Do you know the signs you’re overdoing it with your coffee habit? Here, Sasha, our resident nutritional anthropologist, breaks down when you might need to rethink your third cup ‘o joe and what you can do to boost your energy levels without caffeine.
It’s hard to imagine those early mornings and late nights of working or studying without a cup of coffee or strong tea as your loyal companion. As soon as you start getting drowsy, a couple of sips of your caffeinated elixir seem to wake you right up and deliver a bit of much-needed productivity your way. Having energy without caffeine might seem way out of reach.
However, if you go overboard with your caffeine intake, there may be consequences.
Do you know when you should consider limiting your caffeine intake? If so, what alternatives are there for boosting your energy?
In this article, I will provide you with science-backed tips for how to boost your energy without caffeine.
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When Should You Limit Caffeine Intake?
It’s your fourth cup of coffee as you try to stay alert to finish a paper due at midnight. You are starting to feel jittery and you feel a migraine coming on.
When you finally turn in your paper (right before the deadline), you lay down to go to sleep but your mind is going at 100 miles an hour. That’s the insomnia kicking in.
None of these symptoms are fun. They are also all symptoms of having too much caffeine in your system. Some other side effects include:
- Rapid or abnormal heart rhythm
According to a collaborative group of researchers from several institutions, most people don’t feel these symptoms until they have consumed over 400 mg of caffeine but some people are more sensitive to others. The health problems mentioned above are usually signs that you should reduce your caffeine intake or consider alternatives to caffeine altogether.
There are also conditions where your doctor may recommend that you limit caffeine or cut it out altogether, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some of these conditions include:
- Sleep disorders
- Ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Irregular heart rhythms
- High blood pressure
- Taking certain medications, supplements, or antibiotics
Additionally, if you know that you are dependent on caffeine (also known as caffeine addiction), your doctor will likely recommend that you slowly reduce your caffeine intake until you can eventually eliminate it from your diet.
How Does Caffeine Work?
Caffeine, as the most widely-consumed central-nervous-system stimulant, however, is not considered nearly as dangerous as either amphetamine or cocaine. Nevertheless, it acts similarly on the brain and nerves and, like the others, it can cause addiction.
How does caffeine manage to keep you on your toes?
Here’s a breakdown of the mechanisms of action of caffeine:
- Caffeine’s effectiveness depends on its ability to reduce adenosine transmission in the brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter (brain messenger) that can suppress the central nervous system, causing sleepiness and relaxation.
- Two types of adenosine receptors (A1 and A2A) are expressed in a part of the brain that is responsible for movement.
- Caffeine, when consumed, travels to the brain and binds to both types of adenosine receptors, preventing the brain from receiving calming and sleepy messages.
- Caffeine restricts the brain’s blood vessels and increases neuron activity.
- A part of the brain called the pituitary gland senses the increased neuron activity in the brain and releases a hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline causes your muscles to tighten, your pupils to dilate, and your liver to release extra energy into the blood.
Since caffeine acts directly on your brain chemicals, drinking too much or drinking regularly over a long period of time can cause your brain to become accustomed to caffeine intake. Over time, you may have to drink more coffee to get the same waking effects.
6 Ways to Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine
In a world that seems to run on caffeine, how are you supposed to keep up if you don’t want a cup ‘o joe in the morning?
Here are my top 6 tips for boosting your energy without caffeine!
1. Stay off your phone at least an hour before heading to bed
It’s only logical that we are sleepier in the morning when we don’t get enough sleep the night before. Research shows that the LED light from our phone stimulates the brain in a way that results in lower levels of hormones that promote sleep and shortens REM cycles.
This trick takes a bit more planning than putting on the coffee pot in the morning but it will benefit your energy levels and your overall health. Getting enough sleep is also important for your heart, brain, and metabolic health.
2. Stay Chilly
There is a reason we want to get cozy when we nap. When we are warm, we are more likely to feel drowsy. So, to feel alert, take off your microfiber jacket and up the A/C.
When you are cool, your body needs to boost its metabolism to keep body temperature up, increasing alertness and performance.
3. Strike a Pose
Believe it or not, staying in a power pose for one minute can boost your energy. (Power poses are open, expansive postures that make you take up space and look like a superhero.)
Power poses increase testosterone and reduce stress hormones. The result is, like the name suggests, feeling powerful, more energetic, and more willing to go for it when you are feeling apprehensive or sluggish.
Related Article: Top 20 Foods for Increased Productivity in the Workplace
4. Take a Yoga Break
Some studies show that a yoga session could be even more effective than power poses for boosting confidence and energy.
And don’t let the anxiety of having to break off from work to head to a yoga class stop you from getting your “om” on. The study cited above shows that the positive effects of yoga on energy and self-esteem begin to appear only after performing yoga poses for 2 minutes.
5. Get Some Sun
Exposure to sunlight helps to reset your biological clock, making you feel more alert. Exposure to light suppresses melatonin levels, one of the chemicals responsible for making you feel sleepy. The best way to take advantage of this is to wake up with the sun and begin to wind down when the sun goes down. But we all know that is unrealistic for most of our schedules.
An alternative is making your “own” sunlight early in the morning with sun-imitating gadgets, like HeimVision’s Sunrise alarm clock, that also has sunset simulation.
6. Use Rosemary, Sage, or Peppermint Essential Oils
Researchers have become increasingly interested in the science behind the effects of essential oils on our health. Researchers have demonstrated that the aromas of sage, rosemary, or peppermint help to boost cognitive performance and even memory.
You can place any of these essential oils in a diffuser (we like this one!) or keep fresh sprigs around to sniff when you are feeling drowsy.
Take Home Message
Caffeine may seem like a miracle substance to a lot of people but you must remember it works because it has a chemical effect on your brain. While up to 400 mg a day of caffeine is fine for most people, many people will drink cup after cup of coffee or tea searching for it to make its way to their brain and stimulate a sense of wakefulness.
If you are worried about your caffeine intake, remember that there are healthy, safe, and effective alternatives to caffeine to boost your energy, from short-term fixes (like striking a power pose or lowering the air conditioning) to long-term, sustainable fixes (like adjusting your sleep schedule to emulate the sun or getting accustomed to staying off your phone before heading to bed).