50mg). So the next time you find yourself dozing at your screen, instead of grabbing a Coke, hit the stairs.6,7
  1. Grab an Afternoon Snack — Between 1PM to 4PM our body’s levels of melatonin rise.  Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our sleep-wake cycle and its rise brings on a feeling of sleepiness, or that post-lunch energy dip.5  This might explain why during that final push of our workday, we often reach for soda, coffee, or a candy bar for that pick-me-up.  Reaching for caffeine anytime up until six hours before bed could actually wreak havoc on our night time sleep.8 Instead, aim for an energizing snack balanced in protein and carbs, whether a ZoneRx Bar, fruit and cheese, or if your options are limited, a small handful of nuts works in a pinch.
  1. Go Outside and Grab Some Rays — The sun is often villainized. While there are dangers from excessive exposure, small amounts are good for us. The sun is best known for its ability to boost our supply of Vitamin D, helping your body absorb calcium and promote bone growth. The sun also helps with the production of serotonin, a chemical hormone produced in the brain linked to mood and a positive outlook.9
  1. Find Ways to Reduce Stress — Stress is a known energy zapper so any way to minimize its effects can help. For some, this can include disconnecting from technology once your work day is done. For others, it could include delegating chores at home to keep tasks from piling up. Or take a break from whatever you’re doing to get outside, exercise, or even take a few moments for yourself to do some deep breathing.

Caffeine: Zone Friend or Foe

While there may be some benefits to drinking coffee, due to the stimulating effects of caffeine and the uncertainty around its role in blood sugar management, moderation is key. We suggest if you are going to consume caffeinated beverages try to aim for no more than 1 cup per day of coffee or two cups of a tea, preferably one high in polyphenols like green tea.  Aim to consume in the morning rather than during the afternoon or evening hours where it may disrupt your sleep.

And if you drink diet soda and believe the lack of sugar makes this a healthier choice for caffeine intake, you may want to reconsider this choice. Find out what drinking diet soda can do to your blood sugar.

By following a Zone eating plan, it can help to minimize your need for caffeine by optimizing the energy you get from the foods you eat.

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  1. Coffee Drinking Statistics. Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/coffee-drinking-statistics. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  2. Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6426a1.htm. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  3. Chrysant SG. The impact of coffee consumption on blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther.2017 Mar;15(3):151-156. doi: 10.1080/14779072.2017.1287563. Epub 2017 Feb3.
  4. van Dam RM, Pasman WJ, Verhoef P. Effects of coffee consumption on fasting blood glucose and insulin concentrations randomized controlled trials in healthy volunteers. Diabetes Care. 2004 Dec;27(12):2990-2.
  5. Spaeth, AM, Goel, N, and Dinges, DF. The Cumulative Neurobehavioral and Physiological Effects of Chronic Caffeine Intake: Individual Differences and Implications for the Use of Caffeinated Energy Products. Nutr Rev. 2014 Oct; 72(0 1): 34–47. doi: 10.1111/nure.12151.
  6. Skip the caffeine, opt for the stairs to feel more energized. Available at https://news.uga.edu/releases/article/stairs-more-energy-research. Accessed: May 11, 2017.
  7. Randolph DD, O'Connor PJ. .Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women. Physiol Behav. 2017 May 15;174:128-135. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.013. Epub 2017 Mar 14.
  8. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Nov 15;9(11):1195-200. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170.
  9. Mead, NH. Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr; 116(4): A160–A167.

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