By Kayla Johnson
As college students, we have a lot going on. From Zoom classes, papers, homework, internships, work, interpersonal relationships and more, it seems like there is not enough time in the day. We wish we could make duplicates of ourselves, so we did not have to feel like we have so much going on, but since technology has not advanced that far yet, we are drawn to caffeine so we can try and get through the day.
Most people’s caffeine of choice usually is coffee. It is easy to take on the go, you can have it hot or iced and even add fun flavors to it. But did you know that there are plenty of other alternatives for us to get a boost of energy, either from a healthier source of caffeine or even without caffeine? You see coffee is a good quick fix, but do you wonder why you are always crashing around 2:30 p.m. and want to reach for another cup? Or have you wondered why you get a massive migraine when you do not have any coffee for the day? Caffeine has addictive properties and creates a dependency so when you do not have it, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms.
Now, I have nothing against coffee or caffeine. But we can all admit some of the coffee we get from Starbucks, Dunkin, or even the ones we pick up from the gas station in the fridge section are not the healthiest options for us. The amount of extra sugar and calories that are in those drinks causes us to have these crashes in the middle of the day and is obviously not good for our health in the long run. Check out this list of “The Unhealthiest Coffee Drinks in America” because I have definitely ordered one… or four off that list, but who's counting.
To avoid the extra calories, mid-day crashes and caffeine withdraws, here’s how to boost your energy without drinking coffee.
Tea can be a great alternative to coffee. For starters, it lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as improves weight loss and your immune system. Tea is also just as accessible as coffee and just as easy to take on the go. There are also different kinds of tea like black tea, white tea, green tea, oolong tea, chamomile tea, the list goes on. Tea is a better alternative than coffee because it contains an antioxidant that slows the absorption of caffeine, which results in longer energy throughout the day with no crash. One of my favorite tea energy drinks is Yerba Mate. They have a bunch of different flavors and they only contain one to 14 grams of sugar.
Yeah, I know, I hate exercise too. Honestly, who has the time? Actually, we have nothing but time thanks to the pandemic. Exercising increases your endorphin levels, the hormone that can get us moving. When we increase our endorphin levels, we can get this sensation called a runner's high. I have experienced this before a few times and it honestly does feel amazing. But you do not really need to run to achieve this kind of high. 30 minutes to an hour of an activity that gets your heart rate up is all you need. You can dance, go for a walk, do some yoga, or a quick 10 minute High interval intensity training (HITT) workout. And since these do not take a lot of time, you can incorporate them in between your class meetings or when you just need to take a break from homework. You will come back to your computer refocused and reenergized. Exercising not only helps with energy, it also helps with sleep, which brings me to my next tip.
Exerting all that energy exercising is going to make it a lot easier for you to fall asleep and have a better night's rest. When you use exercise as a way to get your energy, it is not only beneficial to your overall health, but you will not have caffeine in your system to make it harder for you to fall asleep. And if you do not get a good night’s rest, you are just going to wake up the next morning tired and needing more caffeine. Don’t continue to repeat this cycle! A good night’s is good for your health, but it can also put you in a better mood for the day. No offense, but nobody wants to be around a grouch all day.
It is a no brainer that food gives us energy. But it is important to keep in mind what kind of food we should be eating to get healthy energy from. When our bodies are tired, we tend to crave high calorie, high carb foods such as bread, pasta and pizza. While those foods may give us a short boost of energy, it does not stay for long. Because our body needs to use a lot of energy to digest these types of food, soon after you feel sluggish. Foods that are a great energy-boosting alternative are items low in carbs and high in protein and some fats. Try a Greek yogurt with fruit, vegetables, trail mix or oatmeal. The list goes on for how many different foods you can eat for sustainable energy.
Lastly, and honestly my personal favorite, naps. Now I will say proceed with caution with this tip because you can either wake up feeling refreshed or wake up confused, sweaty, and feeling like you have traveled to another universe. There is no in-between. Sorry, I do not make the rules. But sometimes your body just needs to sleep. Taking naps during the day can seem like a waste of time, especially if you are a busy person. But you should never be too busy to put yourself and your health first. Naps improve your memory, which is great for studying, increase your alertness and boost your mood. Remember though it is important to make your naps short. It is said that 10 to 20 minute naps are the most effective and you will also decrease your chances of waking up feeling like you are on another planet.
I love coffee just as much as the next person, but I can feel the negative effects it has on me and my health. I am not saying go cold turkey, but cutting back on coffee is better than nothing at all. And, who knows, maybe you will find that one of these five tips will improve your energy more than coffee ever did. Give them a try!
If none of the tips that I listed are calling to you, or you have already tried these tips and they do not work, don’t worry! Click here to access more energy-boosting tips.
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