Coffee may be America’s most popular energy booster. In the United States, 75 percent of adults drink this caffeinated beverage.REF#659
While research shows that coffee provides significant health benefits,REF#660 not everyone can tolerate the acidity and high levels of caffeine. Many people prefer a natural alternative to artificial sources of energy.
If you’re one of the 25% of American adults who doesn’t drink coffee, or you are looking for a substitute, we’ve put together a list of options that provide a healthy and sustainable energy boost and offer a range of other health benefits. Whether you want to improve your focus, increase energy, or support your overall health, there is a natural energy booster that can help you thrive.
The Benefits of Boosting Energy Naturally
Your options for boosting energy naturally include changes in your habits and products made from natural ingredients, such as plants, herbs, and fruits that are minimally processed. They provide numerous health benefits for both body and mind:
- Sustainable energy: Natural options keep you energized throughout the day, without the crashes and jitters associated with coffee and other artificial stimulants. They can increase your alertness and focus without causing overstimulation.
- Improved health: They are free from artificial additives and chemicals that can cause illness and disease, providing a safe and healthy alternative to caffeine, energy drinks, and other stimulants.
- Antioxidant properties: Energy-boosting drinks and supplements are rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body against free radical damage and support overall health and well-being.
- Increased focus: Several options are known to help improve mental clarity and focus.
- Few side effects: Unlike coffee, which can cause indigestion and heartburn and increase blood pressure, most caffeine-free natural energy boosters do not have adverse side effects.
- Non-addictive: Energy boosters with no or low amounts of caffeine will not lead to dependence or the withdrawal symptoms many heavy caffeine users experience when they don’t get their coffee.
7 Alternatives to Coffee for Sustained Energy
1. Low Glycemic Diet
You can increase your energy levels by consistently eating a low glycemic diet — a diet that focuses on consuming foods with a low glycemic index, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean poultry and meat.
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. A low glycemic diet promotes energy because it helps regulate blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed snacks, bakery goods, and sugary drinks, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, which can lead to a subsequent crash in energy levels.
When you consistently eat a low glycemic diet, you ensure a slow and steady release of energy into your bloodstream, which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and consistent energy levels throughout the day. You also consume various essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which help support your overall health and energy levels.
A balanced, nutrient-rich breakfast kicks your metabolism into gear each morning. Breakfast helps you maintain consistent glucose levels and energy throughout the day, giving your body the blood sugar it needs to keep your muscles and brain working their best.
When considering your breakfast menu, don’t ignore eggs. Eggs supply a great source of power and energy and have very little saturated fat. The cholesterol in eggs has been shown to have no significant association with mortality from cardiovascular disease or other causes.REF#661 So, one egg a day is safe for most people, as ong as you limit other cholesterol in your diet and don’t have issues with high cholesterol levels.
Eggs regulate blood glucose levels because they contain a balanced mix of high-quality protein and healthy fats. The protein in eggs helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which helps to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. The healthy fats in eggs also contribute to this slow release of energy, providing a steady source of fuel throughout the day.
Whether you eat eggs or other low glycemic foods, like whole grains, fruit, and green vegetables, make sure your breakfast provides a good balance of all the nutrients you need to stay healthy, including folate, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, and D.
Eating meals later in the day may give you a different daily intake of essential nutrients.REF#662 Additionally, skipping or delaying breakfast may be associated with mood disorders.REF#663
Studies suggest that those who skip breakfast may be at greater risk for chronic disease development, and those who eat breakfast daily have a lower risk of chronic disease.REF#662
3. Green Tea
If you’d like a warm drink in the mornings (or throughout the day), consider green tea. Green tea contains a small amount of caffeine, a stimulant that works by blocking the action of adenosine, a chemical in the brain that makes you feel tired.
Without the disruption of caffeine, adenosine levels build up in the brain throughout the day, leading to feelings of fatigue. When you consume caffeine, it attaches to the same receptors in the brain that adenosine would normally bind to, preventing adenosine from having an effect. This results in increased alertness and decreased fatigue.
A small amount of caffeine should not make you jittery. Green tea has around 30 to 50 mg per eight ounce cup (bagged tea often has more than loose leaf tea). Compare that to black tea, which has 25 to 110 mg per cup and coffee, which has 102 to 200 mg of caffeine in plain brewed and 240 to 720 mg in espresso.
Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can help improve brain function and helps increase focus and attention when paired with caffeine.*
When you drink green tea, you also get additional health benefits. It is made from the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub, which has been shown to have some of the highest antioxidant activity of any plant known, with greater antioxidant properties than either vitamin C and vitamin E.
Another coffee alternative similar to green tea is matcha, which has a similar level of caffeine. Follow our maca matcha latte recipe to try it out.
4. Eleuthero Root
There are several plants that have been used in alternative medicine for centuries to promote healthy energy levels.* Eleuthero Root (also called Siberian ginseng) is one popular adaptogen (a compound that helps your body adapt to stress) that increases energy and stamina levels without the jitteriness or letdown you may get from caffeinated products.*
A 2010 study demonstrated that Eleuthero has a potent ability to alleviate physical and mental fatigue in mice.REF#664 Another study of male athletes showed that eight weeks of supplementation with Eleuthero enhanced endurance and cardiovascular function.REF#665 The exact mechanism of action of Eleuthero and the significance of each of its various constituents is not yet fully understood.
5. Herbal Blends
Many herbal products companies create herbal blends to boost energy. Gaia Herbs has created several supplements with botanicals traditionally shown to help energize your mind and body.* Several you may want to try include:
- Energy Vitality: A blend of Ginkgo, Ginseng, Green Tea, and Nettle formulated to provide stamina support and mental clarity.*
- Plant Force Liquid Iron: Ablend of iron, Sea Buckthorn, Beet root, Dandelion, and Nettle that helps you naturally maintain appropriate iron levels for energy and vitality.*
- Maca Boost Cacao and Ginger: A powder made of Maca Root, raw cacao, and Ginger to add to milk or a smoothie to help maintain a physically active lifestyle.*
- Adaptogen Performance: The adaptogens Cordyceps and Ashwagandha work together to support endurance and stamina while helping your body cope with stress.*
While each of these products may provide the energy support you want, you may need to try them individually to find the best one for you.*
7. A Brisk Walk Outside
If you’re feeling sluggish, a walk outside can be a great pick-me-up. Adding regular exercise to your daily routine helps sustain your energy levels.
All exercise has been shown to increase energy by increasing your heart rate and boosting oxygen circulation within your body. Walking at a pace of 2.5 to 4.2 miles per hour is sufficient to experience the energy-inducing benefits of exercise.REF#666
In addition to better oxygen circulation, exercise, including walking, increases your endorphins, the naturally occurring chemicals in your body that act as pain relievers and mood elevators. Endorphins are produced by the nervous system in response to exercise, stress, pain, and other stimuli. They bind to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord, producing feelings of well-being.
Some studies have demonstrated the positive psychological benefits of walking in nature (versus walking indoors).REF#667 When your mood is depressed, it can affect your energy levels, both mental and physical. By elevating your mood and decreasing stress through exercise, you not only improve your physical energy but also increase your sense of vitality.
Whether you adopt just one of these energy-boosting options or integrate them all — one by one — into your lifestyle, you can increase your chance of greater vitality, less stress, and better health. If you love your coffee, you might enjoy all these benefits without giving up that first cup in the morning.
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