May 6, 2021

6 High-Energy Coffee Alternatives

A man sips coffee at his desk
Coffee Alternatives with Caffeine

Coffee has been a go-to for those seeking an energy boost since at least the 15th century. But despite a history of benefits, coffee isn’t for everyone.

Let’s explore coffee alternatives with caffeine and without, as well as other avenues for all-day energy.

Benefits of Coffee #

If you’re a coffee-lover, you’ll be happy to know there are benefits from drinking up to 4 cups 1 per day, including the following:

  • Coffee Increases Energy Levels

This is obvious, but coffee is a good caffeine source, which boosts energy 2 and enhances your mood.

  • Can Help Burn Fat

Coffee speeds up your resting metabolic rate and may directly contribute to increased fat burning 3, although long-term coffee drinkers might be immune to these effects.

  • Improves Performance

Caffeine positively impacts physical performance in two significant ways. First, it releases adrenaline 4 into the bloodstream. It also improves the utility of fat as fuel 5.

  • Decreases Appetite

Coffee decreases feelings of hunger, even as it stimulates calorie-burning. What’s surprising is decaf decreases 6 hunger even more. Bulletproof decaf? The added fat will reduce your appetite further.

Why Coffee Isn’t for Everyone #

Despite the list of benefits above, coffee isn’t for everyone. You may not like the taste or the caffeine jolt. Or, perhaps you’ve fallen victim to one or more of the following:

  • Daily Drinkers Build a Tolerance

If you’re drinking a cup or more daily, you may build a tolerance to caffeine and could find yourself needing more.

  • Coffee Can Cause “Jittery” feelings or Anxiety

For some people, the caffeine in coffee (or caffeine withdrawal) can lead to unpleasant jittery feelings or even mimic anxiety symptoms, including increased heart rate, nervousness, and restlessness.

  • Coffee Can Trigger Acid Reflux

Coffee has a pH of 5.35, which means that it’s very acidic as far as beverages go. This can cause acid reflux and is particularly aggravating for those who already have GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease.

  • Caffeine Interferes with Sleep

Caffeine can interfere with sleep, especially if you enjoy a cup anytime after 10 am. A good night’s rest is one of the most important things you can do for your health, so it’s best to back off the Joe if it’s keeping you up.

6 Coffee Alternatives with and without Caffeine #

Six hot beverages in mugs on a table
Six coffee alternatives with caffeine

Black Tea #

Second to coffee, black tea is the most common source 7 of our morning caffeine. Those who choose black tea as a coffee substitute with caffeine generally do so because it packs a punch, just less so. Coffee has been a go-to for those seeking an energy boost since at least the 15th century. But despite a history of benefits, coffee isn’t for everyone.

Let’s explore coffee alternatives with caffeine and without, as well as other avenues for all-day energy.

Pros #

  • Black tea contains antioxidants , especially polyphenols. These compounds bind to free radicals to reduce inflammation and play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.
  • Studies 8 in mice found polyphenols in black tea prevent weight gain by altering the gut microbiome.
  • Another type of antioxidant, flavonoids, may be responsible for reducing the risk of stroke, as reported in a 2009 study 9.

Cons #

  • A high concentration of tannins means black tea is a strong inhibitor of iron absorption. One study 10 found a cup of tea with your hamburger can block iron absorption by up to 64%. The stronger your tea, the more it blocks iron.
  • If you want a coffee alternative that is caffeine-free, black tea does not fit the bill. One cup of black tea contains anywhere from 45–90mg of caffeine. The upper end of that range is quite similar to a cup of coffee.

Matcha or Green Tea #

Green tea is made from the same Camellia Sinensis plant as black tea, but unoxidized leaves give it a lighter color. Matcha, a finely powdered version of green tea, is made from shade-grown trees that produce greater caffeine and L-theanine concentrations.

Pros #

  • Because Green Tea is processed less than black tea, it’s richer in antioxidants.
  • L-theanine 11 is more abundant in green tea than black tea. This amino acid balances the stimulating effect of caffeine and improves memory, concentration, and mood. It is likely that this balancing effect from L-theanine is the reason some people enjoy drinking caffeinated tea but experience unpleasant side effects from the caffeine in coffee.

