This post was sponsored by Optimum Nutrition as part of an Influencer Activation. All opinions are my own.
How we choose to spend our mornings can have a huge impact on the way we feel throughout the day, both mentally and physically. Crack open a box of sugary cereal, drown yourself in social media posts and emails at the breakfast table, and then rush to work, and you’ll likely find yourself in a stressful tizzy by the time you arrive at the office. Being in this state can go on to affect your productivity levels all day long by making it difficult to concentrate and stay focused on your work.
The good news is, by adding a few simple, healthy habits to your morning routine, you can help jump-start your body and mind with all the energy, focus, and motivation you need to power through the day…
Prime Your Brain with Positivity
What you choose to do in the first 20-30 minutes of your day can set the stage for the day ahead. That’s why it’s important to start your day out with an activity that inspires mindfulness and positivity. Even if the effects aren’t immediately apparent, on a cognitive level, positive thinking and mindful exercises (like mediation) activate the brain in a way that helps combat anxiety and depression, while increasing its resilience to stress.
“The practice of mindfulness begins in the small, remote cave of your unconscious mind and blossoms with the sunlight of your conscious life, reaching far beyond the people and places you can see.” – Earon Davis
So instead of checking in on those work emails and getting those stress levels up, or scrolling through the never-ending reel of other people’s ‘life highlights’ on Instagram, focus on you. Gear up for the day with a clear mind, and soak up inspiration and positive vibes. Read a book or your favorite blogs, listen to a motivational podcast, meditate/pray, write in a journal, listen to uplifting music, or play with your favorite little furrball! It’s all about priming your brain for the day and avoiding anything mentally or emotionally-draining or distracting.
Start Off with A Glass (or Two) of Water
Water makes up roughly 80% of your brain tissue, so it’s no surprise that our daily water intake plays an important role in brain power. Stay hydrated throughout the day, and your brain will be equipped to function 100%. But skip the water, and the brain will start making cuts too, beginning with memory, focus, and mood. Ever feel irritable, distracted, and unable to remember what you ate for dinner the night before? That could be your body telling you that you’re not getting all the H2O you need.
In the morning especially, it’s important to re-hydrate with a glass or two, to replenish what was lost overnight. (I find it helpful to leave a glass/bottle on my nightstand to serve as a little reminder!)
“Drinking water is like washing out your insides. The water will cleanse the system, fill you up, decrease your caloric load and improve the function of all your tissues.” – Kevin R. Stone
Not a fan of drinking water? Try infusing it with some fruit, or simply pop in a slice of lemon. Fun fact: Lemon juice can improve digestive health, boost brain function and reduce stress (thanks to the potassium), and promote healthier skin (thanks to the antioxidants)! Plus, the scent alone can help improve concentration and lift your mood!
Need a little extra boost of energy (sans the jitters and coffee-crash)? Try an energizing mix-in! I’ve been using Optimum Nutrition®’s Amino Energy lately – I love it because it doubles as my morning pick-me-up and pre-workout fuel. It also adds some flavor to my water (love the watermelon one!).
Get Your Body Moving
There may be no better way to jump-start your brain in the morning than to just get moving (as hard as that may be!). Exercise gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing, which sends oxygen and nutrients straight to the brain, along with endorphins that get you feelin’ good. And as opposed to doing arm exercises with your coffee cup, your improved mood and high energy levels can often last for hours after your workout without the post-caffeine crash!
“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” – Carol Welch
Even quick 5-10 minute workouts can do the trick. HIIT (high-intensity interval training), for example, packs a ton of muscle-building exercises and heart-pumping cardio into as little as 1 minute routines! It’s one of my favorites as it instantly gets my energy levels up!
Another one of my favorite morning exercises is bike riding. It’s a little less intense and more leisurely than HIIT, so it’s great if you want to get the blood flowing while prepping yourself mentally for the day ahead (rather than focusing on all those reps).
In the mood for an even gentler workout? Try basic yoga stretches. Boy do they feel amazing in the morning! It can be as simple as repeating the downward dog to cobra pose several times, or following along to a routine like the one in the video above. Combined with focused breathing, yoga can help wake up your body and increase circulation while reducing stress and focusing the mind.
Eat Plenty of Healthy Fats & Proteins
After a night of fasting, it’s important to re-fuel and feed your body and brain with all the nutrients it needs to stay energized and alert. Carbs are great for a short-term boost, but healthy fats and proteins are what keeps the brain functioning at its peak well past morning.
I personally love eating overnight oats for breakfast (especially since they’re super quick to make), but after making my first couple batches, I realized the most basic recipes lack healthy fats and proteins. As do cereals, pancakes, and other carb-based breakfasts. So to solve this, I started adding chia seeds (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) along with some protein powder to my oats recipes, and it’s made quite the difference in my morning mood and energy levels.
If you’re doing HIIT or other more intensive workouts, protein powder is especially beneficial in the mornings – it fuels your body with energy and helps re-build those muscles post-workout.
One of my go-to sources of high-quality, on-the-go protein is Optimum Nutrition®. My boyfriend first introduced me to the brand years ago, and I’ve been using their whey protein isolate proteins in my smoothies ever since, and now in my oats recipes. With 25 grams of protein, it gives me more than 50% of my target daily intake (46 grams is typically recommended for women ). It comes in an easy-to-mix powder, and the best part is, it doesn’t add any additional fats, carbohydrates, or sugars to my breakfast. It’s also free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners!
And when I’m on-to-go in the mornings and craving something sweet, instead of grabbing a donut or pastry, I’ll reach for Optimum Nutrition®’s Protein Cake Bites. These cute little protein snacks are coated with yogurt or chocolate flavored frosting and packed with protein – each cake contains a little over 6 grams, so if I eat two, that covers 25% of my daily target protein intake! They’re quite the treat too – from their Birthday Cake bites, to their Chocolate Dipped Cherry bites – and you can enjoy anytime of the day. The next time you’re at Walmart, I highly recommend grabbing a pack (or two!). 😉
What are some ways you jump-start your mornings?