In our fast-paced world, many people have tried different ways to increase their energy. When energy levels become depleted, many turn to a quick fix to combat fatigue and boost their energy.
Unfortunately, many of the things people do to boost their focus and energy end up backfiring.
Let’s look at some of the unhealthy ways people try to increase their energy…
Energy drinks are the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry, with consumer demand for energy drinks and shots increasing 29.8 percent between 2013 and 2018. While energy shot sales have decreased in recent years, energy drink sales are estimated to earn over 86 billion dollars by 2026.
Many people agree that energy drinks are bad for your health (including some who actually consume them). These beverages contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar or artificial sweeteners, and other stimulants, all of which provide a temporary energy boost. Since they often don’t feed into the body’s natural energy processes, the effects of these beverages are typically short-lived and can cause long-term problems for the brain and body.
Regularly consuming energy drinks can lead to adverse effects, such as:
- Upset stomach
- Sleep issues
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased blood
Additionally, a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that just one 16-ounce energy drink can increase norepinephrine (a stress hormone) by 74% and blood pressure by 6.4% in healthy volunteers. For these, and many other reasons, energy drinks should be avoided at all costs.
It seems like there’s a coffee shop on every corner. By now, it’s no mystery that these stores sell many highly caffeinated drinks that are packed with sugar and fat.
It’s also no mystery that caffeine consumption has increased over the past decades; people have gone from drinking 1-2 cups of coffee a day to double that…or even more. Though coffee has become the new comfort food, especially during the winter months, daily intakes of more than two cups can be overstimulating and potentially detrimental.
Like many people, you might use caffeine to help you stay focused and give you a boost in physical and mental energy. With the extraordinary stress most are facing today, it’s easy to see why you may crave caffeine, especially if you’re sleep-deprived or feel fatigued.
As the pressures of an overstressed lifestyle cause energy levels to decrease, the temptation could be to drink more caffeine to keep your brain stimulated and sharp. Though caffeine can lead to a temporary increase in alertness, excessive caffeine consumption can constrict blood flow to your brain and many other organs.
While having a daily cup of joe may not cause serious health problems, drinking more than 3-4 caffeinated beverages a day may create issues for your hard-working liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
Adenosine is the key to understanding caffeine dependence. Adenosine is a chemical in the brain that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. When you’re tired, adenosine signals the brain to relax so you can go to sleep.
Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine by occupying the adenosine receptor sites and preventing the brain from responding to it. So, even if you’re tired and need sleep to rejuvenate your brain, caffeine can trick the brain into thinking it’s wide awake.
Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, which puts the body into a stressful “fight or flight” mode. This can make your:
- pupils dilate
- heart rate increase
- blood vessels on the skin constrict to slow blood flow from cuts
- blood flow increase to working muscles
- blood pressure surge
- blood flow to the stomach decrease
- liver release sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy
- muscles tighten to prepare for action
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure centers of the brain. Caffeine increases dopamine activity in the brain, in the same way that amphetamines do (though caffeine’s effects are far less than that of amphetamines).
Aside from caffeine, there are many other unhealthy ways to get a dopamine fix. Anything potentially addicting, like nicotine, alcohol/drugs, or sugar-laden/fat-filled treats, can increase brain dopamine activity and cause compulsive behaviors in your life.
These unhealthy ways of getting a quick dopamine boost tend to increase the brain’s demand for dopamine. This can disrupt the brain’s natural function, which can result in insufficient dopamine production and low dopamine system activity in the long-term.
Excessive caffeine use is associated with dehydration (which can harm your body in many ways), the added stress on your heart, increased blood pressure, headaches, and jitters.
Depending on your body chemistry, when the effects of caffeine wear off, you may feel fatigued or emotionally deflated. This may drive you to consume even more caffeine to get you back to feeling alive and energized. Of course, this can lead to caffeine dependency since it will take more and more caffeine to achieve the same result.
Other Unhealthy Stimulants
There are many other stimulants that can become habit-forming or harmful to your health. Besides the caffeine from coffee beans, many derived from plants such as coca (leaves), guarana, kava kava, kola, and tobacco (nicotine). Though some of these may be beneficial in small amounts, they can be injurious to your health when taken in large quantities over an extended period.
It’s important to remember that just because an energy enhancer comes from a “natural” source doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the body.
Instead of turning to one of these harmful stimulants when your energy is low, try one of these healthy energy-boosters…
8 Herbs & Spices That Provide Natural, Long-lasting Energy
Ashwagandha is a well-known herb that’s been used in an ancient style of medicine called Ayurveda. Originating in India, Ayurveda is a holistic method that blends mind, body, and environment for a completely balanced state of health and well-being. Ashwagandha has such versatile benefits, it’s sometimes called the “Queen of Ayurveda.”
The ashwagandha plant is known scientifically as Withania somnifera, as well as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. The word ashwagandha means “smell of the stallion,” which refers to the plant’s natural odor. Somnifera means “sleep-inducing.”
The roots, leaves, and stems of the plant have been used for many health benefits, but the root preparations have been most widely employed and most intensively researched.
This plant is called an “adaptogen,” meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. The body can react positively to this adaptogenic herb in various ways that support its homeostasis and help it cope with existing challenges, most typically related to stress. Homeostasis is the collective of processes that the body uses to maintain the internal conditions it needs to stay alive.
