We all know that the best way to improve improve mental and physical health conditions associated with tiredness is to, well, get more sleep! But for those of us who suffer from insomnia or work disruptive shift hours, the easier and quicker solution is often a little hit of caffeine.

While no one is suggesting you need to give up your morning coffee, research has shown that high caffeine intake can have some worrying side effects. So, if you’re convinced you need those roasted beans to stay full of beans, you may wish to consider the risks, as well as the alternatives.

What are the risks of too much caffeine?

How much caffeine is too much caffeine? Surprisingly, studies have shown that the body can start developing physical dependence with the regular intake of just four cups of coffee a day. This dependence can then lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, cravings, fatigue and muscle pain.

This addiction happens because caffeine impacts our hormones, boosting dopamine and cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone; increased cortisol levels are associated with weight gain, depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Caffeine also suppresses the body’s absorption of adenosine, the hormone that calms your body for sleep. Since caffeine’s effects can last for up to eight hours, any ingested after 2pm can significantly disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycles.

Healthy alternatives to caffeine

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives that can keep you energised without having to reach for that coffee pot. Here are just a few of the ones we’ve found:

  • Green Tea - A favourite of health food bloggers worldwide, green tea is great because it contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee but still enough to give you a little boost. It’s also full of antioxidants such a catechins that have shown to be great at helping the body fight disease.
  • Nuts - One of the reasons we often reach for the coffee in the afternoon is that our sugar levels can drop at this time, leaving us in a little slump. Nuts are filled with protein that boosts our blood sugar and perks up our energy levels – the perfect afternoon snack.
  • Baobab - Perhaps a little less easy to find at your local supermarket than green tea or nuts, baobab is nevertheless a great superfood when it comes to boosting energy. Packed with potassium and vitamin C, baobab stimulates our energy production cells and nerve signal transmission., boosting brain power.
  • Reishi Mushroom Tea - Another less widely known ingredient, reishi mushrooms are popular in Chinese medicine for their invigorating effect on the mind and body. As well as pepping you up, these antioxidant-packed functional funghi can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Bananas - Much like nuts, bananas are another great and healthy natural snack for perking us up during an afternoon slump or early morning. Bananas are filled with healthy carbohydrates that fill you full of natural energy and, best of all, won’t come with any sort of ‘low’ or crash when their effects have worn off.
  • Yoga - While it seems counterproductive, what we need when we’re feeling sluggish and slow is to calm down and relax rather than subject our bodies to more stress and adrenaline. Whether you opt for a full yoga class or a few stretches at your desk, loosening up your muscles will leave you feeling less achy and tired while also encouraging energy-boosting circulation.
  • Fresh air - There’s a reason tired drivers are told to switch off the heating and open the windows! A quick trip outside into the fresh air is great for raising energy levels as it boosts oxygen in our blood stream as well as exposing us to sunlight that leads to increased levels of vitamin D and the ‘happy’ hormone, serotonin. Easy, free and zero-calorie!

As we said, there’s no need to give up your morning coffee just yet but, if you’re worried you’re a little too dependent on the old Go Juice, these healthy alternatives are a great way to avoid nasty side effects and enjoy a revitalising hit of natural energy.