Saturday, September 24, 2022

Natural alternatives to Caffeine

The busy lives of tens of thousands of workers worldwide, be it at work, school, or any other activity, quickly drains the body of energy and leaves behind a sluggish physical movement and impaired mental faculties. Caffeine has become one of the most famous options for those who need a quick burst of energy, most of the time in the form of a warm cup of coffee, but suffer the risk of crashing once that energy dwindles to nothing.

Instead of drinking a cup of joe or resorting to other sources of caffeine, there are many natural alternatives to caffeine that you can safely rely on without fearing a crash. There are also a handful of activities you can do virtually anywhere to get you back up on your feet once the day has worn you down.

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Regarded as one of the greatest herbs in the ancient Indian healing system Ayurveda. Its name translates to “smell of a horse”, not because of having an equine scent, but because of its ability to impart strength and vitality akin to a powerful stallion. Often it is prescribed to people who are currently recovering from illnesses to boost their immune system and prevent further compromise. It contains alkaloids, choline, amino and fatty acids, withanolides, and many other healthy chemicals that make ashwagandha very effective in bringing the body back to tiptop shape and remedying stress and fatigue. Studies have also revealed the herb’s promising effects in treating neurodegenerative diseases by reducing deterioration on the brain, and supporting the development of dendrites on the nerve cells to completely reduce the risk of dementia. Ashwagandha’s effects on the brain allow it to withstand stress from internal and external factors, enhance sleep, and promote energy levels. Powdered ashwagandha can be mixed with other warm drinks, and supplements can be purchased from health stores.

2. Kiwi

A study was done in New Zealand’s University of Otago wherein 54 students were divided into two groups. The first group was given two kiwi a day and the other was only issued with half of the fruit. After a period of observation, the first group reported a significant improvement in their energy levels with a decrease in depression and fatigue. The rich vitamin C content of the fruit, coupled by fiber and potassium, is responsible for the spike in energy and the decline of stress symptoms. Other minerals stuffed in kiwi include folate, lutein, magnesium, and zinc, and these four also play a role in providing the body with much needed vitality especially during the most hectic of times. They also work on other body functions like improved digestion, muscle function, and protection from harmful toxins. Eating kiwi on a daily basis, better during breakfast, is the best way to make the most out of its numerous health benefits.

3. Oat Straw

Oatstraw infusion

Also known as avena sativa and green oats. Oats are a staple in millions of breakfast tables worldwide, and it was eaten since way back in prehistoric times. It boasts a lot of medical benefits, from enhanced energy to reduced cardiovascular disease risk. Oatstraw is believed to work its energy boosting magic by stimulating alpha-2 brainwaves, or the waves that are dominant during periods of wakefulness, along with increasing the amount of nitric oxide on the body and encouraging the brain’s blood flow for better alertness. Oat straw comes in powder form that can be added in other food or drinks for the energy kick, or as a supplement for faster intake. Another method is to make an oat straw infusion:

a. Purchase dried oat straw, place it in a jar and fill it with boiling water, close the lid then let it steep for ten hours. Strain the oat straw material before consuming two to four cups in a day. This method has been proven to not only boost energy, it also supports muscles that lack proper nutrition, preventing spasms.

4. Protein

Abundant and highly beneficial for busy people and bodybuilders alike, protein grants energy and muscle development, but only the right type of protein will work well for these purposes. Protein also keeps you from having hunger pangs as the time it takes to digest it is longer than others. It provides the body with energy without the risk of crashing afterwards by regulating the levels of blood glucose. Regular consumers of protein report virtually no more instances of crashing during the midday, and still have enough energy that last until bedtime. Every person has different protein requirements as it is based on height, weight, and goals, so it is ideal to consult first an expert instead of gorging on random protein sources. It is also ideal to combine protein consumption with a consistent exercise routine to make the most out of it. Eggs, milk, seafood, yogurt, chicken, pork, nuts, and turkey are some of the best sources of protein available.

