Kick your caffeine dependency with coffee alternatives
It’s 9:30 a.m. and you’re responding to emails. You’ve had your first cup or two of coffee, but you’re still not firing on all cylinders. Do you go for another cup? You slept poorly last night, so, yes, you decide. Caffeine is your ally.
Until it’s not. In fact, your caffeine habit is probably a vicious cycle — spiking your stress hormones, keeping you alert, and helping you get your job done, but also keeping your system too revved to rest well.
Even if this isn’t you, it’s a lot of Americans. (Ok, it’s also me.) Out of the 62% of us drinking coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming three or more cups daily, there’s no doubt there’s widespread caffeine dependency going on.
At the same time, a rise in health consciousness is causing many to take a harder look at their habits and health. Hence, the rise of coffee alternatives without caffeine.
Healthy coffee alternatives
For those curious about coffee substitutes, you might have some questions:
- Are coffee alternatives safe?
- Do they offer health benefits?
- Do they taste good?
- And, most importantly for those of us looking for a little boost, do coffee alternatives help with focus and energy?
Let’s start by looking at some of the most popular coffee-replacement beverages.
What can I drink instead of coffee? Coffee Alternatives
If you’re looking for something similar to coffee (brown, earthy, smooth, nutty, prepared hot, and pairs well with cream and sugar), here are some of the top beverages marketed as coffee alternatives:
Crio Bru is roasted, ground, and brewed like coffee, but instead of coffee beans, it’s cacao — the delicious bean chocolate is made of. A cup of Crio Bru has a rich chocolate flavor and can be enhanced, like coffee, with sweetener and creamer.
Crio Bru is completely safe, and offers a very light stimulant effect to help you with focus and energy. It has 350mg of theobromine, and 15mg of caffeine (less than the amount of caffeine in a cup of decaf). Theobromine is a stimulant with a similar molecular structure as caffeine, but unlike the jolt that caffeine gives you, theobromine provides a gentler, longer-lasting boost, helping you feel more like you got a great night’s sleep.
MUD/WTR is a powder-form coffee alternative made with adaptogenic mushrooms like lion’s mane, Chaga, and reishi. It also includes cacao, and a chai-like spice blend including cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and others. MUD/WTR is said to taste subtle and earthy, with mainly notes of cinnamon and cocoa.
As for stimulation, MUD/WTR’s ingredients are full of antioxidants that can improve your overall health, and its blend of adaptogens, black tea, and cacao is intended to help with focus and energy minus the caffeine jitters (it does have around 13mg of caffeine). While some reviewers note improved mental clarity, many MUD/WTR drinkers are looking for a non-caffeine stimulant with a stronger effect.
Teeccino offers a wide variety of herbal beverages in coffee-inspired flavors. The flavor truest to a cup of black coffee is their French Roast. Made with roasted ramón seeds, carob, barley, and chicory, Teeccino French Roast brews like tea but is said to offer the body and flavor of coffee with zero caffeine (unlike CrioBru and MUD/WTR).
Unlike other popular coffee substitutes, Teeccino is not marketed with claims of improving focus or energy. It’s simply a delicious substitute for those who want a coffee-like flavor without any of the effects of caffeine.
These are just some of the most popular brands — you can find many more coffee substitutes on the market, most of which will contain some blend of cacao, adaptogenic mushrooms, and/or chicory.
Will coffee substitutes work for me?
Here’s the bottom line: A coffee substitute can be a great tool for helping you address your caffeine dependency and wean down your coffee consumption by serving as a replacement for one or more of your daily mugs of joe. And, many of them are made with wholesome ingredients with the potential for health benefits. But if you’re looking for a caffeine-free beverage that drinks like coffee and kicks like coffee, you’re probably not going to find it.
Other caffeine substitutes
Let’s say you don’t see the appeal of a mug of hot, brown liquid. Maybe you’re just looking for non-caffeine alternatives that will still give you a little lift when you need it.
What can I drink instead of caffeine? Good caffeine alternatives
You’ll often see ginseng as an additive in energy drinks. This herbal supplement has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine, and is thought to increase energy and libido and boost immunity, among other effects. There are two types of Ginseng, American and Asian, which differ in their concentrations of active compounds and work differently. Asian ginseng is believed to be the more invigorating of the two.
Maca is another adaptogenic herb with a reputation for providing sustained energy. In fact, in one study, two weeks of maca supplementation helped cyclists improve their times. Like ginseng, maca is also said to help support mood and libido, as well as reproductive function.
Beta-Alanine (and other performance-enhancing amino acids)
This recommendation is for the gym rats. While taking a supplement with Beta-Alanine or other performance-enhancing amino acids like L-carnitine, taurine, and L-arginine, won’t give you an instant burst of energy like caffeine, it can be a great alternative to taking caffeine-based preworkouts. These amino acids improve blood flow and reduce lactic acid accumulation, helping you increase your workout time with more power and less fatigue.
Truthfully, there’s nothing quite like caffeine for a good stimulant surge. (And sugar and other fast-processing carbohydrates will give you a similar energy burst — and crash.) But, regularly consumed in significant quantities, caffeine can take a serious toll on your adrenal health, worsening focus and rest over time and is best used in moderation.
As always, the best recipe for good energy levels is good rest, quality nutrition, and a lifestyle of sustainable rhythms. But for that extra boost, try the above options and see what works best for you!