“I, like, cannot function without my morning coffee,” I hear this and cringe. Not because I’m a health snob, but because I once felt this way, and I know that it’s not pretty. The life of a personal trainer revolves around early mornings and late evenings – both of which require you to be constantly ‘on,’ – who wants a dull PT?! This, on top of a pretty intense crossfit regime mean that I really need to watch and monitor my energy levels if I’m to stay productive, happy and well so I can influence others in the same way.
However I wasn’t always so wise, I’ve been through nasty bouts of adrenal fatigue which has lead to make adjustments in my life that were needed to stay productive and well. I like to think of it as an energy in/out equation where you need to be balanced enough in order to thrive. In order to achieve this balance, I needed to curb my dependence on coffee. Finding alternatives was easy as well… here’s some of my favourites which have their own little benefits:
1. Yerba Maté
Pronounced ‘martay,’ not ‘mate’ like you would in Australia, the tea is harvested from trees in South America and is deeply imbedded in their culture. If you’ve ever traveled through Argentina there’s a good chance that you’ve given it a try as it comes in second for consumption behind water. The taste is mild but the mineral content is packed! Maté contains a mixture of B vitamins, and toxin fighting elements such as theophylline (found in green tea) and theobromine – the ‘feel good’ part of chocolate. It was popularised by Tim Ferriss in his book ‘The 4 Hour Body,’ where he credits it to his creativity and work output. I’ve found this to be true as well, as maté gives off a pleasant perk without the jittery feeling of coffee and I’ve found it leads to quality work output as opposed to a-lot-of-output-done-at-a-rapid-pace-without-real-quality as one may find with coffee.
2. Green Tea
Some people swear by it and rightly so, green tea is an awesome drink with a heap of benefits. It regulates blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity and helps shift weight. In regards to being a stimulant, green tea is a great choice. It has about a third the caffeine of coffee and doesn’t come with the jitters that a coffee may bring. What it does contain is theobromine and theophylline (same as mate), as well L-Theanine which acts to calm the nervous system and leads to greater concentration (Hicks, Hseih & Bell, 2006).
3. Raw Hot Chocolate
This has got me through the Winter…. It’s replaced my afternoon tea and has given me the pick up that I sometimes need to head into my afternoon sessions. Now, I say hot chocolate and you probably think ‘YUM!’ and then ‘shame it’s not healthy.’ Good news is that this could be the healthiest of the three. Raw chocolate is one of the highest source of antioxidants, chromium, magnesium, iron and zinc….. Most importantly, it’s a powerful mood enhancer as it increases serotonin and other neurotransmitters that give us that warm, chocolatey feeling…. ever had that happy feeling when eating chocolate? Well, this is better as you don’t have the sugar crash, guilt and weight gain after! Ensure it’s raw and 100% cacao, and from a sustainable source if possible – Loving Earth’s or Power Foods’ raw cacao powder is a great choice.
Here’s how you do it:
(prep time, 2 mins)
- Add 1 teaspoon of raw cacao to a mug and add 3/4 hot water.
- Top it up with coconut cream/milk.
- Add 1 tbspn of coconut oil for good measure.
- Serve and enjoy.
Still Lacking Energy??
1. I mentioned putting in a pinch of himalayan sea salt into my water at the start of my day in my previous post on stress. This acts to balance your adrenal glands throughout the day which get a good work out if you’re a coffee drinker or a highly active person.
2. Do yoga, tai chi, or meditation. I’ve probably had the most benefit through these and I don’t know where I’d be without all three of these. Why? Because these activities bring energy into the body as opposed to thrashing it out. This increase in ‘chi’ in tai – chi or ‘prana’ in yoga works by increasing the oxygen intake of the body and thereby increasing the work potential of the person. There’s been a bunch of studies on this, and what they’ve found (amongst a whole range of things) is that glutathione levels and inflammation are significantly improved when one practises yoga, tai chi or meditation (Sanha, Singh et. al. 2007). These are significantly important if we are to have sustained energy and controlled stress.
3. Most importantly, you need to listen to your adrenals: Have you ever had a coffee but you’re so tired that it barely had an affect? This is a sign of adrenal fatigue and a message to your body that you need to slow down a bit. Certain foods heal your adrenals (paleo diet), and others wreck them (this diet). Morale of the story, listen to your body and ask yourself if you really need that coffee.
So there we have it, some tips that should help you enjoy, but not rely on, that sweet boost of caffeine.
Do you have any experience giving up coffee or even cutting down?? Feel free to share your experience below.
Cardoso, G., et al. The Effects of Green Tea Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight and Obese Women. 2013. 16(2), 120-127.
Sanha, S., Singh, S., et al. Improvement of Glutathione and Total Antioxidant Status with Yoga. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. 2007. 13(10), 1085-1090.
Monique B. Hicks, Y-H. Peggy Hsieh and Leonard N. Bell. 2006. Tea preparation and its influence on methylxanthine concentration .Food Research International 29: 325-330.