5. Rhodiola

Rhodiola

Found in the arctic higher altitudes of Alaska, Asia, and Europe, rhodiola has been called nature’s energy booster for its ability to alleviate fatigue, both physical and mental. The herb’s boosting effects are wrought by the enhancement of the nervous system’s regeneration, with an added stimulation of cognitive function and relaxation of emotions. Experiments on workers in night shift were performed where they were given a small dose of rhodiola extract for two weeks, and the results showed that the herb effectively enhanced their short-term memory, associative thinking, calculation, and audio visual acuity, not to mention a massive reduction in stress and improvement in physical performance. Rhodiola is also an adaptogen, helping the body cope up with stress and protecting it from external sources that can trigger fatigue and medical ailments. Extracts are widely available, with a standard dosage ranging from 200 to 400 mg. It is best taken in the morning or at noon for an energy boost to help you start the day or go on through the busy working hours.

6. Schizandra

Schizandra

A berry whose name literally means five flavor berry in Chinese due to having the taste of all five known flavors. It is native in the northern regions of China and in the far eastern parts of Russia. Part of China’s 50 fundamental herbs in their traditional medicine, the berry has been used for more than a thousand years for its energy boosting and antioxidant properties. Being an adaptogen, the berry improves physical capabilities while reducing fatigue and stress levels, making it a staple in the diet of many Chinese athletes. Schizandra works wonders on the mind by augmenting concentration and mental acuity, while protecting against degradation of the brain’s capabilities due to fatigue. The energy it grants does not come with any undesirable side effects such as nervousness or sleeplessness just like in caffeine. With more studies emerging regarding the berry’s powerful benefits, schizandra has become quite well known in the Chinese herbal stores of Western regions. Dried berries can be directly eaten on a daily basis, while supplements in capsule form provide an alternative way of taking schizandra.

7. Tyrosine

An amino acid that handles the development and maintenance of the nervous system. It is also responsible for restoring lost amounts of norepinephrine, or the hormone that prepares the body and mind in extremely stressful situations. Studies have revealed tyrosine’s efficacy in preventing the deterioration of cognitive and motor functions of humans situated in extreme conditions such as high altitudes with subzero temperatures. The amino acid also restores energy to people who are down with chronic fatigue and mild depression, and treats narcolepsy as well. Tyrosine is very important in situations that drain a lot of stress hormones, such as walking in dangerous places, as it prevents the total use of norepinephrine. Supplements are readily available in many health stores.

8. Aside from taking an alternative, there are other things you can do to naturally boost energy without any complications:

a. A stick of mint chewing gum can give you a quick pick-me-up. It can be easily purchased anywhere, does not involve any kind of preparation, and can be done as long as it is permitted (some jobs or classes in school prohibit chewing gum).

b. It may sound counterintuitive, but engaging your brain with something interesting actually kicks it alert and awake. A study in the University of Michigan revealed that learning a new skill or solving a series of short puzzles (or any brain teasers) positively affected the energy of employees at 3:00 in the afternoon, compared to their usual routine of checking emails or writing up to-do lists.

c. Perhaps one of the most familiar activities for an energy burst. Wear those earphones, play that song you’ve been enjoying these past few weeks, and sing along. Literally. Researchers have found that singing, especially with a very energizing background music, arouses energy and dispels fatigue as effectively as a round of cardio. The efficacy of this method is proven to be twice as better if done while standing up.

d. Chinese acupuncture teaches us the important meridians in the body where the energy of life, or qi, flows freely. When certain paths are obstructed, medical problems arise. Many meridians pass through the ear, making it a primary pathway for valuable energies. Whenever you feel down, gently massage your outer ears by pinching it with two fingers and rubbing up to 30 seconds.

e. Research has tons of evidence regarding a seemingly conflicting advice: when you lack energy, instead of taking a nap, go out and hit the gym. A study published in 2011 at the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine had a group of employees split into two groups, both with a 2.5 hour break but with the first group ordered to engage in physical activity during the said time out. The study ended with the first group having a higher level of productivity than the latter.

f. Contrary to the method above, taking a power nap of 30 minutes in the middle of a busy day (as long as it is doable and not prohibited) obviously provides a quick burst of energy and a refreshed mental focus. This is for those who cannot do exercise but has the means to take a snooze.

g. Always stay hydrated. Letting the body go on without a supply of water tends to wear it down quite fast. Do not resort to sugary energy drinks or soda, as nothing beats a cool and clean bottle of pure water. Same goes for breakfast, never skip it especially when you’re about to face a rough day. You know what they say, eat breakfast like a king. It is not deemed as the most important meal of the day if it is not that crucial in providing and maintaining much needed energy.

bridget@gazettereview.com'
Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers is an independent freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Bridget's work can be found on a variety of sources in both online and print media.
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