We all know how it goes: the alarm goes off, snooze, snooze, crawl out of bed, and brew the morning coffee. For many people, our day doesn't even begin until the effects of our morning roast have set in. For many, the habit starts in college. With late night studying, long classes, and tons of homework, college students often use coffee just to get through the day and make it to the hibernation of the weekend. While caffeine certainly does the trick when it comes to quick boosts of energy throughout the day, it can also lead to some fairly dangerous side effects. Caffeine is the number one addiction in the world — shown to have negative effects on learning and memory (although these results are somewhat argued), caffeine is an unwise energy choice for active students. Luckily, there are several alternatives to caffeine that can enhance energy and promote good health.; however, it is important to remember that if you are a daily caffeine drinker, any substitute will take time to work as your body deals with caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine is very strong and rivals most other energizing products. With time, the body will get used to the lack of caffeine and embrace the other choices. The following is a list of ten caffeine substitutes that every student should know:
- Ginkgo Biloba: From the nut of the ginkgo biloba tree, this herbal extract has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Ginkgo leaf extract has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, and more. Ginkgo biloba works as a substitute for caffeine because it increases blood flow to the brain and the extremities. This increased flow of blood can resemble the affects of exercise on the body, causing an individual to feel more awake and energized. Individuals have reported better focus and improved memory from taking ginkgo biloba extract on a regular basis. Some doctors suggest taking the supplement to help treat circulatory diseases, sexual dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, and other health conditions. Ginkgo leaf can be taken as a capsule or (if you are in the habit of drinking a hot brew in the morning) made into a tea.
- Ginseng: Derived from the ginseng root, this extract (like ginkgo biloba) has been used for centuries in ancient Chinese medicine. Ginseng has been used to reduce depression and stress, treat type II diabetes, help sexual dysfunction in men, and (like ginkgo biloba) increase blood flow and act as a stimulant. Today, ginseng is an ingredient found in many different energy drinks on the market. While the amount of ginseng found within most of these energy drinks has not been medically proven to work as a stimulant, many individuals have reported that ginseng root makes them feel more awake and alert. The root is most often available in dried form and would be consumed orally. However, individuals are cautioned from consuming ginseng root without first discussing it with a doctor. Ginseng does have some known side effects and negative interactions that should be taken into consideration before it is used as a substitute for caffeine.
- Vitamin B12: As one of the eight B vitamins, B12 plays a key role in brain function, nervous system function and blood formation. Obviously, vitamin B12 is essential to the proper function of the body for many reasons. B12 is known for its mental clarity and energy enhancing properties. If you look at any energy drink on the market, B12 will likely be one of the front running ingredients. Furthermore, B12 plays an important role in the production of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates a healthy sleep cycle. Therefore, B12 not only helps keep you awake and alert during the day, but it also aids in a normal sleep pattern at night. There are many ways to take B12, but, because of the way the vitamin is absorbed into the system, the most effective way is sublingually (under the tongue).
- Teeccino and Cafix: These two products are brand names for two different "herbal coffees". Fairly new to the market, Teeccino and Cafix have become popular caffeine substitutes for individuals trying to kick their coffee addiction. These substitutes are primarily made from grains, figs, chicory, and beetroot. While they do not have the exact same effects as coffee as far as stimulation goes, Teeccino and Cafix mimic the familiar taste of coffee, but without any caffeine or acidity. Like anything, individuals switching from coffee to Teeccino or Cafix should anticipate a more difficult period of adjustment, but most people trying to kick their caffeine addiction give these two products high marks.
- Eat An Apple: It is well known that fruit contains the fructose levels and vitamins needed for natural energy boost. While this alertness may not feel the same as the alertness you receive from coffee (jittery and jumpy), fructose increases the blood-sugar and encourages alertness similar to caffeine wakefulness. The most energizing fruits are apples, grapes, peaches and citrus fruits due to their especially high fructose content. Furthermore, citrus fruits also contain high levels of vitamin C, which is known to boost energy. As noted before, if you are an avid coffee or other caffeine drinker, it will take some time to adjust to the lesser affects natural stimulants can have. However, fruit provides a much healthier and safer substitute to your daily caffeine intake.
- Go for a Jog: To some this sounds a bit backwards. Running is hard and it makes us tired. How can you say it will give us more energy? A little bit of aerobic exercise in the morning not only makes you physically and mentally healthier, it can also wake you up. Study after study has shown that the energizing effects of exercise are even stronger than that of caffeine. With a regular exercise routine, an individual can add years to their life and simultaneously feel more awake and alert throughout the day.
- Take a Swim: As with running or jogging in the morning, swimming in the morning can also elevate an individual's energy levels throughout day. Cardiovascular exercise promotes psychological health, physical fitness, and will kick-start your metabolism. Jumping into a cool pool first thing in the morning is sure to invigorate you for the activities to come throughout the remaining hours of the day. Furthermore, because running can be particularly harsh on the joints, swimming is an excellent alternative for cardiovascular exercise. Swimming is one of the best total body workouts an individual can get and is a relaxing way to begin the day.
- Eat Breakfast: While it may be a tired cliche, it is nonetheless true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having a well-rounded meal in the morning will help wake you up and keep you fueled for the rest of the day. All too often, people get caught up in the rush of the morning and neglect their first meal of the day. An individual's breakfast should be varied and nutritious. It is important that your breakfast include fresh fruit for an instant natural sugar boost as well as carbohydrates and protein for long term energy renewal. Nuts, yogurt, and eggs are great options for a healthy source of protein in the morning. Whole bran is an excellent choice for a healthy breakfast carbohydrate. Skipping breakfast makes maintaining focus more difficult throughout the day and can cause an individual to drag.
- Relax and Meditate: Exercise combined with some sort of meditation can be one of the best ways to wake up in the morning and stay energized throughout the day. Yoga and Pilates have become wildly popular in the last decade or so because they offer vigorous exercise along with an element of relaxing meditation. Yoga can lead to improved strength, flexibility, and mental clarity. Setting aside some time in the morning to center oneself and prepare for the day ahead can help with both maintaining energy throughout the day and managing stress. Pilates concentrates on core muscle strengthening, which will improve an individual's balance and posture. Studies show that slouching causes an individual to take in up to thirty percent less oxygen than they would when sitting with good posture. With less oxygen entering our system, slouching can actually harm our bodies' ability to keep our energy up. Therefore, because Pilates improves posture, it has an added energy boosting agent.
- Get a Good Night's Sleep: Not to sound glib, but the first thing an individual seeking more energy should evaluate is their sleeping habits. If you feel tired and run down as the day goes on, it may mean that you need more sleep. However, we all know that getting more sleep isn't quite that simple. With school, work, family, friends, and more sleep often becomes the last priority on our crowded schedule. While getting more sleep can be a challenge in today's hectic society, it is also the most logical solution to morning exhaustion. Getting a thorough night's rest is vital to feeling healthy and energized for the challenges of the day ahead. To promote a healthy sleeping routine, try to avoid drinking alcohol late at night when you have to wake early in the morning. Alcohol can make an individual feel sleepy, but the sleep gained from drinking too much is often less restful than normal sleep. Also, avoid watching television or staring at a computer screen within the thirty minutes before you hope to go to bed. The light from these types of electronics can hinder a person's ability to fall asleep efficiently. While it sounds silly, sleep is the best substitute for caffeine available.
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