Let’s face it – the vast majority of us are lost without that morning cup of joe to get the day started. We’ve become so reliant upon coffee and other drinks that contain caffeine that we feel we cannot function without them.
For people who don’t enjoy coffee, energy drinks have become a popular alternative to that morning latte or macchiato. Some of those ice-cold canned like beverages contain more caffeine than your average cup of coffee; in fact some of them have so much caffeine that you get about a week’s worth if you drink two energy drinks in a 24-hour period.
Unfortunately, beverages containing caffeine can cause serious side effects. The most common is the “crash” you feel soon after drinking that cup of coffee or energy drink. After the body metabolizes caffeine (the time it takes varies from person to person), you start to feel sluggish again, which sends us in search of that next cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage. Pretty soon, you’re stuck in a vicious cycle in which your body craves all that caffeine, and you feel powerless to break the habit. Your caffeine habit stretches from that morning coffee to the one you have to have in the afternoon in order to stave off the fatigue you feel at around 3 pm every day.
Although coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can actually be good for you when consumed in moderation, energy drinks are a different beast as they contain a cocktail of additional ingredients that could compound the effects of caffeine.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways you can increase your energy levels without caffeine. Cutting down will involve a few lifestyle changes, but in the end, you’ll feel much better. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save without an energy drink habit!
Here are five tried-and-true ways to boost your energy – none of which contain caffeine:
5. Always Start the Day With Breakfast
It might sound like a cliché, but the first meal of the day is the most important. Eating a good breakfast will ensure that you are fueled up and ready to face whatever the day brings. That doesn’t mean starting the day with that ubiquitous cup of coffee and a slice of dry toast. If you choose foods that have a good balance of rib-sticking protein and energizing carbohydrates, you’ll feel much more energetic than if you skip the meal entirely. Choose things like scrambled eggs and whole-grain toast, oatmeal with fruit and nuts, and if you have the time, replace that morning coffee with a smoothie made from yogurt, fruit, and protein powder, or maybe even a nutrient-packed green smoothie.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Talk to anyone you know and they’re likely to tell you they don’t get enough sleep. The truth is, there aren’t many of us who can get by without less than 8 hours of sleep per night. In fact, most of us could use more than that.
Your body will tell you when it is not getting enough sleep; you’ll feel sluggish throughout the day, and your productivity will suffer. Instead of turning to caffeine, try getting more sleep. Scientists have known for decades that we need at least eight hours of quality sleep per night to keep us feeling chipper. Give it a try and see how much better you’ll feel.
3. Get Some Exercise
Fitting in a trip to the gym isn’t always possible when you have a busy schedule. Some of us are able to make time in our days to get in a workout, but on those days when it’s not possible, there are plenty of other ways to keep moving: Take the stairs instead of riding your building’s elevator; Go for a walk during your lunch break; Tailor your commute if you can – get off the train or bus one or two stops before you normally would and walk the rest of the way home, or to the office; Wear one of those electronic fitness bracelets to track the number of steps you’re taking and increase that number if you see you aren’t moving around as much as you should.
2. Eat Smaller Meals and Snack Accordingly
Eating large meals can make you feel sluggish, particularly if you indulge in a big lunch, or eat sugary snack foods. Too much sugar, like too much caffeine, can cause you to crash and feel tired during times of the day when you need to be alert and active.
The secret to maintaining your energy levels is to eat smaller meals more often, and choose healthy foods. Lighter meals containing protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates are not only easier to digest, they provide more energy than snack foods with their high levels of sugar and empty calories. If you feel the need to snack on something between lunch and dinner, choose a handful of nuts and seeds, fruit, or a small salad to keep satiated until dinner.
1. Stay Hydrated
You’ve heard it over and over, but it bears repeating: staying hydrated will not only boost your energy levels, it will keep you healthy. Drinking enough water is vital to keeping your brain functioning properly, as well as all the other organs in your body. Becoming dehydrated is the quickest route to feeling fatigued.
Before you reach for that cup of coffee, remember that caffeine is one of the most dehydrating substances you can consume. Reach instead for a bottle of water and drink as much as you want. If you get bored with plain water, try squeezing fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice in it, or buy one of those pitchers that allow you to infuse fruits and vegetables into your water.