Carolyn Snively, Health Columnist

College students are enduring the homestretch before the revitalization of Thanksgiving Break. Now, over halfway through the semester, students are feeling fatigue and often resort to unhealthy solutions to combat the exhaustion. Using natural energy boosters will be more beneficial to health and even cause positive long-term health effects.

There is an imbalance that is often created as students try to balance schoolwork, activities and jobs. They run short on time, energy and resources and turn to the highly-advertised energy boosters, like Monster and Starbucks Frappuccino. Some people opt for the “sugar rush” and eat an entire Snickers bar while washing it down with Mountain Dew. The disadvantage to these stimulants is that the high refined sugar content produces short-term energy followed by a “crash” soon after. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it guarantees weight gain and puts people at risk for heart disease and diabetes over time.

According to Nancy Parkinson, Kinesiology and Health professor and registered dietitian, there are health risks associated with the long-term use and over consumption of energy and caffeine products.

“These would include increased heartbeat, insomnia, an imbalanced metabolism, caffeine addiction, behavior issues and increased blood pressure,” Parkinson said. “I recommend that people try to find balance between school, work, activities, sleep and dealing with stress. This can happen through exercise and proper nutrition.”

Boosting energy naturally actually benefits our health. Heart-healthy options provide short- and long-term health effects and are readily available. Not only are these natural options nutritious, but they also keep the weight off.

High-energy foods include whole grains and fiber. These are “high satiety” foods that keep you fuller longer. Eat a snack that includes a protein and a complex carbohydrate, such as whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese, or peanut butter on whole-grain bread. These are the ideal combinations of protein and carbohydrates that will prevent the “sugar crash” by keeping blood sugar at a sustained level.

Start the day by eating a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate breakfast. Some high-fiber cereals have 14 grams of fiber and whole-wheat toast can have as much as 6 grams. Eating a nutrient-rich, high-satiety breakfast will keep you fuller longer and prevent snacking.

Exercise will also increase your energy. Whether it’s working out at the gym or walking to class, physical activity is a highly beneficial natural energy-booster. We get a large amount of energy from the carbohydrates and fats in our diet. In order to burn this food for energy, oxygen is necessary. Oxygen is produced by red blood cells and is present in aerobic exercise, or “cardio.” The higher our oxygen supply, the more fuel we are able to burn, and the more work we can perform. Aerobic exercise can produce longer-lasting energy.

Another way to boost energy is to keep distance from negative people. It may be unnoticeable, but being surrounded by people with negative energy can bring down others’ moods and cause stress. Stress causes the body to enter the “fight or flight” stage which produces adrenaline, and when adrenals burn out, the body goes into exhaustion, according to the CDC.

Drinking more water on a daily basis can also combat fatigue caused by dehydration. Exercise and alcohol consumption are major contributors to dehydration.

Making one small change at a time will create an abundance of healthy habits that all work together to provide optimum health. Choose natural options when looking for an energy boost to experience long-term health benefits.