Say goodbye to energy drinks and coffee with these healthy alternatives
There’s an ongoing drastic energy crisis. And no, it’s not on a planetary scale. It’s happening inside your body. Do you feel tired most of the time? Take a look at our list of natural, drug-free energy boosters, and pick the ones you like. Or you can just try all of them. Go get energised!
Foods. To give you balanced energy throughout your day, you need to start with your diet. Load up on quality protein and other nutrients. Your protein should be a complete one, with all the essential amino acids present. Carbohydrates will give you quick energy, but eat them with protein and fat as they will slow down the rate your carbohydrates are absorbed and give you longer lasting energy.
Do you have a hard time getting through the afternoon at work? Try an energy snack such as mixed nuts or a smoothie.
Your body needs plenty of magnesium and B vitamins to produce enough energy for you. So focus on these nutrients and foods that contain them. Some great energy promoting foods are:
Protein smoothies. You know the best thing about protein smoothies? You can easily customise them according to your needs. You can figure out that winning combination of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) to make them taste delicious!
Chai or green tea. Switch to chai or green tea and put an end to that spike and dip cycle of coffee or energy drinks. Chai tea and green tea will not leave you crashing after keeping you up for several hours like coffee does. Just remember to limit the amount of sugar you add to these coffee alternatives as sugar can also send you crashing.
Cacao power or nibs. Cacao is naturally loaded with magnesium and is a perfect addition to your smoothie. Cacao can help to boost your energy levels and promote a feeling of wellbeing.
Coconut oil/milk. People who live in tropical regions have all the fun (and typhoons) don’t they? Well, not anymore. Coconut products are now widely available almost anywhere. They’re full of saturated fatty acids that keep you energised during those long hours.
Maca root. This root from Peru is a tuber like its cousin, the potato. Maca root is available in powder form and can be added to a smoothie or mixed with water. Besides being a non-caffeinated energy booster, maca may also help with hormone balancing in the body. Traditionally maca was used for female hormonal problems such as menopause and premenstrual symptoms, among other things.
Royal jelly. This superfood is produced by bees just like honey. But unlike honey, it’s reserved for the queen bee and newly hatched larvae to feast upon. Royal jelly has been used by humans for thousands of years to restore vitality and energy. Combine this with ginseng for a synergistic energy boost.
Spirulina. This algal nutritional supplement is made up largely of amino acids (62%). In addition to being an energy booster, laboratory studies in animals have found that Spirulina can boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in the body.
Barley grass. This humble member of the grass family is usually available in a powder form. Drink it in the morning in water or juice before breakfast as a healthy energy boost to start your day. Look for 100% barley grass powder made from the whole grass so that it includes all the fibre naturally present in the plant.
Bee pollen. For centuries, bee pollen has sustained its momentum as a superfood and energy enhancer. Why else would it be called “Mother Nature’s natural energy booster”? Increase your stamina, speed, strength and endurance with this supplement by taking it in capsule or granule form.
And of course, last but not least, keep yourself hydrated throughout the day with water. You see, water makes up a big portion of the entire six litres of your circulating blood. Mild forms of dehydration whether from exercise or disease states, can cause the volume of your blood to decrease. When this happens, your heart works twice as hard to bring oxygen and nutrients through the blood to your organs. Your heart gets tired too you know, resulting in fatigue. Clinically, this can manifest as a lack of energy.
Tip: A useful gauge to know if you’re well hydrated is to take a closer look at the colour of your urine. If you’re well hydrated, it should be clear to pale yellow. Take a look at the infographic below:
Herbs. Adaptogenic herbs are plant supplements which help the body adapt to an adverse influence or stressor. Wonderful, aren’t they? Generally speaking, they help your body to counter fatigue, deal with stress better and increase your energy levels. These herbs have been around for thousands of years. Practitioners of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have utilised them way, way back before the time you started complaining about low energy levels. Here are some noteworthy examples of adaptogenic herbs:
Rhodiola rosea – was traditionally known as an ‘anti-fatigue’ herb because of its adaptogenic properties. This herb can help to balance your cortisol levels to combat stress.
Withania somnifera – also called ashwagandha or more commonly Indian ginseng is not actually in the ginseng family but has very similar properties. Withania has modulating actions on your immune system and helps to reduce anxiety.
Centella asiatica – also known as gotu kola, is a rejuvenative, nervine herb that helps to strengthen your adrenal glands in times of stress.
Here are additional herbs you should be familiar with:
Ginseng – common members of the ginseng family are Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinqefolius), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Ginseng enhances vitality and increases your body’s ability to resist different types of stress.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) – this herb gives you energy by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). It also has psychoactive properties, increasing your alertness, memory, and cognition.
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) – treat yourself to a cup of yerba mate tea, more popularly known as mate in South America. Those who drink it believe it can restore energy by relieving your fatigue.
