Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

Natural Energy Foods to Help Replace Caffeine

The caffeine in coffee, energy drinks* and energy shots is certainly a stimulant, but one that calls you back again to remedy a subsequent crash. It also acts as a diuretic and has other potential side effects including insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness.

* A word about “energy” drinks… Many contain B vitamins in addition to caffeine, which are really boosters for metabolic pathways to derive energy from food, as these micronutrients do not provide any calories directly and are not stimulants.

Consumers may not be aware that caffeine is being added to everything from jellybeans to beef jerky. Have you seen “wired” waffles? In response to this growing trend, the FDA announced in 2016 that it would investigate the safety of caffeine in food products. For our neighbors to the North, Health Canada institutes caffeine content limits in cola-type beverages and requires mandatory cautionary labelling.

Some natural caffeine sources include guarana, yerba mate, chocolate and tea. The last two only have a quarter to half the caffeine content of prepared coffee. Chocolate also has theobromine, which has direct psychoactive effects like stimulating neurovascular activity and enhancing memory and alertness. As far as tea, green tea that contains catechins which impact energy, mood and cognition separate from the caffeine effect.1

Chocolate and tea may give you some verve but are hardly a recipe for a full breakfast. What the body needs is energy in the form of molecules called ATP to activate muscles. These are provided from the calories in food during metabolism, and carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source.

Juice contains mostly fructose and water, and is rapidly absorbed requiring minimal digestion, thus providing quick energy for a perk. Both citrus juices and cocoa-based drinks are rich in flavonoids, which may increase cerebral blood flow and increase neural activity.2

So what’s wrong with a typical bowl of corn flakes to go with a cup of juice, cocoa or tea? Refined grains fall flat of providing sustained energy. For that you’ll need complex carbohydrates and a little protein and healthy (unsaturated) fat. One type of complex carbohydrate, known as fructo-oligosaccharides, may boost mood by way of its effect on gut bacteria which influences behavior via neurotransmitter systems. Another type, inulin, is similar to fructo-oligosaccharides and linked to improvements in learning and memory tasks, such as accuracy in recall.3 Some lean protein and healthy fat serve to prolong the energy from carbohydrates.

Some specific natural energy foods to work into your morning routine for more oomph:

Still a coffee addict? Try switching to half decaf coffee, an herbal coffee, or a tea (e.g. ginko biloba, ginseng, rooibos) to fill your mug. Don’t forget that getting those muscles moving will help circulate oxygen to the brain. See our article How Early Morning Workouts Can Impact Your Day | Fitness. If you’re slow to rise and an AM workout is out of the question, stretching is a great start.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Sources:

  1. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Dietz C, Dekker M. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Flavonoid-rich orange juice is associated with acute improvements in cognitive function in healthy middle-aged males. Alharbi MH, Lamport DJ, Dodd GF, Saunders C, Harkness L, Butler LT, Spencer JP. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Sep;55(6):2021-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1016-9. Epub 2015 Aug 18.
  3. An Investigation of the Acute Effects of Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin on Subjective Wellbeing, Mood and Cognitive Performance. Smith AP, Sutherland D, Hewlett P. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 28;7(11):8887-96. doi: 10.3390/nu7115441.
  4. Chewing gum: cognitive performance, mood, well-being, and associated physiology. Allen AP, Smith AP. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:654806. doi: 10.1155/2015/654806. Epub 2015 May 17.

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How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

How Can I Make My Own Breakfast Bar? | Q+A

Question:

I’d like to make my own ‘breakfast bar’ to eat in the morning on the car-ride to the gym to play racquetball. Sweet is OK, but most of the manufactured ones have chocolate and that is a little hard to swallow at 5am. Doc says I need to watch/lower my carb intake so I need to be conscious of that too. Even purchasing them at the wholesale club is costly, so would love to be able to make my own. Any proven recipes you can share?

– Jerrey S. Fell

Answer:

While I’ve only made my own bar once, I’d rely on reviews for taste and acceptability. Nutritionally, it sounds like you’d like a meal replacement vs. an energy bar or protein bar. For the base sweet component, mashed bananas are easiest, but using ground dates and/or dried coconut also makes for a sturdy bar. Oats or puffed rice are good starches to use for bulk without a pasty texture that flour would give. A nut butter or protein powder will balance out the carbohydrates. Buying mainstream ingredients in bulk then properly storing the remainder will keep your costs down. Generally, store bought bars cost $1 per ounce.

Here’s a great option without chocolate:

In a food processor combine 1 C nuts, 1 C shredded coconut, ½ C wheat germ, and 2 ripe bananas. Transfer to bowl and mix in 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C oats, 1 C vanilla Greek yogurt, 2 beaten eggs, tsp. cinnamon and tsp. baking soda. Spread evenly in greased rectangular baking pan. Bake in 350o F oven for 20 minutes or until light golden brown; cut into 12 bars. Let cool completely before removing from pan. Each 227 Calories, 10.5 gm Fat , 27 gm Carb, 9 gm Protein.

