Coffee and caffeine necessary to get you through the day? Have you ever stopped for a second to reflect on why that is? Here’s why coffee may not actually be the energy booster you THINK it is, plus 5 ways to get more energy—that lasts (no caffeine necessary).
“There’s never enough time in the day.”
It’s the truth.
If I could invent a 28-hour day to allow a little more time to get things done (and sleep enough), I would.
However, no matter what a day brings…or how late I lay down my head (sometimes as late as midnight or 1 a.m.), I somehow manage to awake every morning between 5:30 and 7 a.m. with new wind beneath my wings!
Natural energy! No coffee included.
Yup. You heard me right.
Call me odd, but I’ve never been a coffee drinker.
(True story: I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee in my life. I’ve had a sip here and there, but the “acquired taste” never really stuck).
I consider myself the rare 15% who does not though.
Approximately 85% of Americans drink coffee—and not just one cup, but on average, 3 cups per day (ironically Americans also consume 90 grams of sugar per day—nearly four times as much as the maximum recommended amount, much of this also in our coffee).
Coffee is the “water of choice” for many folks.
In fact, often times when I sit down in a consult with a client and ask how much water they drink, 2-3 cups of coffee is often thought to “count” as the water they drink.
Unfortunately, this is actually the opposite.
Coffee naturally dehydrates you and for every 8 ounces of coffee you drink, you need 12 ounces of water to replace water lost by the cup of Joe.
And not only dehydrates you, but coffee actually strips you of energy in the long run.
Yes. You heard me right again.
While coffee (and other caffeine stimulates) do seemingly give you a boost in energy…that “energy” as you know, is NOT lasting…setting you up to need…another cup of coffee…something sweet and sugary…a cup of green tea…an Energy Drink.
And the beat goes on. The more we rely on coffee for “energy”, the more our internal “energy” system begins to depend on coffee—and other stimulants—to keep us going.
It all comes down to cortisol (our stress hormones).
We all have stress in our daily lives, and often times when we get stressed, we get an “energy boost” in order to get us through the stress.
Think: Stumbling upon a bear in the woods, that then proceeds to chase you.
You get a spike in energy (and adrenaline) to outrun that bear as fast as you can.
Or another example: Feeding your kids too much sugar. At the fro-yo spot, they fill the large container with swirly goodness of White Chocolate Mousse, gummy worms, sprinkles, Reeses peanut butter cups and marshmallows and you notice an instant spike in their energy (they are running around like wild Indians, making farting noises under their arm pits and playing tag inside the yogurt shop). Even though, sugar is pretty darn stressful from a digestive and health perspective (i.e. no nutrients), the body responds positively with a short-term boost in energy (only to lead to a crash and cranky kid an hour later).
Coffee works the same way for us grown ups.
Imagine a roller coaster.
- You drink the coffee as you crank up the tracks in your rail car, gaining momentum, gaining steam.
- Your cortisol levels rise—which feels good for a little while.
- We are running off steam.
- You then reach the top—on top of the world…only to…whooooooaaaaaaa, put your hands up and go on a wild ride, plummeting back all the way to the bottom…then needing to reach for your next fix or high to get your energy revved and build up some steam again.
Up and down, up and down.
Even moderate amounts of coffee (and yes, even decaf) have the ability to do this to our cortisol.
That is why one cup of quality coffee is generally the recommendation for a balanced, healthy relationship with the stimulant.
Your body (and you) only need so much.
Ever wonder if there could be another way to have natural, lasting energy without having to reach for a cup of coffee, espresso shot, Green tea or other caffeine stimulant to “get you through” the peaks and valleys in your day?
Try one of these natural energy boosters to keep your energy revved (and lasting):
Natural Energy Boost
”Drink more water” is often the answer to many health hacks, but it is the truth. Water is essential for energy. Our bodies are made up of 60% of water, meaning they thrive upon water to function (metabolism and energy included). If you are experiencing a dip in energy, a headache or crash, consider reaching first for water to boost your bod.
Did you know that 20 minutes of meditation is equivalent to 4-hours of sleep? Meditation is not complicated either: Simply close your eyes, focus on your breathing and attune your thoughts to being present. Right where you are at.
You’ve heard of ‘power naps before…but have you heard of 10-minute power naps? No?! They are amazing! Seriously, 10-minutes is all you need. According to a study reported by Forbes, researchers tested and compared the effects of 5, 10, 20 and 30-minute naps, and found:
- The 5-minute nap produced few benefits in comparison with the no-nap control.
- The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.
- The 20-minute nap was associated with improvements emerging 35 minutes after napping and lasting up to 125 minutes after napping.
