Coffee is serious business in America, with approximately 400 million cups consumed per day. That’s a lot of caffeinated people walking the streets. For many, coffee is as much a part of their morning ritual as brushing their teeth or washing their face. It’s the little jolt they need to get going in the morning, the mid-morning break drink that keeps them on track until lunch, and the requisite mid-afternoon pick me up, especially after a long, hard Monday. It’s like an old friend: that smell of fresh-brewed coffee waiting for you in the kitchen, the warmth of the first sip, the rich, deep flavor, and yes, the clarity, focus, and energy you get from the caffeine.
Unfortunately for regular coffee drinkers, there may come a day when their old friend isn’t as agreeable as they once were. The caffeine may start to make them feel jittery, the acidity might be irritating their now sensitive stomachs, and even the reduced amount of caffeine naturally found in the decaf they’ve switched to is enough to make them feel a little out of sorts. What now? Aside from herbal teas, even tea, the second most popular drink in the world behind water, contains about half as much caffeine as coffee.
The good news is that there is hope for those who are looking for a little pick-me-up without the caffeine edge. There are some popular alternatives to caffeine that just might do the trick.
Maca is a hearty cruciferous root vegetable that is related to both the turnip and radish, and looks like a giant radish. Native to the Peruvian Andes, maca has been used for centuries as a source of energy, stamina, and endurance. It has become increasingly popular in the US because it’s purported to relieve occasional stress, increase energy, improve fitness performance, and support sexual wellness.
This study demonstrated the positive effect of maca supplementation of 2g/day for 14 days on the physical activity and sexual desire of 14 trained male cyclists.
Another study supports maca’s role in mood and energy improvements, concluding that “maca extract consumption relative to the placebo improved the quality of life parameters.”
Sperm count production and motility improved as a result of maca supplementation in this study.
If you are interested in maca supplementation, Care/of has a premium blend, The Energy Root.
Chicory coffee is a coffee substitute made from chicory root, a plant that is native to Asia, North Africa, and Europe. It is a popular substitute for coffee because it has a similar flavor but contains no caffeine. It may have some health benefits and, according to this study, may support healthy bowel movements.
B vitamins might be just the boost you need if you’re trying to reduce or eliminate your caffeine consumption. They support the nervous system, cognitive health, a healthy metabolism, and energy support. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common potential factor of fatigue, so a premium B-complex like Care/of’s The Busy B’s or their B12 The Energizer might be the perfect remedy. B vitamins are water soluble, which means that what you don’t use gets excreted via the body’s urine. It needs to be replenished regularly through a healthy, varied diet and, if necessary, supplementation.
Pro tip: If your fatigue is chronic be sure to talk to your doctor as it can be a sign of other underlying issues.
Guayusa leaves are brewed like tea and, like coffee, also contain caffeine. It has a high level of polyphenols and, as a result, the absorption of guayusa caffeine into the bloodstream happens at a slow, consistent rate. The resulting prolonged energy boost is a nice change from the caffeine rush that often leads to the all too common caffeine crash. It also has a higher ph level than caffeine and is better for your teeth and overall oral health.
Ginseng is an adaptogen that can be consumed as a tea, capsule, extract, or as the key ingredient in any number of energy drinks that have become increasingly popular. It is purported to improve brain function, boost mood and memory, reduce occasional fatigue, improve concentration, and increase overall energy levels. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng has been used as an energy-replenishing tonic for centuries. American ginseng can be found in Care/of’s Focus Blend combined with B12 and ginkgo.
Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowering plant that is consumed as a supplement, tincture, or tea. Its proponents believe it has an anti-fatigue effect, increases mental energy and focus, and manages the cortisol response to stress. Care/of carries a premium brand of Rhodiola Rosea, The Cosmonaut.
Carob coffee substitute is made from roasted ground carob beans. It tastes like chocolate, is caffeine free, and has about ⅓ of the calories. It is naturally sweet, low in sodium, low in fat, high in fiber, gluten free, and is a delicious alternative to both coffee and hot chocolate.
Peppermint tea is an entirely different way to start your day. Its soothing aroma is calming, yet it can boost energy for mental clarity and increased capacity. It contains antioxidants that can improve circulation and eliminate toxins from your body. The naturally caffeine-free tea can also aid in digestion, a perfect drink to promote digestive comfort. It is always a good idea to look for organic tea in order to reduce the potential of exposure to pesticides.
Golden milk is a traditional Indian drink that boasts many potential health benefits. The key ingredient is turmeric, a powerful antioxidant that also helps to support proper functioning of the brain. It is mixed with the warm milk of your choice and includes ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and black pepper. Honey and vanilla are also sometimes added for sweetening. The warm, wonderful drink is making its way to coffee shops everywhere. One sip and you might never turn back.
Chai tea has less caffeine than coffee, but enough to give you a small caffeine boost to start your day. And since the caffeine in chai is more slowly absorbed than the caffeine in coffee, that gentle boost may last a long time. It has more body and flavor than most teas, and its stronger, bolder, flavor, and unique blend of spices make it a great substitute for coffee.
Water tops the list of the most popular beverages consumed globally by a long shot. It is refreshing, calorie free, and perfect just the way it is. You can add fresh fruit, mint, cucumbers, or low and no-calorie sweeteners for flavor and additional healthy ingredients. But ultimately, nothing beats the potential health benefits that come with proper hydration, and nothing facilitates hydration more effectively than plain, wonderful water.
Smoothies can be tailored to meet any flavor or nutritional needs. With a little creativity you can find your new favorite morning drink, even a caffeinated one. Matcha green tea powder makes a perfect banana matcha smoothie, or the popular mango avocado matcha smoothie. With all the healthy combinations available, the possibilities are endless.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made with bacteria, yeast, black or green tea, and sugar. It has become a popular source of probiotics, and though there are many purported health benefits, the research on the drink is quite limited. If you partake, make sure you know the source of your kombucha is a trusted one.
Yerba mate has about the same amount of caffeine as coffee, so it wouldn’t really be a good alternative to caffeine. If you are, however, looking for an alternative to coffee, the bitter, smokey flavored tea will certainly make you sit up and take notice.
If it’s time to quit caffeine, proceed with caution. There can be both physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. The best way to make the switch is gradually. While reducing your caffeine intake, increase your water intake. Hydration will help with the restless, irritable, headache feelings of caffeine withdrawal. Be patient, be persistent, and find some alternatives to caffeine that taste, and feel, good.
There may be a time when your old pal caffeine doesn’t make you feel the way it once did. If you start to experience discomfort, it might be time to call it quits. Doing so is a process that may involve temporary withdrawal symptoms such as jitters, or angst. Get all the facts before you begin, but stick with it if it’s really time to say good-bye to caffeine. If it’s not time, by all means keep enjoying that smell, taste, and feeling you get from a good cup of coffee.