Too many people find that it’s difficult to get a good start to their day without a warm cup of “Joe” in the morning and it seems ultimately impossible to find a caffeine alternative. Despite being expensive ($3 a day is over $1000 a year!) time consuming (sick of waiting in line at Starbucks?), and downright addictive, coffee is just empty calories which displace other more nutritious and energising foods you should be giving your body.
By the time you add sugar, cream, and other flavours, you’ve really made your drink more of a dessert, devoid of fibre, protein and other important nutrients to start your day off on the right foot. Additionally, the diuretic effect of caffeine stimulates urine production which can result in dehydration, not a good way to start your day! Fortunately, there is a better way, a caffeine alternative does exist. You can still eat something warm and delicious in the mornings that will power up your body and give you sustained energy.
Before we talk about alternatives, let’s talk about caffeine!
Caffeine, your friend or your foe?
Caffeine is a stimulant, it buzzes the brain awake and activates your central nervous system to improve concentration, and combat tiredness. This sounds pretty good right? But this activation can also cause anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, quickened heartbeat and worse. In case you need a little more convincing, here is a link to 20 studies that found caffeine to be a harmful substance.
Instead of discussing how your body responds to caffeine and whether or not it’s going to increase your chances of developing disease, I want to challenge you to think of the word dependency. Are you truly living a natural, free and invigorating life if you are dependent on a substance to feel normal? If you feel you can’t function in the morning without coffee, are you listening to the cues of your body? Maybe you needed to retire earlier to bed, or refrain from that second glass of wine last night? Do you truly want to spend every morning for the rest of your life depending on a chemical stimulant? I would challenge you to seek after the freedom you gain from being free of addictive substances, to wake up and give your body what it’s telling you it needs whether its exercise, a nutritious meal, or maybe an extra hour of sleep.
How to energise your body without caffeine?
Simple! You give your body what it needs! Apart from getting sleep, reducing stress, being physically active and hydrating correctly, a whole foods diet will work wonders! Nobody wakes up thinking, man, I regret eating all that healthy food yesterday! Relying on nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole unrefined grains, nuts, seeds legumes, and natural, organic animal products ensures that your body is getting enough nutrients (think vitamins, minerals, amino acids) not just enough calories. Getting the right nutrients is key to feeling energised and alert. There are a few key nutrients that are especially important for fighting fatigue namely, B vitamins, iron, and complex carbohydrates, which can help you kick that caffeine habit when used in conjunction with the other healthy strategies mentioned above!
1. B vitamins
This important family of vitamins is crucial for energy production in your cells. Many functions of your body rely on B vitamins such metabolism of amino acids, formation of red blood cells, even DNA synthesis. Without B vitamins you wouldn’t be able to convert your food into energy, so they are crucial for feeling your best. Vitamin B12 is especially important, if you are following a vegan diet you may need to supplement as B12 is only found in animal products. A deficiency in B12 results in feelings of fatigue, weakness, or confusion. Eggs are a great source of important B vitamins, and are easy to whip up with a side of veggies. Try boiled, scrambled, fried, poached, and even baked to add variety to your mornings! Check out my Thai Acorn Squash Rings recipe for a delicious way to eat eggs!
This mineral is necessary to oxygenate your tissues and energise your cells. Iron deficiency, known as anaemia, will also manifest in feeling chronically tired. Sources of iron include grass fed beef, liver, poultry, and other meats but can also be found in some nuts and seeds as well as beans but are harder to absorb than the iron found in meat. Check out our healthy recipes section for inspiring recicpes! If you are a chronic coffee drinker, you could be interfering with iron absorption, just another reason to cut it out of your day and focus on eating real foods for energy! To improve iron absorption, eat a source vitamin C with your iron-containing meal. Along with citrus fruits, try broccoli, bell peppers, and even winter squash to get your vitamin C. Think of mixing ground beef into your morning omelet with bell peppers and spinach. Or try my recipe for whole grain pumpkin waffles topped with iron rich pumpkin seeds!
3. Fibre-rich Carbohydrates
A diet high in fibre rich carbs is one of the best ways to boost your energy while keeping that energy sustained for hours! Carbohydrates feed your brain and body glucose (the body’s preferred energy source) so they are vital for feeling alert. If they are “processed” such as white flour, rice, sugar, or any refined grain, the glucose enters the bloodstream too quickly causing a crash afterward which results in food cravings and brain fog only a short time after eating. Choosing whole food sources of carbohydrates that are rich in fibre, slows this process slow down. The glucose enters your bloodstream at a better, sustained pace resulting in energy that lasts for hours. These natural, energy boosting foods such as sweet potatoes, bananas, oats, and other whole grains are rich in other nutrients, unlike their overly processed counterparts.
Our bodies are amazing when we give them what they need, we weren’t meant to be chronically tired! Everyone can wake up feeling energised, invigorated and ready to start their day without relying on stimulants. Choose natural, whole foods to fuel your body and give it the nutrients it needs to feel great!