Cons #

  • Steeped green teas offer roughly half as much caffeine as black tea or coffee. For some, this may be too little caffeine, whereas others may find this unsuitable if they are trying to eliminate caffeine entirely.
  • Because it contains Vitamin K, those on blood thinners should avoid green tea, which reduces blood clotting .

Mushroom Teas #

Reishi mushroom tea in a glass
Mushroom Tea

Mushroom teas are growing in popularity as the benefits of adaptogens become more widely known. Adaptogens, including mushrooms, have long been used in Chinese medicine and ancient Ayurvedic practices to help the body adapt to stress.

Typically, mushroom teas include a blend of Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane. Brands such as MUD\WTR include cacao and chai to improve flavor and add a little caffeine kick.

Pros #

  • If you’re seeking the benefits of Chaga or Reishi mushrooms, blending them into tea is an excellent way to avoid their bitter taste.
  • Laboratory studies 12 provide preliminary indications that Chaga may be effective against inflammation and cancer cells.
  • One small study found Reishi mushrooms increase antioxidant 13 levels in the bloodstream.
  • Lions Mane mushrooms could protect against age-related cognitive decline, as evidenced by studies 14 in mice.

Cons #

  • While the studies above indicate potential, none of these benefits have been scientifically observed in humans.
  • Chaga, in particular, is high in oxalates . This compound can prevent the absorption of calcium and other minerals and may increase the risk of kidney stones.
  • One final issue with mushroom teas? They are generally expensive.

Raw Cacao #

Raw Cacao contains more caffeine per gram than coffee, but you don’t need much to make a rich cup of hot chocolate. The primary stimulant in cacao isn’t caffeine but theobromine. You’ll find ten times more theobromine in raw cacao than caffeine.

Pros #

  • Theobromine is much weaker than caffeine but acts with a slow release that helps the effects last longer.
  • While caffeine targets the central nervous system, theobromine stimulates the heart and muscles.

Cons #

  • Theobromine is responsible for raw cacao’s bitter taste. So if you want your drink to be pleasurable, many people may want to add a sweetener.
  • With 130 calories per 2 tablespoons, Raw Cacao will definitely break your fast.

IN-Perium #

IN-Perium is a caffeinated coffee alternative made by Jaquish Biomedical . The energy-boosting drink offers the same benefits as your cup of bulletproof coffee, without the jitters and resulting crash. It’s also much easier to make; just add water.

Pros #

  • IN-Perium contains MCT oil. This medium-chain amino acid helps with weight loss and fat loss 15 and promotes a healthy gut microbiome 16. MCT is easily broken down into ketones and is a good source of energy 17. What’s more, MCT can improve athletic performance by preventing the build-up of lactic acid 18.
  • L-theanine is added to mitigate any negative side effects of caffeine. As it does in Green Tea, it prevents the jitters.
  • IN-Perium contains electrolytes , which will keep your muscles hydrated and optimally functioning.
  • IN-Perium also contains coffee berry extract so as to include beneficial antioxidant compounds that naturally occur in regular coffee.
  • IN-Perium includes L-Citrulline, which has been shown to improve athletic performance.
  • With only 25 calories per serving, IN-Perium coffee alternative won’t break your fast.

Cons #

  • One serving of IN-Perium contains about as much caffeine as two cups of coffee, so it is not a caffeine-free alternative.

Energy Drinks #

Hopefully, energy drinks aren’t under serious consideration for you. While they deliver caffeine, they do so in a package full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, resulting in crashes and cravings. Your quick pick-me-up may include Taurine, Arginine, or B12, all of which are great for marketing, but none of which have been scientifically proven to improve performance or health in supplement form.

Instead, energy drink consumption has been related to tooth decay, diabetes, kidney damage, and even mental illness. There are far better alternatives for energy, with or without caffeine.

Sources


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x  ↩︎

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1356551/  ↩︎

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14684395/  ↩︎

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8201901/  ↩︎

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7408399/  ↩︎

  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23204152/  ↩︎

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808882/  ↩︎

  8. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-017-1542-8  ↩︎

  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19228856/  ↩︎

  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6402915/  ↩︎

  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4787341/  ↩︎

  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814613000526  ↩︎

  13. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09637480310001642510  ↩︎

  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27350344/  ↩︎

  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12634436/  ↩︎

  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882694/  ↩︎

  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27080715/  ↩︎

  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19436137/  ↩︎

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