Step Aside Caffeine...Optimal Nutrition for Natural Energy
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Do you feel like you cannot get your brain functioning or your body moving without your morning coffee? Or perhaps you down a soda, an energy drink or more coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up?
If you feel like you cannot get going without a caffeinated beverage, that is probably because you have trained your body to work that way. Caffeine is a highly addictive drug and many people are using it to provide themselves with artificial energy. But if you are relying on it in that way, you are ultimately depleting your natural energy stores and will need more and more caffeine to get to the energy levels that you previously experienced. It is essentially a loan shark for energy and can accentuate hypoglycemic symptoms. If you are using caffeine for energy, it is a vicious cycle which ultimately takes away more energy than it gives.
There is a better way to have sustainable all-day energy without relying on multiple cups of coffee or sugary energy drinks to get you going or just to 'normal'. Caffeine may be providing you with the stimulation that you feel you need to get through your day, but in the long term especially if you use caffeinated beverages to push through when you are feeling tired, you are actually doing your body and your energy more harm than good.
The Negative Effects of Caffeine
Using coffee, energy drinks, soda or any other form of caffeine to increase your energy actually backfires in the long run. It is basically like using borrowed energy and causes an energy depletion over time.
Caffeine also accentuates hypoglycemic symptoms. It can be addictive and over time you can build up a level of tolerance meaning that you need more and more over time to produce the same energizing effects. You find yourself caught up in a vicious cycle that ultimately takes away more energy than it gives.
If you are a habitual caffeine consumer, you have lowered your baseline level of mood, performance and energy which essentially has lowered your function any time that you are not drinking caffeine. And then it starts taking more and more to get you back to feeling normal. You think that you are feeling the effects of enhanced mood, energy and performance but you are actually just feeling what it feels like to be at your normal levels before you started using caffeine. This ultimately makes you dependent on higher amounts of caffeine to just function at a baseline level and to feel normal.
Too much caffeine can cause you to feel panicky, nauseous and anxious. It can also cause restlessness, nervousness, the coffee jitters, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbance and an elevated heart rate.
It may disrupt your natural hormone levels and affect your circadian rhythm causing you to feel like you need more the next day because you didn’t get the proper amount of rest. Caffeine may also weaken your adrenal glands over time which perpetuates a cycle of high stress. And, it may deplete levels of key nutrients many of which your body needs to produce energy naturally.
Benefits of Eliminating Caffeine
Gives your liver a break from working so hard.
Allows for deeper, more restoring sleep.
Improves your mood and can decrease feelings of irritability, fatigue, anxiety and depression caused by over consumption of caffeine.
Helps blood sugar control.
Helps maintain oral health with whiter teeth and fresher breath.
What to Eat and Drink for Natural Energy
In addition to getting, deep restorative sleep, managing stress levels and exercising regularly to help you have good energy, make sure to eat a balanced variety of whole foods and drink plenty of filtered water every single day. This is key to maintaining sustained natural energy without the highs, lows and moodiness that can come from relying on caffeine for energy.
In order to balance your energy throughout the day, it is of utmost importance to eat a variety of nutrient rich foods that will keep all systems operating without draining your energy or causing blood spikes and crashes.
You need a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat to fuel your metabolism providing the correct balance of energy that your body needs to function. Complex carbohydrates are the best type for providing prolonged, balanced energy because they are digested more slowly and consistently.
Protein, such as lean meats, healthy fish, lentils and beans as well as healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds and some oils are beneficial as well. Also, be sure to include fiber with every meal as it helps you feel fuller faster so that you aren’t overeating and taxing your digestive system and it also helps keep your blood sugar balanced.
When you are supplying your body and brain with a steady stream of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, complex carbs, protein and fiber, you are giving yourself the tools that you need to keep your blood sugar balanced, to keep your hormones balanced, to keep your digestion on track and to support your immune system. You are supporting yourself at a cellular level which allows the production of energy to keep the cycle going strong.
Natural Energy Superfoods
Start small by incorporating just a few of these superfoods into your regular rotation. Eventually, you will build a supply in your pantry and will have these foods on hand to use more and more in your daily routine. This list is only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to natural energy superfoods, but start here and keep building your knowledge.
