Tea and coffee are some of the most popular beverages in the world, second only to water.
They help wake you up first thing in the morning and keep you energized throughout the day because of that magical ingredient called caffeine. But not everyone takes to caffeine as effortlessly.
If you're looking for friendlier caffeine alternatives that can give you the same benefits of increased energy and alertness minus the jitters, we've got you covered! In this article, we'll cover the best caffeine alternatives for popular beverages like coffee and energy drinks.
NOTE: Not everything on this list is strictly 'caffeine free' - however, does have a different effect than the dosage and delivery of caffeine from coffee
On average, a cup of coffee serves up 96mg of caffeine. If you want a caffeine-free pick-me-up that gives you comparable energy and focus without the anxiety, headaches, heart palpitations, and sleeplessness that can come with caffeine, here are great alternatives to try:
1. Chicory Coffee (Made from Chicory Root)
Chicory coffee tastes similar to coffee but contains no caffeine. It's a good choice if you're trying to wean yourself off of coffee or reduce your caffeine intake. Chicory coffee is also a good substitute for your morning cup of coffee if you want something to help pull you out of slumber, invigorate you, and help you feel more alert. Generally, it's mixed with traditional coffee to lower the amount of caffeine and get similar benefits.
Chicory coffee is also associated with some health benefits based on existing research. There is some evidence that chicory root helps with suppressing blood sugar spikes after a meal. Some people may experience improved bowel function after consuming chicory. Chicory may also help protect against fat accumulation on the walls of the arteries.
Worth noting is that while most healthy adults tolerate chicory well, a small percentage of people may experience side effects, especially people with eczema and allergies.
The roots of the chicory plant are ground and then roasted to create the chicory "coffee" powder. So, chicory coffee is also sometimes called chicory root coffee.
2. Golden Milk (Turmeric Milk)
Golden or turmeric milk is a traditional Indian favourite that's gained increasing popularity in the West because of its many health benefits. It's made by warming (not boiling!) cows' milk with ghee, ground turmeric, spices like ground ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and a natural sweetener like honey or jaggery.
While golden milk is not an instant perk-me-up the way coffee is, we've included the healthy drink in this list because it works to bring your body back to a state of balance, improving your energy levels overall. According to Ayurveda, the ancient system of plant-based medicine in India, turmeric has properties that can balance all the main body constitutions.
Turmeric milk can be drunk at night before sleep to aid in uninterrupted and restful sleep, so you wake up refreshed. Drinking it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach provides multiple health benefits as well. It can help reduce inflammation and joint pain, improve moods, and protect against disease and infection because of its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
Generally, turmeric milk is seen to balance "agni" or digestive fire, which is closely associated with how well a person feels, according to Ayurveda. So, drinking turmeric milk is a great coffee alternative to start your day.
3. Maca (Peruvian Ginseng) Tea
A few observational studies have linked the consumption of maca root to benefits like improved mood and energy levels. One study found that maca root may be beneficial in alleviating anxiety and depression in post-menopausal women.
Maca fans often recommend Maca as a great alternative to coffee, but don't expect it to taste anything like coffee! Not everyone acclimatizes well to the pronounced earthy, nutty taste with a "hint of butterscotch". Try blending maca root powder with your favourite kinds of milk and smoothies for an improved taste if the flavour just isn't your thing.
4. Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is a type of herbal tea that can help boost your energy levels. It's made by steeping the Ilex paraguariensis tree's dried leaves in hot water. But you can serve it either hot or cold based on your preference. The plant contains several compounds beneficial for human health, including antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals, and vitamins.
Yerba mate does contain caffeine. At 80mg per cup, it's almost the same amount of caffeine that you can find in a cup of regular coffee. But many people who drink yerba mate report that while it increases mental alertness, it doesn't cause caffeine jitters. Scientists have yet to confirm this, so if you plan to try it, start with smaller amounts of yerba mate.
Also, it's best to avoid yerba mate if you consume alcohol, smoke regularly, or are pregnant. Some people may also experience side effects with yerba mate.
5. Matcha Tea
Matcha tea is a type of green tea that contains caffeine but in smaller amounts. It's one of the best caffeine alternatives to coffee because it doesn't generally have the same type of side effects you would expect from a cup of joe. Coffee contains 96 mg of caffeine per 240ml cup, whereas matcha tea, depending on how it was prepared, contains 38 to 88mg of caffeine per 60ml cup (standard size).
