Most of us are familiar with that rush of energy we get after taking the first sips of our morning coffee. Caffeine from our morning drinks “wakes up” the brain by blocking the brain’s adenosine receptors and increasing the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate. Adenosine is a neurochemical that is produced by the body in larger and larger amounts as the day wears on. As adenosine binds to the receptors in your brain, it makes you increasingly sleepy (this helps you fall asleep at night). With caffeine blocking these adenosine receptors and helping to swell the activity of dopamine and glutamate, you avoid sleepiness and experience that jolt of energy.
While this experience feels wonderful, especially on a busy work day, it wears off eventually. I’m sure you’ve felt the effects of this “caffeine crash”: headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and mental fog or sluggishness. This swing from a rush to a crash can be difficult for your nervous system to handle, especially if you are experiencing these swings multiple times per day. In fact, many believe that excessive caffeine intake can lead to adrenal fatigue (more on this another time).
To avoid caffeine jolts and crashes and the physiological effects that can come along later in life (e.g. adrenal fatigue and nervous system issues), think about choosing whole foods that can give you a natural, gentle boost of energy throughout your day. Whole foods contain the amino acids, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that naturally support your body’s energy machines: your mitochondria! These energy producers work all day long to support your mental, physical, and emotional functions. When they are overworked and are not getting the nutrients they need, you will experience fatigue, burnout, mood swings and other chronic conditions that caffeine cannot fix in the long run. The good news is that a little consistency with a balanced diet can give these guys the support and boost they need!
Below are some of the foods that I have found to provide the best all-around natural energy boosts:
– Green tea (decaf is great, too!)
– Organic chicken
– Cage-free eggs
– Grass fed beef
– Black rice
– Swiss chard
– Collard greens
– Red, yellow, orange bell peppers
– Organic apples
– Chia seeds
– Lemons / lemon juice
– Wild salmon
– Sweet potato
You don’t have to eat every one of these foods daily to nourish and energize your body. In fact, it’s usually best to rotate foods for nutrient variety and consistency. Start by incorporating 2-3 of these foods per day, adding 1-2 more each week. You can even split this list in half, tackling one half this week and the other half next week! The important thing here is to begin creating the rhythm of feeding your body whole, complete nutrients on a daily and weekly basis. When your body is consistently fueled, hydrated and nourished, you can’t help but feel naturally energized. The result? You may actually find you don’t need as much of that coffee. Imagine that!