The 9-to-5 work experience, if nothing else, can stress the necessity of a large cup of coffee (or two, or three, or four) in the morning just to feel like a real person. But after years of using coffee as a crutch to get out of bed in the morning, the anxiety and stained teeth don't always feel worth the buzz. To find out how to avoid the "so much caffeine, I feel like I'm going to die" jitters, we spoke to Kerry Bajaj, a nutritionist and Columbia University-certified health coach, on ways to feel sane and completely un-zombie-like with more healthy java alternatives.
For people who want to slowly wean themselves off of coffee, the best ways to mimic the sensation of drinking a warm beverage while receiving an energy kick are black or green teas. "Teas like matcha or yerba mate, even when they have caffeine and you feel that pick-me-up, don't give you that jittery effect."
Never heard of drinking nettles before? Neither had we, but here Bajaj breaks down why the plant could be a helpful and healthy substitute for caffeine binges: "Everyone knows about green tea and black tea, but one thing that is an interesting substitute is nettles. Nettles are like herbs. They have so many medicinal properties and have so many good uses. Specifically, it can be great for people who get fall allergies."
"To prepare the infusion, steep nettles for at least four hours: add hot water and put it in a jar, then let it sit overnight," recommends Bajaj. "Nettles release a lot of minerals into the water. There's iron in it and it helps counteract hair loss. It's nothing like coffee, so it's good for your adrenals, whereas coffee is taxing on your adrenals and increases your cortisol levels, which are your stress hormones."
Surprisingly, one of the best ways to wake up has been under our noses all this time. Bajaj suggests that people either drink warm water with lemon or a glass of ice water right after waking up to offset dehydration that makes a person feel fatigued.
"Ice water is going to wake you up because it's cold and because after a night of sleep, we are dehydrated. We have lost fluids. If we didn't have bad habits we would ideally be thinking about staying hydrated during the day. And especially if you're having caffeine, which is a diuretic that's dehydrating your body, you should offset that with your fluids."
It's not exactly a revelation that a nutritional breakfast is helpful to everyone (yes, even the ones running to catch trains in the morning). But if you want to slow down on your coffee intake, you can still experience a healthy energy boost by simply eating well in the morning. "When we wake up, we're breaking a fast which is why it's called breakfast," says Bajaj. "Morning through lunchtime is when our metabolism is at its peak, so you want to be front-loading your food intake earlier in the day and eating less in the evening."
"Something like an apple is giving you natural sugar, so it is going to perk you up. Any fruit in the morning is going to bring in some hydration and natural sugar—an apple has a lot of fiber especially, so it may stimulate the bowel movement. Then, you have your elimination first thing in the morning, which is also ideal."
And because there may be no practical dilemma that coconut oil *can't* fix, Bajaj notes that our hair, skin, and teeth miracle worker can also help to offset low blood sugar levels that make us reach for energy drinks and harsh caffeine drinks.
"When we have low blood sugar, that's when we tend to look for quick fixes. If we're having low blood sugar levels, one thing we can take is a spoonful of coconut oil first thing in the morning and at night before we go to bed. Those healthy fats can help moderate your blood sugar levels."