1.4 billion cups of coffee are poured every day. Let’s let that sink in. It’s the default wake-up drink of choice for billions of people around the world, and the booming coffee industry has made it easy to grab a personalised cup of joe anytime, anywhere. But if you’re kicking the habit or simply don’t want to start, where will you get your energy from?
Skip the Starbucks line – here are eight foods that will wake you up and energise you (no coffee required)!
1 – Water
What fires you up: Water isn’t an energy source per se, having literally zero calories. But water is a fundamental part of every cell in your body, and bodily processes will suffer if you go without enough of it. Even mild dehydration will affect cognition and make you physically sluggish, so make sure to drink when you’re thirsty and eat foods rich in water content.
Energise! Make staying hydrated more fun by spicing up your water – literally! Add things like lemon wedges, cucumber slices, peppermint, basil, or cayenne pepper to your drinking water to give it an extra zing.
2 – Tea
What fires you up: Tea contains caffeine like coffee, but with less jarring side effects. Coffee drinkers often find it hard to sleep at night because the high caffeine content still hasn’t left their bodies by nightfall. They’re also prone to being jittery, having palpitations, and getting gastric reflux. In contrast, tea is good for digestion, has a calming effect, and promotes better sleep.
Energise! Black tea is the closest to coffee in terms of caffeine content, and will provide the most energy. Milder teas like green tea, white tea, and oolong tea are processed for a shorter time than black tea, so these have less caffeine than either coffee or black tea. To keep your tea healthy, avoid taking it with refined sweeteners and use only plant-based milk.
3 – Dark chocolate
What fires you up: Dark chocolate contains caffeine to energise you, just like coffee. It also has compounds which elevate mood such as theobromine and tryptophan.
Not all dark chocolate is created equal though! Choose a brand of dark chocolate that’s made of 70% cacao or more to get the most out of your sweet treat.
Energise! Eat 1 ounce (approximately a square) of dark chocolate every day to boost your energy and reap dark chocolate’s many health benefits. Keep in mind that chocolate may be high in fat, so don’t overdo your snacking!
4 – Apples
What fires you up: On average, an apple contains about 14 grams of natural sugar, which is enough to produce the same effect as coffee without any of the negative effects of caffeine. (There’s no such thing as apple dependence, for example!)
Unlike other sugary fixes – chocolate included – that give you an energy boost for a short while then leave you to crash after the glucose is absorbed from your blood, the sugars in apples are released slowly. Your blood glucose rises then falls away gradually – guaranteed no crashes. The effects last for 40 minutes to an hour, about as long as it takes to digest the apple.
Energise! Forgo the chips when you’re feeling snacky and reach for a crunchy apple instead! If you want to make the snack last longer, you can dip the apple slices in lemon juice to prevent them from going brown.
5 – Whole grains
What fires you up: Energy isn’t just about the quick boost; it’s also about the foods that let you stay in the long game!
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, so don’t believe the hype that you should cut them out of your diet entirely. Instead, stock up on complex carbohydrate sources like whole grains. Whole grains are rich in fibre, so they take more time to digest. You’ll be provided with a steady stream of energy for much longer.
Energise! Make whole grains your breakfast habit! For an energised start to your day, plan meals that feature brown rice, oats, wheat, or quinoa. Make sandwiches with whole wheat bread, or line up jars of overnight oats.
6 – Wheatgrass
What fires you up: Wheatgrass is popular with health nuts as a superfood that can be juiced to harvest its many benefits.
With regard to energy, wheatgrass’ high vitamin B12 content helps by supplementing red blood cell production. The more red blood cells you have, the more oxygen is transported throughout the body. Oxygen is necessary for the body’s mental and physical functions. Ample oxygen delivery to your brain and muscles means you’re able to think faster, concentrate on your tasks better, and be on the move for longer.
Energise! Even just a shot of wheatgrass juice will be enough to get you through the day! Perhaps it’s just as well you don’t need to drink whole glassfuls of it – for all its health benefits, wheatgrass is not the yummiest superfood out there.
7 – Bananas
What fires you up: Bananas contain complex carbohydrates, and fruit sugars called fructose.
A 2012 study compared the effectiveness of bananas versus carbohydrate drinks as a pre-workout snack for endurance athletes. The study compared the athletes’ performance as measured by blood sugar levels, oxidative stress, and immune measures. Bananas showed similar results as the artificially formulated carb drinks. This shows that bananas are a filling and sustaining source of energy.
Energise! In the morning, coat a banana in peanut butter and pop it in the freezer. Come back for it later for an energising and protein-rich mid-afternoon snack!
8 – Hot cocoa
What fires you up: Cocoa and coffee share many similarities at the chemical level. The difference is that coffee is a nervous system stimulant, while cocoa promotes dilation of blood vessels, including the ones in the brain. Caffeine gives you energy by instructing your brain to ignore the signals that tell it to rest or slow down, which is why coffee keeps you awake even when it’s already time to sleep.
Meanwhile, the only thing cocoa does is increase the blood flow – and thus, oxygen delivery – to your brain. As explained earlier, increased oxygen delivery to the brain makes you alert and more present.
Energise! As with tea, resist the urge to sweeten your hot cocoa with refined sugar and dairy. Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or cinnamon, as well as plant-based milks, are healthier choices for flavouring your hot cocoa. For extra flair, check out this recipe for chai hot chocolate!