Energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, 5 Hour energy, soda, or coffee, tea, etc.) seem to be the first thing people grab for when they need a boost of energy. That boost of energy usually comes in the form of caffeine. Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. By blocking the adenosine, the neurons in your brain fire. This produces “emergency” signals in your brain that releases adrenaline. This hormone causes your heart to beat faster and induces your liver to release extra sugar into the bloodstream. The end product of all of these biological processes is a short boost in energy. The increase in energy usually lasts thirty minutes or less and is followed by more than an hour of listlessness and drowsiness.

The daily recommended allowance for caffeine is 400 milligrams. That is equivalent to about four cups of coffee, ten cans of soda, or two carbonated energy drinks. Heavy caffeine use over 400 milligrams can result in insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, increased heart-beat, and muscle tremors (MAYO clinic). Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant that is very addictive. Eliminating caffeine from a caffeine dependent body can result in headaches, muscle pain, or fatigue.

A healthier alternative to that morning cup of coffee (or four cups of coffee) is to start off you day with a little cardiovascular exercise. Adding twenty minutes of exercise three times a week can boost your energy levels. Increasing the amount of whole grains in your diet can also give your body sustainable, healthy energy to get you through your day. Start small by engaging in a morning workout instead of that morning cup of coffee once per week. Even your trusty health and nutrition educator would have a hard time giving up coffee three days a week to start.