Getting an Energy Boost Without Caffeine

Feeling sluggish in the morning?   Just stop off at Starbucks and grab a quadruple espresso with some Splenda.  


Fighting the urge in the afternoon to take a nap an hour after lunch? Pop over to the café next door for a non-fat, icy, blended number to provide a little pick me up.


Since neither of these are high in fat or calories, what’s the harm?  Don’t they make for good options between meals when your energy has hit a bit of a lull?


Not so much.


While some caffeine can be acceptable as part of a healthy Paleo diet regime, it can easily be taken out of context and abused.


It’s one thing to enjoy a black espresso with your balanced breakfast; it’s a different story if you’re either trying to skimp on calories or rely on the wrong type of fuel to power through the day.


Instead of trying to come up with creative ways to remedy a lack of energy after it occurs, how about taking the high road and being proactive about it, preventing a blood-sugar dip in the first place?


If you fall into the first camp – skimping on calories in an attempt to adhere to an arbitrary number you came up with, such as ‘women shouldn’t eat more than 1,200 calories/day for weight loss’ (pardon?) – it’s no wonder you’re flagging by 11 am.


Intermittent fasting1, which includes everything from periodic multiday fasts to skipping a meal or two on certain days of the week can promote some of the same health benefits that uninterrupted calorie restriction promises. This can easily be a part of your own Paleo diet regime. When done properly, you’ll set yourself up to function optimally on fat as your fuel, which is completely the opposite of someone who’s just trying to go low on calories.


Waking up hungry and having half a bagel and jam and a coffee with skim milk and Sweet & Low is indeed a meal low in calories. But, it’s also low in nutrient density, high in refined carbohydrates (yes, even with the fake sugar) and does nothing more than to create a blood sugar spike, then a crash which, if not fed, will result in the urge to curl up under the desk for a snooze. 


Which is, precisely, one of the most common reasons people feel they need to have more caffeine.


Once this happens in the morning, the likelihood of a repeat performance after lunch is high, only now there’s a greater likelihood of choosing too much of the wrong type of food since by then, you’re ravenous.


So, 30 minutes and a plate of pasta with cream sauce and some bread and butter (because it looked good) later, you’re full and sleepy, but you’ve got to head back to the office.


No, thanks!


The other important thing to take into consideration is the glaringly obvious – how much sleep are you getting.  Too many of us make the bad choice to work late, get up early, or both…until it comes back to bite us in the butt! Anytime someone claims they only need five hours of sleep per night, I get a little suspicious.


Do everything you can to make sleep a priority.  Don’t eat too late.  Don’t bring your laptop to bed or watch TV late into the night. Make your bedroom the perfect sleep haven by creating total quiet and darkness. Then, when you’ve gotten in your eight hours, wake up and workout.  Get your blood moving early in the morning in order to maintain consistency and reduce chances of a post-work flake out.


And then, the most important part: choose your first meal of the day wisely.  Go for poached wild salmon on greens with olive oil, a veggie omelet with avocado, or a grass fed steak, eggs and pepper sauté.


Hydrate, too, and then when your tummy begins to rumble several hours later, have another meal.


With constant steady energy and a rested mind and body, don’t be surprised if you don’t even think about heading over to that coffee shop two or three times per day anymore.


And, if you do, opt for a green tea.  Yes, it still has some caffeine, but it’s balanced out with L- Theanine2, a compound that helps to promote relaxation, modifying that jolt you’d feel if you’d have gone for a quad espresso.