How to Increase Energy Levels as a Student (without caffeine!)

By Mer Temple Allen, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Believe it or not, caffeine isn’t the only way to increase energy levels. When it comes to college, students spend so many nights studying that relying on caffeinated drinks feels like the only way to stay awake at times.

Caffeine is a stimulant in coffee, certain teas, cocoa, yerba mate, and many energy drinks. When drunk in safe amounts (less than 400 mg per day), caffeine can help us wake up and stay alert throughout the day; it can also help to increase athletic performance and improve short-term memory. However, it can also have adverse side effects, such as insomnia, feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and increased heart rate. Because of this, caffeine can be counterproductive when studying, as the side effects can make concentrating more difficult.

If you are looking for ways to increase your energy levels naturally while reducing caffeine consumption, try these tips below!

1. Exercise

Exercise increases the amount of oxygen in body tissues. More oxygen in tissue helps improve cardiovascular function, heart health, and, in turn, energy levels. Additionally, exercise can also increase dopamine levels in the brain, which not only increases energy but also improves mood. Even a short workout can help with this, so next time you have an hour’s break between classes, try a quick workout and see if this works to increase your energy levels!

2. Drink water

Drinking water helps prevent tiredness and fatigue, which comes from dehydration.

Lack of water in the system affects oxygen flow to the brain. Because of this, the heart works harder to get oxygen throughout the body. This makes you less alert and decreases overall energy levels. Make sure to be getting adequate water throughout the day to avoid this from happening!

3. Spend time in sunlight

The human body has a natural response to light and dark. Light signals the body to be awake, and darkness signals the body to be asleep. Because of this, spending time in the sun will help your body and brain wake up in the morning. Going outside where it is brighter will still help if it is cloudy.

4. Eat regularly

Eating regularly (every 3-4 hours) brings energy to the body through the fuel of food. Research shows that frequent meals are associated with higher levels of alertness. Focusing on high nutrients in foods is essential because foods with added sugars (such as high-sugar sweets, energy drinks, and sugary coffee) give short-term energy and will often cause an energy crash later on, resulting in more tiredness. Foods that contain fiber-rich carbohydrates are particularly helpful in increasing energy levels. Some examples include apples, carrots, low-fat greek yogurt, and berries.

5. Take a short nap

A nap between 15-20 minutes long can increase energy and alleviate sleepiness. Longer naps, however, can worsen tiredness, so be mindful of this! Make sure to avoid napping too late in the day since this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

What is your favorite way to get more energy?

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