Whether you’re having a hard day at work or sweating it out at the gym, energy is crucial. A cup of Joe will do the trick, but caffeine in excess could increase blood pressure, extend insomnia, and elevate dopamine levels.
What we don’t realize is that drinking caffeine-laced drinks while working out in a hot environment can actually lead to dehydration. Caffeine can also reduce your sodium levels. That’s why the best pre-workout supplements include caffeine as one ingredient—not the only one.
(Here’s a quick primer on the essential ingredients in a pre-workout supplement.)
And we can’t write this article without calling out energy drinks, which are exploding in popularity—and, typically, in sugar content. A 2013 study conducted in 160 countries found the annual consumption of energy drinks to be close to 1.58 billion gallons. In America alone, the 2012 retail market value of these drinks clocked in at $12.5 billion. What started out as an athlete’s best friend has slowly become a popular pick-me-up among adolescents, young adults and professionals. These drinks are typically loaded with sugar.
Caffeine has been proven effective when part of a quality pre-workout supplement formula. But it’s not the only energy-boosting ingredient out there, and when taken as an energy drink, it’s often not the best idea. Here are a few other energy booster ideas, whether you’re hitting the gym or that pile of work you’ve been putting off for days.
What sets the Asian ginseng apart from the American variety is its potency. Studies have shown that this herb can increase resilience to stress and improve physical performance. Count us in.
A four-week study proved the short-term benefits of ginseng. In the study, 200mg of Asian ginseng was given to 30 people over a period of four weeks. The group experienced overall mood and mental health improvements.
A double-blind trial, where 90 chronically-fatigued people were either given a placebo or 1-2 grams of Asian ginseng, found the group who took the herb experienced decreased levels of physical fatigue and oxidative stress.
Keep in mind that Asian ginseng doesn’t come cheap. So if you’re looking for a supplement and see one with a low price tag, double check to make sure it has a good level of the herb extract, not just low-cost fillers.
If your body’s B12 levels are already high, a B12 supplement won’t do as much to boost your energy levels. However, B12 is crucial to energy, and vegans and vegetarians definitely need B12 supplements, since it’s only found naturally in animal foods.
Why does B12 matter for your energy levels? It helps keep DNA synthesis at a healthy level, which reduces the risk of dropping hemoglobin levels. This, in turn, keeps fatigue and tiredness at bay. While it may not offer the same kick as caffeine, it does reduce the risk of megaloblastic anemia.
Leafy greens, like spinach, are high in B vitamins. That doesn’t mean a salad will work as an instant energy booster. But you might be surprised to know that regular consumption of leafy greens will reduce fatigue over time. Whether through supplement or diet, make sure you’re getting enough B12.
When your body is zapped of energy, your blood pressure tends to go off the rails. This can cause hypertension and a host of other issues we wouldn’t wish on anybody. A calm, consistent blood pressure level is vital to your body’s energy-retaining capacity. Probiotics can help activate antioxidants and improve cholesterol levels.
A probiotic supplement is a great way to start the day, as it also aids in overall digestive health. You’re basically ingesting good bacteria that works its magic, starting from your gut and onto other parts of your body. Kombucha is a popular fermented, probiotic drink that has no fat and a low calorie count.
As we begin to age, our body’s natural production of CoQ10 decreases. This compound is crucial to energy generation in our cells. That’s why organs like the lungs and heart have higher concentration of CoQ10; not surprising, they have much greater energy demands.
A lack of energy can manifest in sporadic, or chronic, headaches. Less severe migraines were recorded in participants who were given CoQ10 supplementation. The overall mitochondrial functions of cells are improved with CoQ10 supplements. Why does this matter? Because this can increase your power during workouts and reduce your fatigue.
Better than a sugar-laced energy drink, coconut water could be the perfect post-workout beverage. It provides the body with electrolytes that help maintain fluid balance, including the electrolyte magnesium, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure levels.
One study found that coconut water is a better rehydration source than plain water. The participants also mentioned that, following exercise-induced dehydration, coconut water wasn’t nausea-inducing and didn’t upset the stomach like some other hydrators tend to do.
We all want a cure-all for low energy. And although caffeine is effective—there’s a reason old-school bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger drank coffee before hitting a tough workout—it’s not the only supplement that will boost your energy.
If you’re feeling especially fatigued during your workouts, try a pre-workout supplement, which typically includes caffeine plus protein, nitric oxide and a few other core ingredients. Here are our recommendations for the best pre-workout supplements on the market today.