Gogi Berries- These nutrient dense berries pack a punch with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and protein. Add them to home-made energy bars, smoothies or trail mix.
Spirulina- This is actually blue-green algae and is used in powder form. It is one of the most nutrient dense foods that you can find and is also a complete protein. Add the powder to your morning smoothie for all-day energy.
Chia Seeds- Another nutrient dense superfood in a tiny package. They are high in antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber as well as being a complete protein. You can use them daily by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal and salad dressings.
Cacao Powder- This superfood is high in minerals and fiber. It contains theobromine which is stimulating to the nervous system. It also contains a small amount of caffeine, but not enough to be overstimulating. Look for raw, organic cacao powder (not cocoa powder) and add it to home-made energy bars and smoothies.
Bananas- Great source of complex carbs, protein, and fiber while being low in calories. Add to your super powered green smoothie for a sustained boost of energy in the morning.
Beets- These tasty morsels can help increase blood flow to the brain. Add to smoothies or salads and try juicing with spinach, apple and carrot for a tasty, super energy blend.
Wild-caught Salmon- Salmon is packed with brain boosting and energy producing nutrients including Omega-3 fatty acids, protein and B-vitamins.
Peppermint Tea- This herbal tea has no caffeine but the peppermint flavor is stimulating to your mind and can help with digestion.
Dandelion Root Tea-This tea tastes and looks similar to coffee and provides antioxidants and nutrients without the caffeine. You can find a wide variety on the Teeccino website.
Chicory Root Tea-An awesome coffee alternative! Chicory root is a plant-based, prebiotic which not only promotes gut health but it helps relieve constipation, can help decrease inflammation, is a great source of key nutrients and is rich in antioxidants. Do not use if you are pregnant! In addition to dandelion root tea, Teeccino also offers a wide variety of chicory root tea. It actually kind of tastes like coffee. With flavors like almond amaretto, caramel nut, French vanilla and hazelnut you will not miss your coffee at all.
Green Smoothies-Adding greens like spinach or kale to your smoothie in the morning will provide you with natural energy. Give your smoothie a super power boost by adding spirulina, cacoa powder and gogi berries. And don't forget to add chia seeds after blending to give it an extra energy kick.
Matcha Green Tea-This green tea has less caffeine and it is delivered slowly to provide long lasting energy. It also has lots of other health benefits like immune system support, can boost weight loss and is high in antioxidants. There are lots of other green teas as well so experiment and see what you like best.
Yerba Mate-A type of tea that has less caffeine than coffee but still provides you with added focus without making you jittery or impacting your sleep. It has an earthy flavor which is an acquired taste for some or you may love it immediately. This is one of my favorite beverages. Be aware that the cold ones you find in the cans in the store contain a lot of sugar. It is best to buy the loose leaves in bulk or tea bags and brew it yourself.
Ultimately, the best way to use caffeine is by cycling on and off to give yourself a break from the effects and to keep your baseline at a more even level so that you are not dependent on it and get back to the point where you need caffeine everyday just to feel normal. Teas are a better alternative because they have less caffeine and are high in antioxidants. They supply you with nutrients rather than robbing you of the nutrients that you need to function optimally.
Try something new and maybe you will find that you feel better, sleep better and have more energy without having to rely on caffeine in coffee, sodas or energy drinks. Remember to use nutrient dense foods along with your other optimized nutrition and lifestyle habits to be healthy, happy and energized!
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About the Author
Kristi Ryan is the founder of Kristi Ryan Holistic Nutrition and the creator of the Abundant Energy Method for Busy Women. As a holistic nutrition and health coach specializing in energy wellness she supports, educates, motivates and empowers busy women with nutrition, mindset and lifestyle transformation using her proven methodology to bring abundant energy and vitality into their lives.
*Disclaimer: The information I share is for general information only and is not intended to replace medical advice. I do not diagnose, treat or cure disease, prescribe treatments or medications, or recommend medical treatment or surgery. You should speak to your physician prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, exercise or medications or acting on anything you have read or discussed with me. If you don’t, you are doing so at your own risk.
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