Many people get stuck in their morning routine. While it’s not always terrible to hit the snooze button for an extra five minutes or answer a work e-mail before you set foot in the office, it doesn’t necessarily provide you with the energy you’ll need to feel awake and alert the rest of the day.
We asked two experts — Dr. Maria Reyes of Rush University Medical Center and Wendy Yoder, a neuroscientist — to share tips on how to jump-start a healthy morning, mentally and physically.
Water before coffee. Reyes and Yoder recommend drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning. Yoder said water, which makes up about 80 percent of your brain tissue, will help you “fully wake up and maximize cognitive capacity.” She suggested adding fresh lemon, which improves gut health and positively impacts brain health.
Reyes added that water helps flush toxins from the body and could increase your metabolism.
Watch your coffee intake. “The caffeine can help increase alertness and give you that energy boost you might need in the morning,” Reyes said. “There have been studies linking moderate coffee consumption [two to five cups per day] with decreased diabetes and heart disease/stroke risk, even cancer, due to its antioxidant properties. However, too much coffee [more than six cups daily] can cause insomnia [and] tremors and contribute to heartburn.”
Adding a lot of sugar and milk to your coffee can negate possible health benefits.
Leave the work e-mail for the office. “Although taking care of e-mails prior to getting into work seems like it would give you a head start on your day, it may actually delay and distract you and increase your stress levels,” Reyes said.
She and Yoder recommend “mindful exercises” such as meditation, which can help you focus and relieve stress, or even writing in a journal or playing with a pet. It’s all about priming your brain for the day without using that energy toward something cognitively or emotionally draining.
Move your body. Even if you can’t get the recommended 45-minute workout into your morning routine, there are quick and simple alternatives.
“Do not lie in bed,” Yoder said. “Even if you lack the energy for exercise early in the morning, at least get out of bed and walk to another room. Movement wakes up the brain.”
Eat a breakfast full of healthy fats and protein. “Consider a breakfast bowl containing some brown rice or quinoa, spinach and an egg,” Reyes said. “An egg white omelet with some low-fat cheese can also provide you with some healthy nutrients to keep you energized.”
Yoder agreed. “Although we are constantly reminded that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the crucial factor is to emphasize quality.”
Open the drapes. Remember when you wanted to sleep in instead of getting ready for school and your mom would come in and yank open the shades? She might have just been trying to get your attention, but it turns out that she was on to something.
“Our sleep cycles naturally attune to light,” Yoder said. “If natural light is possible, this will help promote alertness and stimulate the brain to wake up. Also, it will serve as a consistent daily cue.”