Coffee has long been the go-to simulant of for boosting energy - whilst there is some evidence that coffee has some health benefits, much of the time its addictive nature and side effects can outweigh the good.
It has become ingrained in our daily schedules, and most of us need it in order to function, Even though it feels like rocket fuel, to begin with, it can also lead to us feeling withdrawal symptoms, sluggish and without energy, on those days we can’t have it.
As well as this, continued use can lead to anxiety and insomnia, and these are undoubtedly side effects that no one wants! Couple this with the fact that many combine their coffee habits with a dose of dairy and sugar, it can make the bad effects even worse.
Instead, why not try reaching for a plant-based energy booster to get your day started, and they don’t just have to be in drink form either - here we look at some delicious, and healthy, alternatives!
So, this one may seem like a bit of a cheat because matcha does contain caffeine. However, unlike coffee, matcha, originating from Japan, releases the caffeine into the body slowly, over 8 to 6 hours. This means you won't get the sudden caffeine highs and lows but a sustained level of energy throughout the day.
One of the essential ingredients it contains is the amino acid L-Theanine, which is found in the tea leaves that are crushed to make the vibrant green powder. In fact, this is how it is different from regular green tea - as the leaves to create matcha are generally left in the shade, as compared to tea leaves which are dried out, the levels of the amino acid are much higher.
This L-Theanine can make all the difference, due to its multitude of favourable effects. It works in combination with the caffeine to produce long-lasting energy but without the stimulant effects of coffee, like nervousness and hypertension. L-Theanine increases activity in the brain’s alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.
The combination of L-Theanine and caffeine found in matcha tea has also been proven to improve performance of cognitive tasks as well as a person’s alertness. Not only this, but matcha is also loaded with antioxidants, specifically containing boatloads of catchetins - with 60% of those being EGCg. In less scientific terms, that's the antioxidant that is most widely recognised as having cancer-fighting properties. A number of studies have also been undertaken to show matcha’s efficacy in preventing or helping with different ailments such as heart disease and possible prevention of Alzheimer's.
Matcha powder itself comes in different grades, depending on the quality of the leaf, with the better quality ones being more (naturally) sweet rather than bitter. It's easy to use as you can just whisk it into hot water, and add a plant-based milk, like oat or cashew,if you fancy a latte. In fact, matcha powder is an all rounder as it's also possible to incorporate it into baking or smoothies as well.
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2 Green Smoothie
Another versatile option, a green smoothie can be anything you want it to be, and it's easy to add together the ingredients that you know will make it count, both towards an energy boost, but also to help you kick-start getting all the nutrients you need for the day. Feeling full and in good health will give you energy in and of itself. So what are the options for making a kick-ass green smoothie? Let's look at all the different components!
- Fruit and veg - Bananas are always a good one, packed with carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6, all of which will help boost your energy levels throughout the day as well as giving your smoothie a thick and rich flavour. Spinach, or other leafy green vegetables, are another good one to throw in, as they're packed full of iron and Vitamin C, amongst other essential nutrients, the deficiency of both of which can cause low levels of energy.
If you're feeling adventurous you can also experiment with adding avocado, which, apart from its other numerous health benefits, provides optimal blood fat levels, which can be stored in the body and used as energy later. You can also try a delicious citrus fruit like grapefruit, also chock full of Vitamin C, its natural sugars will help you maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day to avoid those unwanted sugar spikes and crashes. And remember, when making a smoothie always make sure to blend the whole product (minus ends and cores of course) rather than juicing, as that way you don't lose any of the vital nutrients or the fibre that keeps you full and slow releases energy throughout the day.
- Energy boosting additions - For an extra added boost, you can try putting in some spirulina, hemp or CBD oil, or acai berries. Spirulina is protein rich, has a variety of different essential amino acids, and also contains the energy boosting vitamins B1, B2 and B6, along with magnesium which is thought to be an essential mineral for energy. Acai berries have a similar nutritional profile, along with being an incredibly high source of antioxidants. Hemp or CBD oil can also be a great addition, as it slows down the absorption of fruit sugars into the blood, meaning an energy boost that lasts even longer. It also helps your body with the production of mood enhancing hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, which will help to promote better concentration.
- Top it off - If you don’t want to go with a plant-based milk, for something more refreshing a great idea to top a smoothie off is coconut water. As it is one of nature’s most hydrating drinks, due to its natural sugars and electrolytes, it will stop you and your body becoming dehydrated - an inevitable precursor to lack of focus and energy.
Cacao is a great one when you are craving a sweet but healthy treat to boost your energy levels. Whether you make it into a hot caocao latte - with a nut or oat milk - , a delicious milkshake, or even create powerballs, for mid-morning pick me up, the versatility of cacao is endless. It can sometimes be hard to believe that something that tastes so delicious can actually be good for you, but here are just some of the health benefits, along with the reasons it can easily boost energy levels.
Cacao is rich in both iron and magnesium, two of the essential minerals needed to fight off fatigue. In fact, caocao is the highest plant-based source of iron you can find, almost double that of spinach, at a whopping 7.3mg per 100g. Magnesium is essential for a healthy heart, but also helps turn glucose into energy, giving you the boost you might need. Not only that, but caocao has impressive cardiovascular capabilities, thus improving the blood flow to your heart and raising energy and concentration levels in the process.
As well as this, it contains phenylethylamine which is thought to boost mood and support energy. If you do make powerballs, think about other ingredients that will give you an energy boost, like nut butters that are packed full of protein.
So, next time you’re thinking of reaching for a coffee, why not try one of these handy and healthy alternatives instead. With less of the possible negative side effects of caffeine, such as addiction and withdrawal, and a whole host of extra added benefits, like the amazing amounts of nutrition possible, it seems like the choice is obvious.