It’s hard enough to stay awake on the job when you have to listen to Johny Number Cruncher explain the theory behind his regression analysis and how it relates to the company’s decline in sales of organic, pesticide free, cucumber-scented boyshorts.

As if that isn’t enough to send you straight to Slumberville.

Sadly, even without the tedium and torture inflicted upon us by our office mates, many of us aren’t exactly killing it in the productivity department. Instead, we’re experiencing a chronic energy shortage caused by longer work hours, more responsibility, and greater stress than we’ve ever known before. Perpetually sleep-deprived, overburdened, and undernourished, we’re barely scraping by. 

I’ve been there myself! Not that long ago, between my soul-sucking full-time job, two-hour daily commute, and a house full of adorable but needy children, I was so fried that when I saw a gym mat I wanted to lay down and take a good, long nap. Forget push-ups or bicycle crunches! If I had any spare energy left at all I might be motivated enough to create a comfy little makeshift pillow out of one of those courtesy gym towels. Cue the sappy break-up Muzak, and lights out.

While many variables impact your ability to feel vibrant and alert, the biggest ones are food and sleep. And luckily, making small tweaks to what you eat is an easy way to start bidding adieu to the land of the living dead. 

Once I started putting these healthy nutrition principles into practice, I was able to bolster my energy reserves and kiss my case of chronic lazy-ass goodbye. 

Foods that will put some pep back in your zombie step include:

    •    Low-glycemic/high-fiber foods. Low-glycemic index foods release energy over time, resulting in a smaller change in the blood sugar level and a steadier, longer-lasting feeling of energy. Examples of low-glycemic/high-fiber foods include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, berries, leafy green vegetables, and those famously farty cruciferous veggies, such as cabbage or cauliflower. 

    •    Protein-packed healthy fats. Essential fats called omega-3 fatty acids are total brain boosters and improve your mood. When you combine them with protein, it’s like landing a one-two knockout punch in fatigue’s face. Great sources include cold-water fish (like salmon, cod and halibut), avocados, nuts, and seeds. Chow down on avocados, raw nuts, and seeds on the regular, and eat fish rich in omega-3 up to three times per week.  Or try hummus. The combo of the puréed protein and fiber-rich garbanzo beans with the healthy fats in the olive oil (combined with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt) will definitely keep you going strong.

    •    Raw foods. Cooking food destroys nutrients and some of the enzymes that help with digestion and absorption. But there’s no need to swear off cooking! Just try adding more raw foods to your diet to increase your nutrient load and give your digestive system an occasional break. Raw foods include fruits, veggies, sprouted nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. If you really want to tempt the energy gods, try dipping some raw peppers, cucumbers and carrots into that already perky hummus.

    •    Superfoods. Including one or two superfood powerhouses in your daily diet is a sure way to amp up your energy. Examples include acai berries, chia seeds, dark leafy greens like kale or chard, and sea vegetables such as green algae and seaweed. Just be sure to check your teeth regularly for seeds and other miscellaneous plant life. 

    •    Dark chocolate. When you hit the famous three o’clock slump, recharge with a square or two of high quality dark chocolate. It contains the natural stimulant theobromine, kind of similar to caffeine, which boosts your energy and (bonus!) your mood. That should take a little of the crab off your apple and make you more alert. In other words, you’ll be much less likely to fly off the handle the next time you hear your cubicle-mate muttering sweet nothings to his stapler.

Oh, and don’t forget to drink some extra h2o. Taking a quick guzzle from the old water bottle is definitely a smart move when you need a pick-me-up.

Fatigue is a common daily battle for many of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Try putting these energizing eating strategies to good use so you can stay focused and get the most out of every day. Soon you’ll be so invigorated, you’ll forget all about staking out that next perfect “power nap” spot. Though I hear the supply closet is pretty darn soundproof. Not to mention nice and dark.