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10 Caffeine Free Ways to Wake Up and Have More Energy

Lauren Rubin
August 12, 2021
Photo Credit: Alba Vitta

You’re tired. Lethargic. Brain-foggy. Plain exhausted. No matter how you cut it, most of us can relate. But caffeine isn’t always the answer; it’s been shown to increase anxiety and impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, among other unwelcome side effects. Thankfully, there are plenty of caffeine free solutions to get you feeling a little more pepped up.

As it turns out, I’m a bit of an expert on energy hacks. I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, or a biohacker on Instagram, but I am someone who struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for over 4 years. I wasn’t able to drink caffeine because it elevated my already high cortisol levels and stressed out my weakened adrenals; in other words, I had to get creative with how I cultivated more energy. And these caffeine free tips (as unconventional as they may seem) genuinely work. 

1. Take a cold shower. 

Cold therapy has been around for ages. It’s used everywhere from bath houses to athlete training centers to boost circulation and blood flow, giving you an instant energy jolt and decreasing inflammation. Icy temperatures have been shown to boost endorphins, which means higher feelings of euphoria, which means more energy.

Pro tip: If you’re attached to your warm morning shower, you don’t have to give it up. Just turn the water all the way to cold for the last 2-3 minutes to reap the revitalizing benefits. 

back bend

Photo Credit: Ekhart Yoga

2. Try a backbend. 

Backbends are known as energizing poses in yoga — so much so, that you’ll almost never find them in your evening candlelit class. According to Amelia Schrader, yoga teacher and creator of AXIS YOGA, they “can almost be like a shot of espresso without the caffeine or that wired feeling.” Thankfully there are several different ways to attempt one, so even if you identify as a complete yoga noob you can still soak in this natural form of energy.

Pro tip: No matter which of these poses you try, hang out in them for at least 5 full, deep breaths to really feel invigorated. 

3. Roll it out. 

On your face, that is. If you don’t already own an ice roller, prepare to become a convert. Not only is ice-rolling fantastic for reducing redness, puffiness, and general skin dullness (a.k.a. everything from acne to your swollen hungover face), the icy coolness on your skin instantly makes you feel alert. If you’re not quite ready for the full-body cold shower method mentioned above, this is a great cryotherapy-style alternative to boost cognition.

Pro tip: You can find ice rollers for as cheap as $13 on Amazon; simply pop in the freezer and use any time of day for an energy boost. 

4. Invest in sunlight-mimicking lights. 

We know that science says a completely dark room is conducive to your best night of sleep, so you might’ve already purchased blackout curtains or moved your electronics to another room. But when it comes time to rise in the morning, it can feel impossible to get out of bed in the pitch darkness. Enter: sunlight-mimicking lights. You can program them with your wake time to slowly illuminate the room over a 20-minute period, signaling to your brain that the sun has risen and it’s time for you to rise, too.

Pro tip: Try something like Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, or a wake-up light alarm clock to naturally get out of bed with more energy. 

mushroom latte

Photo Credit: Minimalist Baker

5. Take some mushrooms. 

No, not the magical kind. I’m talking about adaptogenic mushrooms: specifically, Lion’s Mane and cordyceps. Lion’s Mane is known for its ability to help the brain sharpen and improve cognitive function, while cordyceps helps with physical stamina and is even recommended by some as a pre-workout supplement. The combination of these two mushrooms can help those of us experiencing fatigue feel ready to take on the day. 

Pro tip: Mix up a mushroom latte to get the ritual of coffee, without the jittery side effects. 

6. Get some Vitamin D. 

Sure, this might be harder to do in the dead of winter, but during the seasons that we do get good access to natural sunlight, grabbing some rays can really help. Low Vitamin D levels have been associated with fatigue, and studies show that stabilizing those levels can literally reverse fatigue symptoms in five measurable categories. As neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf further explains, “sunlight is essential in regulating our sleep and wake cycles. It tells our brain that it is daytime and [therefore] to make us feel alert and awake.”

Pro tip: Go sit by a big window, go for a brief walk, or read a chapter of a book outside and let the Vitamin D do its job at invigorating you.

7. Feed your mitochondria.

Were you even in high school if you didn’t learn, ad nauseum, that ‘the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell?’ Well your biology teacher will be proud to learn you’re putting that knowledge to good use. As Functional Medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman explains, mitochondria are like “tiny factories that take the foods we eat and the oxygen we breathe and convert them into energy, or adenosine triphosphate (ATP).” But when your mitochondria aren’t functioning properly, you produce less ATP which might be responsible for your low energy and fatigue. The good news? We can make more of it. (Phew!) Try supplementing with NAD+, which although expensive, has been shown to decrease mitochondrial deterioration.

Pro tip: You can also go the less pricey route by fasting, exercising more, or increasing your omega-3s — all natural ways to manufacture more ATP. 

8. Make MCT oil part of your morning.

I never thought I’d be downing a tablespoon of oil in the morning. Then my dietitian told me MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil could help my brain function better. Studies show that consumption of MCTs can improve cognitive function and allow you to handle high-intensity exercise for longer, imbuing you with the energy you need to take on whatever the day brings.

Pro tip: Make sure to titrate up to a full dosage by starting with a teaspoon at a time. Your GI system will thank you.) 

9. Embrace an ancient Chinese practice.

Qi Gong is a traditional Asian form of energy work that feels part-yoga, part-breath work, part-mediation, and part-something else entirely. It relies on certain body postures to increase your “qi,” or life force energy; honestly, I was surprised by how well it worked. And it’s not as woo-woo as you think, by the way: Science backs up its multitudinous benefits

Pro tip: This 10-minute routine is one I swear by in the morning or to combat the midday slump.

10. Take a quick walk. 

Exercising in the morning might feel like the last thing you want to do, and we hear you. But even a brisk 10-minute walk can help make your brain more alert and your body more awake. Don’t believe it can actually make a difference? According to one study, a 10-minute stair walk was literally just as effective as a 50 mg caffeine pill; take that, coffee!

Pro tip: Make a four-song playlist with music that really pumps you up, and walk around the block at a moderate pace.

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