4 coffee alternatives to kick start your day

You don’t have to rely on caffeine every morning…

Whether it’s a frothy cappuccino, a strong black or a milky flat white, Brits love coffee and in the UK alone, a staggering 98 million cups are drunk every single day[1]. We’re all aware that a cup of coffee can help wake us up; it’s all thanks to the caffeine it contains, which as a stimulant[2], boosts activity in our central nervous system, as well as our brain[3]. In fact, many of us may find that we don’t really get going until we’ve had that first brew.

We’re often flooded with news reports exclaiming coffee’s healthy benefits; from three cups a day supposedly increasing a person’s life span[4], to research revealing how coffee could protect against gallstones[5]. In fact, across 220 coffee studies, the general consensus was that those who drink coffee experience more overall health benefits than those who don’t drink it[6].

However, there are downsides to too much caffeine. As caffeine is a stimulant, there’s research that proves how too much can lead to anxiety, insomnia[7], headaches and even drowsiness[8], depending on how much caffeine an individual can tolerate. Caffeine triggers a release of the stress-hormone cortisol[9], which is beneficial at times, but throw that on top of an already stressful lifestyle, and the result is a recipe for disaster as too much cortisol can actually lead to heart issues[10], as well as a higher risk of anxiety and depression[11].

Fancy a calmer way to start your day? Give these a try…

Take a walk outside…

No matter the weather, a brisk 20 minute walk in the great outdoors can help wake us up. How? Exposure to light reminds our circadian rhythm- the sleep/wake cycle built into our body – that it’s time to wake up and be alert[1].

If you’re a fan of indoor treadmill walking, then sadly, this won’t elicit the same response. Although exercise and movement is of course encouraged, it’s the daylight element of an outdoor walk that helps to [2]not just the exercise. Plus, being outside helps to boost levels of vitality according to research[3] so we can feel energised in body and mind!

Sip on a matcha

OK, so this popular bright green tea does still contain caffeine, however it also contains several other components which could make it a slightly ‘kinder’ option than coffee. Matcha is filled with antioxidants which help to lessen the effects of oxidative stress on the body[1]. Oxidative stress can be caused by UV light, drugs and pollution (to name just a few causes) and can lead to illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes[2].

Matcha also contains l-theanine, which actually has a stress-reducing effect[3], helping to counteract the effect of caffeine and swerving the all too familiar ‘crash’ that can occur after drinking caffeine. The combination of caffeine and l-theanine has also been proven to improve alertness and performance[4].

If you need to sweeten your matcha, try stirring in a drizzle of honey.

Drink a glass of water

It might sound simple but there’s more than meets the eye to a plain cup of H2O. After an overnight period of no food and drink, our body will naturally be dehydrated.

As our body is made up of 60% water [1] it’s important to re-hydrate pretty sharpish.

Not only is water vital to maintain a healthy, functioning body, but it also helps with our mood and brain health[2]. Water makes up 75% of our brain,[3] and when we don’t maintain a healthy level of hydration, we can face low concentration levels, poor mood, slower reaction times and even issues with memory[4].

In fact, studies show that dehydration can cause our brains to have to work even harder than usual when they’re engaged in a task[5], which naturally leads to increased fatigue and tiredness.

The UK’s NHS recommends that we drink six to eight glasses of fluid every day, which alongside water, can include sugar-free drinks, tea, coffee and even lower-fat milk[6].

Meditate in the morning

Something a little more calming to start the day is a meditation session. This involves sitting or lying still and training the mind to focus solely on the breath, to stay in the present moment, and to become aware of your surroundings. It’s been touted for its many health benefits, from stress and pain reduction through to improved brain and heart health[1].

Meditation can also help improve concentration -useful ahead of a day of work[2] – as well as creativity[3].

Research also shows how meditation can improve levels of positivity[4], so if your day ahead is looking a little dreary, five minutes to yourself might just change your mindset.