Exercise. Choose an exercise program that will gradually increase your energy levels, and not exhaust you in the process. A suitable exercise program will double the mitochondria in your muscle cells. As you know, the mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. Exercise improves the oxidative scope of your skeletal muscles so your heart and tissues receive more nutrients and oxygen. This in turn gives you more energy as your body is able to function more efficiently.
Tip: Some foods and supplements may also directly increase mitochondrial energy. These include shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms, astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) and acetyl L-carnitine.
Try to concentrate on non-stressful exercises like walking, hiking, swimming and rowing which also increase blood flow to your vital organs. After exercise, your serotonin and endorphin levels kick in and provide you with a sense of well-being and total relaxation.
Sleep. When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep (around 8 hours)? Can’t remember? Maybe because you lack sleep. Lack of sleep makes it harder for you to focus and get things done. If you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’ll also have low energy levels throughout the day. Try to develop regular sleeping habits. Your body will then be able to adapt and make use of energy efficiently and still have reserves. As to how exactly sleep rejuvenates your body, scientists are still unsure of this. But what they do know is that sleep regulates that mood of yours together with your learning and memory functions.
Tip: Your body will naturally become tired in the afternoon, that’s a fact. Take a quick 20 minute nap when you can. It will reset your thought processes, make you more alert and give you that energy boost you need. Hey, why do you think they call it a POWER nap? Just make sure it’s a short power nap from 10 to 20 mins as sleeping longer than this can leave you feeling groggy when you awaken.
Avoid or minimise exposure to EMF. EMF stands for electromagnetic field. Electromagnetic fields in the environment you loiter around in have a tremendous impact on your energy levels. These electromagnetic fields can be natural or man-made. Examples of natural EMFs include thunderstorms and the Earth’s own magnetic field. If you live near high tension power lines and cell phone towers (examples of man-made electromagnetic fields) you’re exposed to a lot of man-made EMF. Anything that carries or has an electric current has an electromagnetic field. The further you move away from the object, the less EMF you’re exposed to. EMFs are present in your electrical appliances (yes, including that four slice toaster you love), the wiring in your apartment, and those huge overhead and underground power lines. The risk of exposure to EMF may be small, but it is real nonetheless.
EMF has the potential to harm everything in your body, from your DNA, to a single cell, stress levels, sleep cycle, energy levels and everything else in between. A considerable number of people have reported health problems seemingly associated with exposure to EMF. In fact these signs and symptoms are now known as a syndrome called electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS). The EMF levels to which these people respond badly to are well under the levels known to produce adverse effects. This is alarming!
In 2006, the World Health Organisation replaced EHS with the term “Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance (IEI). This term covers sensitivities to EMFs as well as chemical or allergic reactions. Signs and symptoms associated with IEI are very nonspecific. We suggest you talk to your healthcare practitioner if you suspect you may have this.
To keep your energy levels up, avoid devices that possess and emit EMFs. It’s as simple as that. Don’t be paranoid though okay? There’s no reason to panic. For more information on EMFs and tips to minimise your exposure click here.
Recharge with negative ions. As much as possible, try to minimise the positive ions in your work and home environment. Click here for some tips to increase the amount of negative ions in your environment.
Yes, I can! How can you boost your own energy levels naturally when you don’t even believe that you can do it? Practice saying this to yourself, “Yes, I can” “Yes I can”. This creates a positive atmosphere within yourself and gives you the necessary courage to get things done. Placing yourself in a positive frame of mind will certainly boost your morale and energy at the same time. In psychology, this method is referred to as self-talk. The more you tell yourself positive things the more you will believe it and vice versa.
To sustain your energy levels, do what makes you happy. It goes without saying that if you’re happy with what you’re doing, you don’t feel tired. Instead you feel elated and in high spirits. This can be as simple as exercising, listening to Upbeat Music, laughing or shouting at the top of your lungs. When you give yourself time to do something you really enjoy, you’ll realise that you have more energy, feel better and are ready to face the next challenge. Tip: Try watching a funny movie or going to a comedy show. The health benefits of laughing are often underrated and unappreciated.
“Passion is ENERGY. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Hey, don’t laugh okay? I got this from Oprah. Truth be told, the woman is a genius when it comes to motivating people. In your case, allow your passion to drive you. The energy to do such things will flow naturally, so quit squawking and start doing. Flee from negative people. If you’re on a sinking boat with a group of negative people, your chances of saving yourself diminish quickly. You’re surrounded by people who can pull you down and zap away the remaining energy in you. Look on the bright side, jump ship and swim towards the group of people on the shore, filled with hope and enthusiasm. Positive people carry a lot of positive energy which will rub off on you.
Flee from negative people. If you’re on a sinking boat with a group of negative people, your chances of saving yourself diminish quickly. You’re surrounded by people who can pull you down and zap away the remaining energy in you. Look on the bright side, jump ship and swim towards the group of people on the shore, filled with hope and enthusiasm. Positive people carry a lot of positive energy which will rub off on you.
With the natural energy boosting solutions listed above, it’s high time you stopped relying on your coffee or energy drinks for a pick up. Start changing things now so that you will feel better and more energised each day going forward.