We’ve all got a lot going on — packed schedules, deadlines, friends and family commitments —so it’s no wonder that we often start our days feeling groggy — and then, when afternoon rolls around, we search for a quick pick-me-up. While caffeine can certainly offer this much-needed boost in energy, it can also do more harm than good in some cases.
Although the nutrition facts of coffee are quite impressive — with antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and improve the health of your heart and brain — it’s easy to overdo it with your caffeine intake. This can lead to signs of a caffeine overdose, like feeling panicky, sick and anxious. In fact, the caffeine found in coffee, tea and “energy drinks” is really a stimulant chemical that affects your central nervous system, which explains how it can elevate your heart rate, leave you feeling “wired,” cause dizziness and even lead to muscle twitches and trouble breathing.
It’s true that caffeine affects everyone differently, and some people can handle drinking a few cups of coffee throughout the day. But a lot of people depend on caffeine to get through their day — when they could be turning to the following caffeine-free energy boosters instead.
6 Caffeine Alternatives for Increased Energy
Peppermint oil is cooling and invigorating, so it serves as an excellent alternative to caffeine. Just inhaling the scent of peppermint oil from the bottle or applying a few drops to your temples and back of your neck will help to boost your energy levels, improve your focus, and reduce the hunger cravings that can sneak up on you when you’re feeling tired. You can also add 5 drops of peppermint oil to your shampoo for an energy-boosting and stimulating shower, or diffuse 5 drops at home or work.
An Energy-Boosting Snack
How about a snack packed with protein and healthy fats to boost your energy levels? My homeade energy balls are perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up, and they are made with nutrient-dense and energizing ingredients like coconut oil, Medjool dates, sunflower butter, almond flour and cacao nibs. Keep in mind that cacao nibs do contain theobromine, a stimulant that’s similar to caffeine in the way it affects your body, so you can use less for this recipe, or omit them entirely, if you need to. Either way, these energy balls will help with those sluggish mid-day moments that can get the best of all of us.
Drinking a fresh veggie juice will leave you feeling energized because it’s easily absorbed and digested by the body, since the vegetable fiber is removed curing the juicing process. If you need a quick pick-me-up, go for a juice made with nutrient-dense and hydrating ingredients like cucumber, celery, lime, lemon, leafy greens, apple, beet, ginger, coconut water and apple cider vinegar. There are so many juice options available these days — just but sure to choose a fresh option, as store-bought juices are typically loaded with sugar, preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients.
Did you know that incorporating regular exercise into your weekly routine will actually boost your energy levels? That’s because physical activity sends oxygen and nutrients to your body’s cells, which helps your lungs and heart to work more efficiently. You don’t have to run ten miles to experience the energy-boosting benefits of exercise, either. Simply taking a walk outside during your lunch break, going to a yoga class, or doing a low-intensity workout at home can make a huge difference. Plus, exercise also helps you to sleep better, feel happier, and perform better at work.
Adaptogenic herbs, or adaptogens, work to fight the effects of stress on the body by regulating your adrenal system and controlling the hormones that are altered by stress. Studies show that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that actually increases your mental work capacity — even when you are feeling stressed and mentally exhausted. Plus, adaptogenic herbs have neuroprotective and antidepressive effects.
Adaptogens like ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, and licorice root help to balance, restore and protect your body, so you’ll be less likely to have that worn-out and tired feeling after a day of work or chasing after the kids. You can find them in your local health food store, but keep in mind that several of them interact with prescription medications, so if you are taking other meds, you should chat with your doctor before adding adaptogens to your health regime.
Vitamin B12 Foods
Vitamin B12 is known as the “energy vitamin” because it supports thyroid function and the health of your blood cells. In fact, two of the key signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency are fatigue and weakness.
Vitamin B12 helps to convert the foods we eat, including carbs, proteins and fats, into usable fuel for the body. Beyond increasing your energy, vitamin B12 also helps to reduce sugar cravings, improve symptoms of depression and promote the health of your brain.
Some of the best vitamin B12 foods include wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, eggs, beef liver, nutritional yeast and feta cheese. Try to work these foods into your everyday diet to improve your energy levels naturally.
This story "6 Kosher Caffeine-Free Ways to Boost Energy" was written by Josh Axe.