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It’s no secret: humans have a love affair with caffeine. Almost every culture prizes it for its ability to keep us awake and alert. The United States alone consumes 971 tons of caffeine a year!
So, is this a healthy love affair or is it time to break up? Most studies suggest limiting caffeine intake to 100-200 mg a day (one 5 oz cup of coffee contains 60-150 mg of caffeine). Because caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and a diuretic, symptoms of overuse can include:
- Feeling jittery and shaky
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fast and/or irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
A healthier plan for supercharging energy is in order! No need to feel sluggish and tired–look to these natural energy-boosting superstars:
Even mild dehydration has an adverse effect on mood and energy levels. If your excuse for not drinking enough water is because of its lack of flavor, try adding in some fresh lemon juice or any other type of citrus juice. Add a little fresh grated lemon zest if you want to up the ante.
This cooling, revitalizing drink stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which projects directly to the part of your brain that keeps you awake and alert.
Wheatgrass juice is a source of living chlorophyll (which helps build red blood cells) and is packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Try taking wheatgrass as a supplement in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, between meals, to support your energy levels.
It’s named Theobroma cacao, meaning “food of the gods,” for good reason! A square or two of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) is the perfect treat: it contains the natural stimulant theobromine, similar to caffeine, which boosts your energy and your mood. Dark chocolate also contains healthy antioxidant flavonoids, which may contribute many health benefits.
Forget the fad diets! Carbohydrates are vital for boosting energy and mood. They provide fuel for the body and help raise levels of mood-enhancing serotonin. Of course, not all carbs are created equal. Sweets and simple carbs (like fruit juice, white rice and white flour) cause blood sugar levels to spike and then plummet, which can cause fatigue and moodiness. Whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, and beans are sources of complex carbs, including fiber, that are absorbed more slowly, helping to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable.
Protein makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions in our bodies. It makes up the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in our blood. Many amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) have effects on mood and energy. Tyrosine, for example, (found in pork, beef, chicken, and turkey) boosts levels of two brain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) that can help you feel more alert and focused. Nuts are an ideal high-protein, high-fiber, high-healthy-fat snack. Cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts in particular are also high in magnesium, which plays a key role in converting sugar to energy.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT)
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are a unique form of dietary fat that are very efficiently converted into fuel for organs and muscles, translating to increased energy availability and endurance. MCTs are found in butter (grass-fed is best) and coconut oil, and can be taken in supplement form as well.