In human clinical trials, ashwagandha root concentrates have shown protection against stress and lowered the stress hormone cortisol; reduced anxiety; promoted memory, mental focus, and sleep quality; lowered food cravings; increased antioxidant defenses; improved thyroid, circulatory, bone marrow, and joint function; accelerated muscle recovery and strengthening, and supported healthy sex drive. The roots and leaves can be used in teas and the powdered form can be used in recipes.
However, commercial ashwagandha ingredients vary considerably in quality, and adulteration can occur. Be sure to use ashwagandha that’s been carefully standardized for its content of active substances, to ensure its benefits are predictable every time you take it.
Spicy foods are often eaten in warm climates as they promote sweating, which has a cooling effect on the body. But this versatile spice also can warm you up in the colder months.
Cayenne contains a phytochemical called capsaicin, which gives cayenne its spicy flavor and helps turn up the heat in your body. Capsaicin digests slowly and increases gastric blood flow, which benefits your gut. Jalapeños and ultra-spicy habaneros also contain capsaicin.
Capsaicin supports healthy blood flow to tissues by stimulating the release of nitric oxide, which helps to expand your blood vessels. This allows for greater blood flow and increased energy.
Cinnamon provides a treasure trove of health benefits and includes anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Additionally, cinnamon promotes healthy blood sugar levels, which enable the brain to maintain healthy mood and mental sharpness throughout the day.
Cinnamon traditionally has been considered a warming spice, and animal studies suggest it may have such “thermogenic” properties. Human studies are needed to confirm whether cinnamon can warm your body while boosting your brain function.
4. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree that’s often referred to as a living fossil. This tree is extremely hardy, resistant to pests, can reach 100 feet in height, and can live for over a century.
Ginkgo has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. The leaves of ginkgo yield several flavanols which, together with beneficial terpenes from the leaves, are made into a standardized dietary supplement ingredient. Standardized extracts prepared from the leaf have existed for over 50 years and are used worldwide for a diverse range of health benefits.
This intensively researched plant extract is crucial for optimal brain function. It has a range of powerful antioxidant substances most studied for their capacity to improve blood flow, protect the tissues, promote healthy aging, and enhance memory and concentration. Ginkgo biloba’s unique combination of antioxidants and blood vessel protectants also helps the brain defend against toxins while promoting overall mental sharpness.
One of the most popular categories of medicinal plants in the world, the ginsengs are grown mainly for their roots. Ginseng roots naturally contain a diverse assortment of beneficial ginsenosides, polysaccharides, peptides, alkaloids, and phenolics that work together for improving focus, sharpening memory, and supporting overall well-being, particularly when under stress.
Panax ginseng, also known as Korean or Asian ginseng, is a potent adaptogen. It’s the best-studied of the ginsengs and leads all other ginsengs for its almost immediate mental focus benefits. Panax ginseng also promotes the release of nitric oxide, a small molecule that the body normally produces as a messenger to open blood vessels and consequently improve blood flow to the brain.
6. Green Tea
A staple in many Asian cultures, green tea is made (without fermentation) from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It contains high concentrations of catechins and other polyphenols, substances with very powerful antioxidant properties that are also adaptogenic. The green tea polyphenols support healthy blood pressure levels and promote blood flow to the brain.
Green tea’s antioxidant benefits help the body maintain a net positive antioxidant reserve against attack from external toxic agents, including free radicals produced by our own cells. In addition to green tea’s powerful circulatory benefits, it also helps reduce stress, improve intestinal bacterial balance, and assist the body with burning carbohydrates and fat to make energy.
In some studies, drinking green tea has been shown to potentially decrease the risk for memory problems, and in populations that consume a lot of it, may help curb cognitive decline. Green tea also naturally contains l-theanine, which can enhance mental focus yet has a calming effect without making you sleepy.
Green tea only has half the amount of caffeine compared to coffee. Always brew fresh leaves – powdered drinks will not provide brain health benefits.
Peppermint (Mentha species) is an herb from the mint family. It is native to Asia and Europe and has been used for thousands of years for its health benefits and pleasant taste. Traditionally, it was prized as a digestive health aid, a value now confirmed by clinical research.
Peppermint has distinct aromatic properties. Whether eaten, chewed, or smelled, peppermint can increase both alertness and memory, while improving reasoning and problem-solving skills. According to one study, just the scent of peppermint essential oil can improve alertness and calmness.
Many foods and beverages use peppermint. Some are healthy, such as peppermint tea and fresh mint leaves on a salad, while others are unhealthy, such as sugar-laden peppermint ice cream and peppermint candies. Peppermint essential oil can be used in a diffuser to help freshen up a room.
Rhodiola rosea is one of the most potent adaptogens. It has been extensively studied and has been shown to counter fatigue related to stress, sharpen attention, and increase overall mental capacity.
Rhodiola is fast-acting and has strong antioxidant properties to fight free radicals. It has been found to have a beneficial effect on mood and its anti-stress effects can help reduce anxiousness.
Rhodiola can help improve physical and mental performance. It helps increase the availability of energy during the day and promotes restful sleep at night.
These are just a few of the natural ways you can increase your focus and overall cognition. For better mood, short-term memory, and mental clarity, begin adding these herbs and spices to your diet. You can introduce them one at a time or pick up all of them during your next visit to the grocery store. Be sure to let us know below how they work out for you.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients and standardized herbal ingredients to support your energy, focus, and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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