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Stay energized: How to boost your alertness

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Tips to stay sharp

Your mind and body are closely interconnected - when one is revved to go, the other is usually as pumped. However, when your body tires, your brain typically follows, and vice-versa. Here are five tips to ensure your physical and mental energy stays strong all day long.


1. Diet right

A common side-effect of weight-loss diets is overall fatigue, typically because of insufficient calories or lack of key nutrients. If you are aiming to "lose a few," do it sensibly by eating three well-balanced meals – starting with breakfast – and a small snack or two. Make sure your meals provide a combination of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats – you'll feel more satisfied and stay full and energized longer. If you aren't sure you are getting enough calories or your recommended intake of nutrients, talk to a registered dietician.

2. Increase your intake of brain food

In addition to a well-balanced diet, eating foods especially good for your brain can give you a mental recharge. Studies show that choline, an essential nutrient found in eggs, can improve memory and reaction times as well as increase physical endurance. Omega-3 fats, found in fatty fish, nuts and flax, are also stellar nutrients to include in your daily diet – omega-3s nourish the brain cells, decrease inflammation, and can increase cognitive function.

3. Breathe deep for energy

Like your muscles, your brain thrives on oxygenated blood. Not only does breathing increase the circulation of fresh oxygen and vital nutrients to your brain and body, it reduces energy-sapping stress and tiresome tension. When you start feeling drowsy, have trouble concentrating, or feel physically fatigued, take 10 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply, filling your lungs to capacity and then fully exhaling the air. Meditation and exercise are also easy ways to invigorate your mind and body.

4. Play brain games

Staying cognitively sharp requires mental training, much like staying fit requires exercise. Research indicates that brain games can improve memory, concentration, cognitive processing, reaction times and ward off dementia and Alzheimer's. Mental challenges like crossword puzzles, riddles, strategic board games, and interactive online games will pique your brain and help keep you alert. To combat the mid-morning or mid-afternoon mental fatigue, take a break from tiring work and reward yourself with brain play.

5. Use caffeine strategically

Though too much caffeine can give you the scatter-brained jitters, a judicious amount can perk you up and keep you sharp. Caffeine causes a release of dopamine in your brain, which stimulates the area responsible for alertness. Research shows that a cup of coffee can improve your mental performance for up to 45 minutes – meaning a cup right before a big exam or presentation can work to your advantage. Other research shows that drinking a cup right before a nap can result in you waking up rested and cognitively sharp, granted you only power snooze for 20 minutes. Limit your caffeine intake to one or two cups daily so you don't end up interrupting your nightly sleep, which is truly key to keeping you alert.

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