When you’re feeling sluggish and need a pick-me-up, maybe you reach for an energy drink or a can of soda. But would you be better served with something else?

Here are some all-natural solutions:

You’re burning the midnight oil: Eat a light dinner.

“When you eat too much, your body expends most of its energy on digestion so it has less to put toward concentration,” said Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Skip, or limit, the carbs; they increase your body’s production of the sleep-promoting neurotransmitter serotonin, making you groggy. Instead, opt for a protein-packed meal like grilled tuna over a bed of spinach.

You’ve got a case of jet lag: Munch on walnuts or dried tart cherries.

Both are natural sources of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your body clock.

You’re too beat to go to the gym: Thirst is often an underlying cause of fatigue.

“To get that workout in, drink water and herbal tea throughout the day to stay hydrated,” Begun said. “Eating four cups of water-rich produce, such as watermelon, cucumber and lettuce, daily can help you stay hydrated, too.”

When you have a long drive: Grab a cup of coffee or make EatingWell’s energy drink.

Emerging research shows that caffeine is especially effective for keeping you awake at the wheel. An Annals of Internal Medicine study found that drinking 200 mg of caffeine beats taking a nap for preventing drowsy driving. And a just-released British Medical Journal study found long-distance truck drivers who were regular caffeine consumers were 63 percent less likely to have a crash than those who didn’t have caffeine.


This refreshing lemony drink will give you a caffeine energy boost when you don’t want coffee. It’s a double-strength brew of green tea plus yerba mate and delivers about 135 mg of caffeine plus antioxidants. Compared with store-bought energy drinks, this homemade energy drink recipe saves about 150 calories and has less than half the sugar.

Yerba mate is a tea made from the leaves of a South American tree. Look for it with other tea in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets or natural-foods stores.


(Makes 1½ cups for one serving)


1 cup boiling water

2 green tea bags

1 yerba mate tea bag

1½ tablespoons agave, honey,

or sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Ice cubes

Chopped fresh mint (optional)

Preparation: Put boiling water in a heat-proof measuring cup. Add green tea and yerba mate and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing the excess liquid into the cup before discarding. Stir in sweetener and lemon juice. Add six ice cubes and stir until they’re melted and the drink is cold. If desired, wet the rim of your serving glass and coat with chopped mint. Add more ice to the glass and pour in the energy drink.

Nutrition: 97 calories; no fat; no cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrates; 24 g added sugars; no protein; no fiber; 11 mg sodium; 95 mg potassium.

Karen Ansel is a registered dietitian.