The rat race of American culture has taken its toll on us. We are constantly living in the fast lane. We sleep less, work more and require stimulants, like energy drinks, to keep us going. Consumer demand for energy drinks skyrocketed 60 percent between 2008 and 2012. And in 2012, sales of energy drinks and shots amounted to more than $12.5 billion, which is estimated to increase to $21.5 billion by 2017. But are energy drinks the way to go?
While sales increase, there is growing evidence that they are inherently dangerous for human consumption. Research has found that they can lead to increased anxiety, insomnia, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stress hormone release, cardiac arrest, headaches and migraines and more. If you struggle with low energy or feel fatigued regularly, it may be due to low-blood sugar or dehydration. Rather than grabbing for an energy drink, there are plenty of healthy, natural stimulants you can take advantage of to get you through that afternoon slump without subjecting yourself to the harmful side effects. Here are 11 natural alternatives to energy drinks:
From guilty pleasure to superfood, we’re ecstatic that chocolate’s numerous health benefits continue to be celebrated. One study from the University of Nottingham even found that the flavonoids in chocolate — particularly dark chocolate — activate bioactive compounds in the brain, increasing energy levels.
An incredible source of nutrition, nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans and pistachios offer beneficial protein as well as carotenoids, phenolic acids, phytosterols and flavonoids. These nutrients allow the body to sustain higher energy levels.
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An ancient food source and herbal medicine from the Andes region, maca is rich in many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and sterols. Research has found maca to boost mood and energy levels, decrease anxiety and more.
Thanks to its main active ingredient, capsaicin, cayenne powder can be used as a mild stimulant. Research shows that capsaicin lowers cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol build-up in the body, and boosting its breakdown and excretion in the feces. It can also block action of a gene that causes arteries to contract, therefore promoting more blood flow through blood vessels. Increased blood flow leads to more energy.
- Chia Seeds
Despite their small stature, chia seeds are packed with health benefits, including the ability to give you stable energy thanks to their crucial ratio of protein, fats and fiber combined with their low-carb count. This means they won’t promote spikes and drops in blood sugar or insulin levels, therefore preventing cravings and overeating later on.
- Coconut Oil or Coconut Water
Coconut oil is chock-full of medium-chain-triglycerides, but unlike other saturated fats, MCTs provide an incredible energy source for the body rather than being stored in the body. In one study, researchers concluded that the muscles of mice fed MCTs produced higher levels of key metabolic enzymes that are involved in the Krebs cycle, which is the body’s main energy production source. Also get your fix with coconut water, which will provide quick hydration and help perk you up.
While coffee is often the go-to for a morning jolt of energy, it’s not the only source of caffeine. Tea can provide you the same spike without the jittery after-effects that are often associated with both coffee as well as energy drinks. In fact, research published in the Journal of Nutrition Reviews discovered that the combination of caffeine and the amino acid found in tea called L-theanine worked together to overrule the jitteriness of caffeine alone.
This antioxidant can also give you energy without the nervousness of caffeine. A 2010 study from the University of South Carolina showed that quercetin blocks brain receptors for sleep chemicals, while boosting levels of mitochondria in your cells, thereby leading to greater muscle performance. Apples and kale offer up high levels of this antioxidant.
This detoxifying superfood is popular amongst athletes, since it’s been found to provide great energy support. One study, which examined the effects of beetroot juice supplementation, discovered increases in stamina and energy by 15 percent during extreme intensity exercise. A study evaluating the effect of beetroot juice supplementation reported increases in stamina and energy by 15% during severe-intensity exercise.
There’s a reason eggs are a popular breakfast item: they give you long-lasting energy to combat the day ahead thanks to their high levels of protein. Researchers at the University of Cambridge concluded that protein even beats out glucose in terms of stimulating the cells that keep us alert. A 2010 study also found that men who consumed eggs for breakfast experienced greater and more consistent levels of energy than those whose breakfast relied on carbs.
Rich in vitamins A, C and K and minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron, this leafy green is a definite superfood. It also offers magnesium, which contributes to more than 300 metabolic functions, including the production and storage of cellular energy. Spinach provides magnesium in an extremely bioavailable form, both for short- and long-term benefits.