For more of a granola flavor without baking:

Blend 1 C peanut butter, 1/2 C honey with mixer until mixed thoroughly. Adding a little at a time, mix in 1/2 C dry powdered milk and 1/3 C vanilla soy protein powder. Stir in 2 C puffed rice, 1/3 C finely diced dried fruit and 1/3 C finely diced nuts. If dough is too sticky, add more powdered milk. Press firmly into a wax paper lined pan until flat, about a half inch thick. Cool in fridge until solid and slice into 12 bars. Each 239 Calories, 13 gm Fat, 25 gm Carb, 9.5 gm Protein. Use a low carb protein powder to reduce carbohydrates.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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What Are Good Substitutions for Sugary and Salty Snacks? | Q+A

What Are Good Substitutions for Sugary and Salty Snacks? | Q+A

Question:

Hi. I am a couch potato and I am starting to look like one too. Just joined the Frisco, TX location and will start taking group classes.  What are good substitutions for sugary and salty snacks? Looking for healthier alternatives to ice cream and chips and salsa.

– Rose P.

Answer:

So glad you are turning over a new leaf, Rose! Though nothing will be like the original, look for similar textures or flavors when making substitutions for the best satisfaction.

In place of ice cream, dairy-based snacks include yogurt, fruit/pudding parfait, and strawberry or chocolate/banana smoothies made with whole milk and frozen fruit. Get creative and make your own frozen yogurt pops.

For baked items like cookies and cupcakes, you could substitute bran muffins, granola bars, and graham crackers.

To get a salty crunchy flavor, instead of eating fried chips, try baked ones (fresh salsa is fine). Soy nuts and dried seaweed come in different flavors to nibble on. Low-fat microwave popcorn is another option.

Additional healthy snacks that have completely different flavors and textures include:

  • Cottage cheese and pineapple
  • Carrots or snap peas and hummus
  • Celery or apples and peanut butter
  • Pretzels and string cheese
  • Grapes and hard-cooked egg
  • Whole grain crackers and guacamole
  • Tuna salad on cucumber slices
  • Mini pizzas (English muffin half, spoonful marinara, sprinkle cheese)

It’s simple to have easy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand for when your appetite surges. Just remember to pare down your subsequent meal to balance out the calories.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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Tips for a High Protein & Low Carb Diet | Q+A

Tips for a High Protein & Low Carb Diet | Q+A

Question:

I’m on a high protein, low carb diet, and training with a master trainer for a month now. What tips can you give me stick to my diet and not cheat?

– Zavi

Answer:

The best way to avoid temptation is to remove it from your surroundings, or remove yourself from the environment. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as they say. Even physically turning your back on nearby food can keep it out of view. Don’t keep anything in your home that beckons you to cheating.

Take preemptive measures. If you feel comfortable, you may mention your endeavor to your friends and family, respectfully asking that they not tempt you with items off your diet. Look at menu options online and make a decision before going to a restaurant where the atmosphere and aroma might lead you astray.

Other tips are to cleanse your palate after eating to dissuade you from any “extras”. Be sure to get enough volume and calories earlier in the day so you don’t feel hungry later on.

Honestly, if it is a struggle for you to comply with a diet plan, then you may consider an alternative approach that fits your tastes and lifestyle better. Some people are successful at achieving physical goals simply by reducing portions of the food they already consume.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

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How To Get The Most From Juicing | Q+A

How To Get The Most From Juicing | Q+A

Question:

Veggie juicing, my wife and I do it every morning (juicing) with a mixture of veggies. We have a Breville juicer and a Bullet. One takes out all of the pulp and one does not. We have only been using the Bullet for the last year. What is the deal, should I be using both alternately, throw one away or what? What is the best strategy to get the most out of juicing? Thanks, Debbie.

– Terry N.

Answer:

You’ve spotted the main difference between juicing and blending – the pulp. Removing or including the solid matter from produce will affect the final liquid in texture and nutrition. Juice enthusiasts relish in the highly concentrated nutrients in a more limited volume of smooth juice, whereas high-power blender users rely on the bulkier smoothies to fill them up for fewer calories.

Which is right for you depends on your intention. If you’re going for micronutrient absorption, you’ll get more vitamins and antioxidants from juicing, but with more calories per glass. Our previous article Just Juice It! explores juicing pros and cons. Juicers work best with water-bound produce, not avocados or sweet potatoes.

Blending the whole vegetable could be more satisfying, leading you to consume fewer calories in the morning. A blender allows one to add smoothie components such as ice, yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter, etc. You’ll be better off doing that if your intent is to substitute a solid breakfast with your beverage.

Which takes home the gold? Juicing is a win if you’re only trying to increase pure vegetable consumption. The blender wins for smoothies, though.

Getting the most from juicing includes adding produce you wouldn’t otherwise eat. Perhaps you can sneak in beets, sprouts, or thick-leaved greens. Spice things up a bit with a little ginger, chives, or turmeric. Consume the juice right away when nutrients are at their peak.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

 

Ask our Dietitian

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Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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