- The 30-minute nap produced a period of impaired alertness and performance immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia, followed by improvements lasting up to 155 minutes after the nap.
If you are on the go all day for instance…and utterly exhausted…consider a ‘car nap.’ Park in the parking lot of the next place you have to be, put your shades on, lean your chair back just a tad bit, and set your phone alarm for 10-minutes. Or ever wake up at your usual time in the morning, but don’t feel fully rested? Try getting ready for the day, then taking 10 before you run out the door. Amazingness! Close your eyes and re-charge…like a battery.
Exercise releases endorphins…endorphins make you happy…and give you energy too! As counterintuitive as it may seem to exercise at times when feel ‘sluggish’ or energy drained, once you get moving, it’s as if the body awakens! According to research in a New York Times report: University of Georgia researchers decided to study whether exercise can be used to treat fatigue. The research, which appears in the February issue of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, involved 36 volunteers who were not regular exercisers but who complained of persistent fatigue.
One group of fatigued volunteers was prescribed 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks. The second group engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for the same time period, while a third control group did not exercise.Both of the exercise groups had a 20 percent increase in energy levels by the end of the study, compared to the control group. However, it’s important to note that the researchers found that more intense exercise isn’t the best way to reduce fatigue. The low-intensity group reported a 65 percent drop in feelings of fatigue, compared to a 49 percent drop in the group doing more intense exercise.
The bottom line? Move it-even if it’s a 10-minute stroll at lunch; 10 burpees or a tabata of push-ups, squats and sit-ups; a yoga or dance class; CrossFit or weight training-do something you enjoy…and don’t go overboard. The key is to not wear yourself out.
Fatty acids in our diets are the densest form of energy we can consume (i.e. BIG bang for your buck). Fish oil provides essential fats because it is made up of omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fats are those that the body can’t produce on its own—they must be eaten—and it must have them for optimal function. Like water, fats, too, boost your metabolism-strengthening your cells’ lipid bilayer to be strong as well as more insulin resistant. Bonus: fish oil (omega 3’s) increase levels of certain chemicals in your brain which enable you to focus and deal with stress better (i.e. SAVE energy). Recommendations? Opt for a quality cod liver oil, over a standard “fish oil” to get the biggest bang from your Omega-3 buck (cod liver oil has Vitamin A and D to help absorb your healthy fats)! Many fish oils are more susceptible to going rancid due to the processing industry and instability of the oils in them. I like Nordic Naturals 100% Cod Liver Oil or Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
Stop and Smell the Roses (Peppermint).
It has been found to increase alertness and the energy metabolism in your muscles and brain — from athletes to tired drivers. You you can use Peppermint in several ways:
- Apply directly to the skin (depending on the quality of the product, you may need a carrier oil). Rub oil on temples and back of neck.
- Add a few drops to a bath.
- Take a strong whiff straight from the bottle, to get an instant booster.
Diffuse the oil throughout your living space or bedroom.
We live in a world of screens! Smart phones, tablets, computers, TVs…everywhere. If you are looking at a computer or phone screen all day, or even at night (and this includes your cell phone), you are disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythms (guilty). Remember: Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle in the physiological process of all living beings and it is affected by light. It is responsible for determining our sleeping and waking patterns, as well as our brain wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration. (i.e. energy). When it is disrupted, we may grow fatigued more often (Dips in energy-as your brain can only take so much screen light during the days, and needs to ‘recharge’). Make a new daily habit to unplug, or step away from the screen, for a little ‘break.’ Bonus points for getting back to nature. Research shows that spending time in fresh air, surrounded by nature, increases energy in 90 percent of people.
Get Your Greens On.
Eat your greens girl! Popeye the Sailor Man was on to something when promoting spinach like a boss. It makes you strong, inside and out. Green veggies, such as Spinach, Kale, Collards, and Rainbow Chard are rich in Vitamins A, C, K as well as some iron—giving your body a natural boost of energy and immunity. ‘Green drinks’ (juices) have also become popular for this reason: energy! I can distinctly tell a difference in my energy levels and mental clarity on the mornings I eat my greens (in eggs, or alongside homemade turkey sausage or leftover protein) and those that I do not. In fact, my body craves them now-breakfast, lunch and dinner most days.
Try this simple recipe with your greens of choice:
Kale, rainbow chard, collards, spinach—or a mixture of all; 1 tsp. ghee; sea salt & pepper
Wash your greens thoroughly; heat oil in pan on stove on medium heat; throw greens in pan; sprinkle with sea salt & pepper; add splash of water to pan; cook on medium heat, covered with lid for 5-6 minutes, or until nicely ‘steamed.