Many methods to improve your health are pretty straightforward: to lose weight, maintain a calorie deficit and exercise; to boost your energy, get more sleep; to prevent dehydration, drink more water. Others, however, are totally counter-intuitive.
The following tips really do work—but they may leave you scratching your head.
Drink Coffee to Have a Better Nap
A “coffee nap” or “caffeine nap”—consuming about 200 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in two cups of coffee) and then immediately taking a 30-minute rest—supposedly makes you more alert and makes you feel less fatigued.
Researchers believe a 20-minute nap ends just as the caffeine kicks in and clears the brain of a molecule called adenosine, maximizing alertness.
“Adenosine is a byproduct of wakefulness and activity,” Amir Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, told Health. “As adenosine levels increase, we become more fatigued. Napping clears out the adenosine and, when combined with caffeine, an adenosine-blocker further reduces its effects and amplifies the effects of the nap.”
To Eat Less, Eat More
“Grabbing a 100-calorie snack pack of cookies or pretzels may seem virtuous, but it’s more likely to make you hungrier than if you ate something more substantial,” Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, told Health. “Eating small amounts of carbohydrates does nothing but spike your blood sugar and leave you wanting more carbs.”
Choose a protein such as peanut butter or string cheese with an apple, recommended Goodson.
“They are higher in calories per serving, but the protein and fat help you get full faster and stay full longer—and you end up eating fewer calories overall,” said Goodson.
Skip Energy Drinks When You’re Tired
“Energy drinks contain up to five times more caffeine than coffee, but the boost they provide is fleeting and comes with unpleasant side effects like nervousness, irritability, and rapid heartbeat,” said Goodson.
Energy drinks often contain high levels of taurine, a central nervous system stimulant, and upwards of 50 grams of sugar per can (that’s 13 teaspoons worth!). The sweet stuff spikes blood sugar temporarily, only to crash soon after, leaving you sluggish and foggy-headed—and reaching for another energy drink.
Reach for your water or flavored water. Dehydration is often the reason for low energy. Try plain coffee or tea if you need a caffeinated boost.
Drink Water When You’re Bloated
“When you feel bloated, drinking water sounds as if it would only make matters worse, but it can often help,” James Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., told Health.
“If you’re on a high-fiber diet, for instance, then your body needs more water to work more efficiently,” said Dr. Lee. “Water mixes with water soluble fiber and makes it into a gel-like substance. This affects the motility of the gut and reduces the symptom of bloating.”
Drinking more water also relieves bloating caused by dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your body clings to the water it does have due to electrolyte imbalances, causing you to feel bloated.
Don’t brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods. Acidic foods—citrus fruits and drinks, sports drinks, tomatoes, soda (both diet and regular)—soften your tooth enamel, not only changing the color of your teeth but making way for bacteria to cause cavities or infection.
Brushing your teeth at this stage can speed up acid’s effect on your enamel and erode the layer underneath. Wait 60 minutes before brushing to let your saliva naturally remove the acids and re-harden the enamel.
Reaching for the soap bottle labeled “antibacterial” won’t necessarily reduce your risk of getting sick or passing illness to others—in fact, there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than regular ones.
What’s more, long-term exposure to some ingredients in these products, such as triclosan, may pose health risks like bacterial resistance or hormonal effects. Triclosan was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016.
Stick with regular soap and water and proper hand washing technique to prevent spreading germs to yourself and others.
Muscle weight, that is. If there are two people, both the same weight, and only one lifts weights, the lifter is likely to appear leaner than the sedentary counterpart. Increasing your lean muscle mass increases your metabolism. Increasing your metabolism means you’ll burn more calories. When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight.
Also, although a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, muscle takes up less space, Mark Nutting, founder of Fitness Business Specialist in Easton, Pennsylvania, told Health. “You can get bigger muscles and get smaller overall if you lose the fat,” added Nutting.
The bulk from gaining muscle you fear only occurs if you don’t lose fat and develop muscle in addition to it.
After a long, exhausting workday, exercising sounds like the last thing you’d want to do, but getting your sweat on will actually energize you. Fatigue along with mood and depression improve with moderate exercise.
“Everything we do uses oxygen, so when you exercise it helps you work more efficiently and you don’t tire as easily,” says Nutting. “You also function better mentally.”
Try to maintain your energy throughout your day, start by staying hydrated, eating well-timed meals and snacks, and alternating sitting and standing. Go exercise right after work instead of chilling on the couch.
You might think typing notes on your electronic device makes you jot down more material, but you’re more likely to remember those notes if you handwrite them. When you type, you usually type word for word. Writing notes activates your brain differently than typing because it makes you rewrite the information in your own words.
“To learn something means you have processed it,” said Dr. Towfigh. “When you take handwritten notes you ‘process’ or learn more information. You begin the learning process as you listen to the lecture.”
“Plus, since you look at the page on which you are writing, you naturally review the material and reinforce the information you’ve already processed,” said Dr. Towfigh.
You may hear or be given some health tip that seems funny or counterintuitive, but there may be fact behind it. Do some research before you brush off that advice.