You had a rough night and you need your regular dose of venti Americano to get you through that important budget meeting. By mid-afternoon, you are already reaching for your 5th cup of coffee because your boss still needs you to turn in your report by 9AM next morning. After a long day at work, you need to make an appearance at your parent’s anniversary dinner without looking worn-out. This becomes a cycle and there may come a point when you’ll be tempted to get something stronger and a lot more harmful than caffeine.
This is a familiar story experienced by many people who are stressed out with their daily grind. Turning to illicit substances becomes an easy alternative for them to keep going. Even college students misuse drug stimulants to be able to deal with the demands of school. However, it is no secret that dependence on these substances can lead to addiction.
For people in recovery, it can also be difficult for them to resist these damaging substances especially when they are back to their regular routine and faced with the same stressors and triggers. In order to keep up your energy, coffee is an obvious answer and is widely accepted to be harmless when taken in reasonable amounts. But are there alternatives outside coffee and drugs? Absolutely.
One easy way is to change what you eat. This will help you have more sustained energy levels throughout the day, so that you will not need to turn to artificial stimulants. Many people forego a proper meal to save time without realizing that this hurts their performance more. When you eat your lunch from a hotdog stand, or worse, skip lunch altogether, you are depriving your body of nutrient-dense food essential to keep your body alert and energized. When you feel weak and lethargic, this makes you prone to succumbing to stimulant drugs.
So what types of food can give you that boost in energy? While there are many food supplements and weird-sounding food sources from exotic countries, this list will focus on products you are already familiar with and are not artificially made. These are whole food sources that do not have unknown ingredients you cannot pronounce. Here are some suggestions.
1. Dark Chocolate
The supermarket variety of chocolate has given it a bad rep. Of course, if you constantly eat chocolate candy bars with massive amounts of sugar, this can lead to many health problems like obesity and diabetes. The sugar will also cause you to have that temporary sugar rush which will most likely lead to a crash.
However, if you consume dark chocolate (at least 70-80% cocoa), this can actually be beneficial for you. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cocoa and is an antioxidant filled with compounds that can increase energy, enhance performance and mood, deliver brain-boosting benefits, and serve as a natural antidepressant.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is not only good for your skin and hair it is also a natural source of energy. Coconut oil made of 90% saturated fat, but these fats are medium-chain-triglycerides or MCTs. Based on research, MCTs provide the body with energy and can help improve memory. These fatty acids can be accessed by the brain without the need for insulin so brain cells can be fuelled more efficiently.
3. Cayenne Pepper
When you take a bite of something spicy, you would naturally feel a surge of energy rush through your body. Your senses are suddenly more alert even just for a short moment. Hot and spicy foods are generally considered as stimulants. Cayenne pepper, for instance, is used as a mild stimulant because of its primary active ingredient, capsaicin. Capsaicin has been shown to reduce cholesterol build up in the body, which lowers cholesterol levels.
Instead of reaching for that sugary donut, try snacking on nuts to keep up your energy. Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts are just some examples of nuts that provide essential nutrients such as protein, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and carotenoids used to maintain higher energy levels.
There have been many studies suggesting that eating breakfast is a great way to sustain your energy throughout the day but do you know that not all breakfasts are created equal? One study found that eating eggs for breakfast will give you greater and more consistent energy levels than consuming carbohydrates like bagels or bread. Another research from the University of Cambridge supports this with the conclusion that protein wins over glucose/sugar when it comes to stimulating cells to keep you alert.
It turns out that eating salad for lunch can actually make you feel better and energetic. Spinach is a superfood rich in magnesium that can relieve stress and contribute to 300 metabolic functions in the body including the storage and production of cellular energy. Spinach is also rich in potassium, iron, and calcium.
This spice is known to be a mild stimulant that promotes blood circulation. If you want to be alert without drinking coffee, try a cup of ginger tea instead. Ginger has also been found to reduce nausea, motion sickness and morning sickness. Aside from drinking it in tea form, you can also add fresh ginger in your meals like stir-fry dishes or other Asian recipes.
By incorporating these natural food stimulants in your diet, you can gradually improve your overall lifestyle and diet. You’ll feel better and more energized which can lower the risk for relapse or turning to harmful substances.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Contact Lighthouse Treatment Center to learn more about our specialized modes of treatment.