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Good, Old-Fashioned Energy Boosters

According to the experts, you don't need performance enhancing drinks, powders, or pills to get a physical and mental edge at work. In fact, such substances may actually be counterproductive. With the right diet and behavior, you can build and maintain energy for peak performance all day. To keep your system in perfect working condition, start by eating a solid breakfast every morning; then avoid obvious dietary pitfalls, snack sensibly, along and indulge in an occasional boost from natural caffeine (as in coffee). The effects may not be as immediate as what you'd get by downing a can of JoltMaster 1000, but they're better for you in the long run.

To say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is an understatement; it sets the stage for your energy level over the remainder of your waking hours. Dr. Gerard Mullin of Johns Hopkins University says that the best approach is to combine protein--a slow-burning source of energy, such as an egg--with a complex carbohydrate such as a banana or a bowl of oatmeal. And other fruits can't hurt: Dr. Mullin and Cynthia Sass (a nutrition director for prevention) agree that berries are hard to beat--especially the dark ones, which contain powerful antioxidants that Sass calls "little bodyguards that protect healthy cells from aging and free radicals produced by stress, exercise, contaminants in the environment, and so on." Some fruits also contain polyphenols that protect against cancer. For an afternoon power-up, it's wise to stick to fruits or a handful of nuts in lieu of vending-machine candy bars.

And don't worry too much about drinking caffeine. Not only is coffee generally safe, but recent studies have shown that it may have a number of positive side effects, ranging from protecting against Parkinson's disease to lowering heart attack risk. That information isn't a license to abuse coffee, of course. A quattro macchiato will not only spin you out, but download a bunch of calories into your system as well. A better approach is to sip green tea throughout the day; you'll get a mild boost and a dose of antioxidants besides.

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