Courtesy Thosh Collins
Luger and friend Siera feel a surge of natural energy from natural foods, fresh drinking water, and outdoor exercise while in Kauai, Hawaii, earlier this year.

Well For Culture: 5 Ways to Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine

Chelsey Luger

Studies show that about 90-percent of Americans consume some form of caffeine in one form or another every single day – including me.

The good news is, even though it’s highly addictive, when consumed in moderation, in good form, and in balance with other foods and healthy habits, caffeine isn’t always bad for you. In fact, it can be really good in unsuspecting ways. The bad news is it often comes in harmful forms (like energy drinks, soda, and low-quality coffee), and can be really dangerous and unhealthy if consumed in excess. Too much caffeine (especially in combination with sugar) wreaks havoc on sleep patterns and the immune system.

In any case, if you think you might be overdoing it, the safest route would be to go cold turkey. Some cultural teachings and spiritual leaders suggest that since caffeine is, technically, a mind-altering substance, it should be totally abandoned (in the same category as alcohol or drugs). That’s definitely a thought worth considering.

On the other hand, “mind-altering substance” could be open to many interpretations. Sugar could be called a mind-altering substance since it induces hyperactivity followed by energy depletion. Gluten could be considered a mind-altering substance since it induces brain fog and fatigue. Do you see where I’m going with this?

The bottom line is this: While definitely noted for its energy-boosting qualities, caffeine is not the *only* thing that gives or takes away energy. In fact, literally everything you consume either increases or decreases your energy levels. Not only that but your body has other ways of altering energy without consuming anything at all – through movement, through thoughts, and through habits.

If you are going to stick with caffeine, do it in moderation and be really careful about the source. The Mayo Clinic says that 400mg of caffeine per day is safe for any healthy adult, but more than that can cause headaches, jitteriness, anxiety, and sleep disruption. Take that into consideration. And if coffee is your caffeine of choice, make sure that it’s the good stuff (free of mycotoxins and mold) and definitely skip the four shots of caramel syrup or heavy cream or carcinogenic sugar alternative that you’re dumping in there.

And, if you are consuming caffeine in sources other than coffee, stick with unsweetened teas or other mild forms. Soda and energy drinks are just terrible for you in a million ways, particularly because of the excessive amounts of sugar they contain. You should be consuming under 25-grams of sugar per day, and that sugar should come from things like apples or sweet potatoes – not preservative-packed chemical-ridden gas station drinks.

With that in mind, I really encourage everybody to explore other forms of energy alteration that have nothing to do with caffeine. If you ditch excessive caffeine intake and seek energy in other forms, you will be much more capable of maintaining sustained, easygoing energy as opposed to jittery, high-strung energy. Here are a few ways to do it: 

1. Move. I won’t call it “exercise” because that scares people, so I’ll just say, move.  Next time you start nodding off at your desk, get up, roll your neck around, stretch out your arms, do a few jumping jacks - you get the point. If you’re feeling really ambitious get on the ground and whip out some push-ups. Go for a walk. Shake out your feet. Move in any possible way. Even a very small amount of movement will immediately boost your energy and ability to concentrate. You don’t have to go through the whole process of getting a sweaty gym workout in and showering and changing and then getting back to what you were doing. (I mean, that’s good, too), but don’t use “I don’t have time” as an excuse. If you have time to check Facebook you have time to stretch for five minutes, and the stretching will be much more conducive to your productivity.

2. Eliminate sugar. Just like too much caffeine, sugar causes energy spikes, energy crashes, brain fog, jitteriness – you name it. Processed sugar destroys the immune system and causes inflammation. It’s not smart to eat a bagel or muffin in the morning. Your breakfast diet should be full of healthy fats from sources like almonds, eggs, or avocado. It takes about two minutes to cook an egg. You have time.

3. Drink water. Water is life. Our bodies are made of water. Our brains are made of water. Our hearts are made of water. You *need* water. And just like anything else, you need it from a good, high-quality source. Invest in a water filter or do what you need to do to ensure that the water you’re getting is healing for your body. Chances are that when you start to feel your energy waver and your brain fog up, all you need is a glass (or two or three) of water to get everything flowing and awake again. In order to keep all parts of your body functioning properly, which in turn improves energy, you need to stay hydrated.

4. Breathe. Breathing is a subconscious function, but deep breathing requires focus and effort. When we pay attention to our breath, not only are we improving mindfulness and inviting calm into our lives, but we are becoming more capable of altering our energy. Here are some simple exercises for literally breathing energy into your day.

5. Relax and meditate. Try this with me right now as you read this. Un-hunch your back. Sit up straight. Scoot to the front of your chair. Put your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands (palm up) on your lap. Drop your shoulders. Notice your breath. Relax your tongue. Relax your jaw. Let go of any and all tension in your face. Think of something nice to say to yourself and repeat it over and over again. Close your eyes, and open them in about ten minutes. When you come out of this, you will feel an instant energy lift and you’ll be ready to get back to your day.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: [email protected].

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Rachel At Aba
Submitted by Rachel At Aba on
Centuries of caffeine consumption and extensive study of this ingredient reinforce its safety. Of course, moderation is key and different people have varying sensitivities to caffeine. America’s leading beverage companies clearly label caffeine content so that people may make informed choices. With that said, it’s important to point out that there is nothing unique about the caffeine in mainstream energy drinks, which is about half that of a similar sized cup of coffeehouse coffee. Let’s allow science, rather than sensationalism, to guide our decisions with regard to caffeine and caffeinated products, which are deemed safe for general consumption. -AmeriBev