People the world over have been drinking coffee since the dawn of time (okayyy, more like the 15th century). And for many of us, the day doesn’t officially begin until we’ve taken our first sip.
The good news? Coffee offers a slew of potential health benefits—including lower risk of certain diseases and even a longer lifespan.
That said, some people find that coffee makes them feel jittery or anxious.
Whether you’re toying with limiting your caffeine—or want to kick your coffee habit altogether—there are a number of natural energy-boosters you can turn to when you’re feeling sluggish.
Why Coffee Can Make You Feel Jittery
Known as a stimulant, the caffeine in coffee creates a response in the body very similar to your stress response, explains Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. (Your average eight-ounce coffee can contain anywhere from 95 to 165 milligrams of caffeine.)
Read More: 5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine
“Caffeine, especially in large amounts in a short period of time, can increase your body’s production of the hormone adrenaline,” he says. “This leads to a rapid increase in heart rate, breathing rate, sweat rate, blood pressure, even nerve twitches—especially around the eyes.”
Natural Energy-Boosters To Swap Your Coffee For
Want to ease off of the caffeine? The following seven foods, drinks, and supplements can help you power up, jitter-free.
1. Cordyceps Mushrooms
Various mushrooms are getting a lot of attention for their many health benefits right now—and boosting energy is one of them.
Cordyceps mushrooms, also known as “Olympic mushrooms,” can give you a boost by increasing the body’s production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) the chemical form of energy used in your cells. “The body uses cordyceps as ATP without having to expend energy to make it,” explains naturopathic doctor David Friedman, N.D., D.C.
Read More: Which Mushroom Supplement Is Right For You?
Cordyceps also increase lung capacity, which means your cells can absorb and use more oxygen, another key player in the energy-production process.
One of the “it” superfoods of the last decade, açaí (pronounced ah-sah-ee) is still a hot ingredient in everything from juices to smoothie bowls.
This antioxidant-rich berry that contains 10 times the amount of antioxidants as the average blueberry, says Adams. It’s also low in sugar, so it’s unlikely to spike your blood sugar and cause an energy slump later.
Plus, açaí provides much-needed B vitamins, which play a key role in energy production in the body, Adams adds.
Matcha, which is made by grinding tea leaves into a bright green powder, is essentially a concentrated version of your average green tea. Though it’s been around for centuries, matcha has become famous among natural energy-boosters in recent years.
“Matcha tea gives you a much higher concentrated source of antioxidants, namely epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which increases energy,” says Friedman. “It also contains catechins, a group of antioxidants more powerful than both vitamins C and E in fighting oxidative damage to cells.”
An eight-ounce mug of matcha contains 72 milligrams of caffeine. Compared to coffee, matcha’s caffeine takes longer to enter your system. As a result, you experience more sustained energy without the sudden crash, says Friedman.
Matcha also contains an amino acid called l-theanine, which is known to help slow heart rate, and increase focus and relaxation. Combine l-theanine and caffeine and you’ve got a steady, smooth flow of energy, Friedman says.
You can drink matcha as a hot or iced beverage, or add it to yogurt or smoothies.
4. Dark Chocolate
If you wanted an excuse to eat more chocolate, here it is.
The cocoa beans used to make dark chocolate contain an organic alkaloid called theobromine, which Friedman calls chocolate’s ‘feel-good’ ingredient.
“It helps deliver oxygen to the brain and muscles, which makes it extremely helpful during exercise,” he says. Whether you’re pre-gaming a workout or just need a pick-me-up, dark chocolate can do the trick.
Just make sure that chocolate bar contains at least 70 percent cocoa. “Dark chocolate contains more theobromine than milk chocolate, and white chocolate has none,” Dr. Friedman adds.
5. Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
These large, shaggy mushrooms, which, yes, resemble a lion’s mane offer all sorts of health benefits. According to Friedman, some of their most noteworthy benefits include their antioxidant activity, gut health support, and immune support.
Whats more, these ‘shrooms also have potent brain-boosting properties and serve as a great natural energy-booster. One Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry paper, for example, suggests that lion’s mane help to ward off fatigue and promote mental clarity and focus.
Since lion’s mane mushrooms aren’t sold at most grocery stores, you’ll likely have to get your fill from a supplement. Friedman recommends 1,000 milligrams per day, taken with food.
6. Chai Tea
Warming chai tea is made by blending black tea with spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg. According to Dr. Friedman, all of these components help facilitate energy production and offer the body natural, jitter-free stimulation.
Black tea contains about half as much caffeine found as coffee (about 47 milligrams), making it a more moderate way to perk up.
Plus, “while coffee can cause digestive disturbances, the ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in chai may help reduce nausea and support proper digestion,” Friedman adds.
Rhodiola is a flowering plant long hailed for its ability to increase energy, endurance, strength, and mental capacity, says Friedman. “It’s considered an ‘adaptogenic’ herb, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress,” he says.
According to one study published in Phytomedicine, this natural energy-booster can help reduce mental fatigue and improve performance on work-related tasks by up to 20 percent.
Rhodiola’s biggest win over coffee, though, is its potent ability to decrease perceived exertion during exercise, says Friedman. The result: You can work out longer and harder.
Friedman recommends taking a rhodiola supplement (400 to 600 milligrams) in the morning. (Half an hour before eating is ideal for maximum benefit.) Since rhodiola may disrupt sleep, avoid taking it at night.
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