Matcha tea also has several proven health benefits. As an alternative to caffeine, it is seen to help improve attention, memory, and reaction times. At the same time, it has a compound called L-Theanine that helps alleviate anxiety and stress, making you feel calmer.
6. Peppermint Tea
Research tells us that peppermint tea has compounds that benefit in reducing fatigue and increasing energy. It's also seen to contribute to memory, concentration, and focus. Peppermint has a compound called menthol that gives it its sweet, minty-ish flavour and cooling effect. Peppermint tea can be enjoyed in any number of ways. For a simple and light energy boost, enjoy your peppermint tea with a dash of honey and a squeeze of lemon juice!
Kombucha is made from fermented tea (mostly green or black tea) with probiotics, which creates an energizing drink that is packed with nutrients, antioxidants and B vitamins. It contains less sugar than energy drinks, so it's better for your health while still providing a nice jolt of energy.
Since kombucha is made from tea, most kombuchas does have some amount of caffeine, although in much smaller amounts than regular tea. You can find non-caffeinated kombucha, depending on how it is brewed. Check the label to be sure if you're sensitive to caffeine, even in small amounts. Kombucha is available in a variety of different flavours and has the taste and texture of a fizzy drink.
8. Lemon Water
Lemon water is a popular and refreshing drink that can match up to your favourite fizzy or soda in taste. Aside from hydrating you, lemon water also gives you the benefits of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Lemon juice also helps in the prevention of kidney stones. Try blending lemon water with mint leaves, ginger, and honey for a great-tasting, naturally revitalizing beverage. Alternatively, slip a few lemon slices into your water pitcher and guzzle throughout the day.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the best substitute for caffeine?
There is no perfect substitute for caffeine, but if you're looking for the next best thing to boost energy levels, these alternatives may help - chicory coffee, golden milk, maca tea, yerba mate, matcha tea, and peppermint tea. If you're looking for alternatives to soda and energy drinks, try kombucha and lemon water. Read more about them by scrolling up!
How can I get energy without caffeine?
Low energy can sometimes be the result of poor lifestyle choices. People who're perenially waking up late and struggling to stay alert often don't get enough sleep. If you're sensitive to caffeine and drink tea or coffee close to bedtime, you may have difficulty falling asleep. This can make you feel unrested when you wake up the next day.
The basics, such as good nutrition, regular exercise, managing stress effectively, and sleeping the required hours, all contribute to how much energy you have to get through the day.
Is B12 like caffeine?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that increases activity in the brain and the nervous system. It provides a quick energy boost and helps improve focus and concentration. B12 is a vitamin that occurs naturally in animal food sources and has several important functions to play in the human body. It's important for the formation of healthy red blood cells and your DNA. It's also necessary for the healthy development and functioning of your brain and nerve cells.
If you're low in Vitamin B12, you could feel tired and lethargic. Optimizing your B12 levels can help you feel more energized and alert. Vitamin B12 is essential to help the body function at its best, unlike caffeine which the average adult on a healthy lifestyle can do without.
Is there a coffee substitute that tastes like coffee?
The closest non-caffeinated beverage that comes close to coffee in taste is chicory coffee, also known as chicory root coffee. It has a nuttier and sweeter flavour compared to traditional coffee. Chicory also helps reduce the bitterness of regular coffee if you're mixing the two to reduce your caffeine intake.
What are some healthy alternatives to caffeine for energy?
We've listed some great non-caffeinated beverage options in this article (scroll up!). Aside from that, ensure you're eating well, getting enough exercise, and sleeping the required hours every night. Poor health and irregular sleeping habits can contribute to a lack of energy.
What are some good caffeine alternatives when pregnant?
During pregnancy, it is important to keep caffeine intake to a minimum. Studies suggest that excessive consumption may increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and other problems.
Thankfully, there are decaf coffee options and many healthy substitutes, such as herbal teas like peppermint, ginger, and cranberry. Turmeric and Chai lattes along with rooibos tea are also caffeine-free options full of extra antioxidants. Don’t forget to stay hydrated too! Flavour your water naturally with berries, watermelon, mint, cucumber, or citrus fruits for a refreshing beverage.
Caffeine may be the closest thing we have to modern-day happiness since sliced bread, but the fact is not everyone benefits equally from consuming it. If you're having a hard time with caffeinated beverages generally and are looking for healthier alternatives, this list has several options worth trying. Remember to start off in small quantities as you test the waters and to prevent some of the side effects that can come with consuming natural plants and herbs.