7 Nutritionist-Approved Coffee Alternatives That Will Keep You Charged All Day
End your caffeine jitters with these expert-recommended natural energy boosters.
We’re not here to tell you whether drinking coffee is good or bad for you—that age-old debate continues to keep experts engaged. Like most things, though, there are pros and cons to drinking coffee. One of the main pros often touted by coffee lovers is that it’s high in antioxidants, which can help you stay healthy by boosting your immune system and lower stress and inflammation. It has also been linked to helping to reduce the occurrence of certain diseases. Cons, meanwhile, include sleep disruption and anxiety linked to its high caffeine content.
“Everyone is a little bit different in terms of how they react to caffeine or to coffee,” says Erin James, a certified sports nutritionist, personal trainer, and founder of plant-based lifestyle brand Squay. “That said, people drink coffee because they feel like it’s giving them energy. But the reality is, it’s kind of a fake energy, it’s almost like a sugar high, where you get the energy burst right away, but then you’re crashing later.” She adds that healthy whole foods with natural sugars and nutrients eaten regularly can give a more controlled and natural energy than a big caffeine jolt.
Plus, caffeine addiction is very real for some, and many people find it hard to wean themselves off coffee without dealing with headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating, or other symptoms. “You have to let it all get out of your system. You’re doing a detox, and you have to go through that process. Once it’s out of your system, you can operate on a more natural basis,” advises James.
Luckily, for those trying to kick the coffee habit, there are a plethora of other options out there, some with lower levels of caffeine or none at all. And while James herself prefers green tea, she shared some of her other favorite coffee substitutes to help with brain fog and tiredness.
This jerky is made from mushrooms, plus they’re gluten-free and soy-free. And according to James, mushrooms are natural energy and immune boosters that almost do the opposite of what coffee does. “Not only can mushrooms give you energy, but they actually help with your brain clarity. They actually help improve your mood, they help with anxiety and depression, and they help you sleep better,” says James. Plus, they boast a lot of antioxidants to help improve your immune system, just like coffee.
If you need something hot and creamy in the morning, this pretty pink latte replacement is a caffeine-free mix that helps with energy, recovery, heart health, and inflammation. Turns out, beets are excellent for sustained energy and can help increase physical and mental stamina over time. James says it’s important to figure out how to stay stable throughout the day, instead of relying on the burst of energy that coffee gives you, and nutrient-packed beets are perfect for that.
This caffeine-free tea is made from ground chaga mushrooms grown in Siberia and has no other additives. “Chaga is an antioxidant powerhouse,” says James, of the specialty mushrooms. “They help with inflammation and keeping everything in the body working well. And they’ve even been said to help with skin aging and lowering LDL cholesterol.” According to James, all of these things go back to the fact that when our body is working well and we feel good, we’re naturally going to feel more energetic.
When Oded Brenner discovered how much of a cacao fruit was wasted in making chocolate, he started a line of food and drinks that utilize the whole cacao fruit. This energy-providing trail mix features raw cacao beans, 85% chocolate, dried cacao fruit, goji berries, dried coconut, and a variety of nuts. Cacao has a small amount of caffeine, plus theobromine, which is a stimulant. It’s also filled with nutrients including minerals, copper, iron, manganese and zinc, says James.
Price: $24 for a 6-pack
“Oatmeal provides lasting, sustainable energy throughout the day,” says James, but warns that you have to be careful additives, which is why this brand is a winner. “Oatmeal cups can contain a lot of hidden sugar so look for one that has ingredients you know the name of.” She adds that apple cinnamon is one of her favorite flavors, plus apples have fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants to provide an even bigger—but more sustainable—energy boost.
Price: $32.50 for a 12-pack
While a lot of protein bars can be packed with sugar, this one is loaded with energizing adaptogens instead. Caffeine-free, gluten-free and vegan, these bars are powered by maca and cordyceps mushrooms for natural oomph, along with 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Native to Peru, maca root has energizing properties and an extensive array of nutrients, including Vitamin C and B6, potassium, and iron. Plus, there have been studies that show it can also improve your mood and lessen anxiety, thanks to its flavanoids.
If you can’t get past the need for a warm, dark beverage in the morning, MUD\WTR may be the closest looking thing to a cup of coffee that has no actual coffee in it. However, it’s not totally caffeine-free as it does contain a small amount of black tea. Still, it’s the second to last ingredient after items like organic mushrooms including lion’s mane, chaga, cordyceps, reishi, cacao, Himalayan sea salt, and chai spices like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. MUD\WTR comes in a sleek black metal canister full of powder that you can mix with water, milk, or any milk substitute. It even comes with an electric frother to give it that latte-like consistency. While the taste is not the same as coffee, the natural energy boosters in the mix give you the mental clarity and stamina you need to get through the day.