You’ve tried to kick caffeine. But damn.
It’s frickin hard.
Sometimes you go a few days without coffee. You start to feel confident until you have a restless night.
You wake up, less than 5 hours of sleep under your belt, feeling like a zombie. And worse, you have a ton of work and are overwhelmed by the thought of completing it without caffeine. You’re so exhausted.
Just one cup of coffee…
That’s all you need to energize yourself and knock out your huge workload.
But if you give in now, you’ll feel hopeless…ashamed you lack self control. If you can’t make it through a day without caffeine now, will you ever?
Yes, you can.
But you need a plan. And you need an arsenal of caffeine alternatives to jumpstart your brain when exhaustion creeps in, and cast out the caffeine demons whispering in your ear, inviting you to sit down with them for a drink.
How do I know these 8 strategies work?
Simple. I’ve tested them all.
And if you’ve read An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Habit, you know I’ve cut back caffeine before.
In the past decade, I’ve gone a year drinking coffee no more than twice a week. And I also quit caffeine completely during two separate forty-day-periods.
Do I hate caffeine?
No. I had a coffee this morning and I’ll have one tomorrow. I actually love coffee.
But to be honest, I’ve tested my body’s reaction to caffeine extensively, because many dudes underestimate its power. For some, caffeine can disrupt sleep, decrease energy levels and even cause anxiety.
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely wondering what a caffeine-free life feels like. And the truth is, everyone’s body will react differently.
So I encourage you to quit, at least temporarily.
If you eventually decide to drink caffeine again, no one will hate you. Hell, I’ve come back from a caffeine-free lifestyle twice.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about healthy alternatives to caffeine.
8 natural alternatives to caffeine you can try this week
Before we get into the caffeine alternatives for alertness, there’s one common roadblock to be aware of. If you quit cold turkey, you’ll hit a wall at some point. And that feared bad night of sleep will come knocking on your door. It’s happened to me every single time I’ve cut back on coffee.
So it will serve you well to plan for that day. Because it will come—whether on day one, three or seven.
For this reason, I suggest cutting back on caffeine during a less busy week. And then rely on these 8 caffeine substitutes to propel you forward:
1. Fruit fasting gives you a natural kick in the pants
While you’ve probably heard of substituting juice or smoothies for caffeine, there’s another alternative you may have not heard of.
I call it Fruit Fasting and I was first introduced to the idea via Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power. I won’t lie, the three quarters of Robbins’ book I’ve read are just average (I’d give 3 out of 5 stars). However, the chapter on diet and energy levels is excellent and is where I learned of this technique.
What is Fruit Fasting?
It’s a combination of intermittent fasting and eating fruit. In intermittent fasting you’re supposed to go a minimum of 15 hours without eating. In this case, the rules are slightly changed. On a Fruit Fast, when you wake up in the morning, you’re allowed to eat—but only fruit—until you hit your 15 hour window. That said, I recommend going till noon (or whenever you normally eat lunch) only eating fruit till then.
What does Fruit Fasting have to do with waking you up?
Fruit is natural, healthy and full of water—all things that give you energy and perk you up. I’ve personally had many mornings where I’ve been dragging ass, and then gotten a surge of energy from a Fruit Fast. The best part?
Unlike caffeine, I’ve found Fruit Fasting to give you a steady energy boost, without the crash an hour later. I highly recommend trying Fruit Fasts as your coffee alternative. Just be sure to eat the fruit pure—no smoothies with milk, juices with added sugar, etc. Just eat pure fruit on an empty stomach and you’ll get a nice natural high and alertness in no time.
2. Fuel your body with its main source of energy
You’ve surely heard the science. On average, 60% of our bodies are made up of water. And if you’re not getting enough of it, well, you’re probably going to be sleepy. Why? According to Health.com and Luga Podesta, MD, dehydration can cause drowsiness.
The reason is because many of your muscles and organs rely on water to function. If you don’t have adequate levels, your body has to work harder to carry out normal tasks. This is part of the reason why the Fruit Fast technique above works so well—fruit is rich in water.
Point being, if you’re feeling sleepy, you may want to down a glass of water or two. Alternatively, you can track how much water you drink a day by measuring it in a pitcher. I sometimes do this myself, which helps me stay on track to drink at least 3 liters a day.
You may be surprised at how much these simple tactics wake you up.
3. Dance off your drowsiness
It may seem like an oxymoron, but I’ve found that sometimes just moving, getting your heart beating and blood flowing can really kick start your energy levels.
Dancing is a great way to do this, not to mention quite a lot of fun.
Put on some energizing music and shake what your mama gave you. Who cares if you look ridiculous. You can have a good time jumping around and vibing to some tunes, and get your dudette or sweetheart to join in for some extra fun.
All that said, if dancing isn’t your thing, just do any type of cardio. If I’m not dancing, I’m usually doing 4 sets of 150-200 jumping jacks.
I find on days when I’m feeling sludgy, cardio like this is like an espresso shot, but again without the crash.
Remember to drink lots of water and electrolytes after you get your dance on, or else you’re probably going to feel even more tired than before.
4. Breathe like Tony Robbins
Another hidden gem I found in the Health Chapter of Unlimited Power is a breathing exercise that’s pretty effective for waking up. It involves oxygenating your body with a technique I’ll just call the Tony Robbins’ Breathing Method.
The practice I outline below works because most of us don’t breathe properly. We don’t oxygenate our systems well enough or breathe out all the toxins we can. Whether you’re a shallow breather or not, you’ll likely get a nice energy boost from this technique. Here’s how to do it:
Breathe in for 3 seconds
Hold your breath for 12 seconds (when you’re doing this, you’re oxygenating your blood and activating your lymphatic system, which is responsible for eliminating toxins from your body)
Exhale for 6 seconds
Repeat 10 times
Now, you may wonder, do you have to breathe in 3 seconds? Could you instead breathe in for 4 or 5 seconds?
Yes, you can. Just count the seconds you breathe in, and then hold your breath for 4x as many seconds. Then, exhale for half the amount of seconds. For example, if you breathe in 5 seconds, you hold your breath for 20 seconds and then exhale 10 seconds. Make sense?
Good. Now let’s talk about a legit coffee or tea alternative that has a surprising energy boosting effect.
5. Drink dandelions (really)
It probably sounds a bit weird. You may have never thought of drinking dandelions, let alone eating them.
I know I certainly hadn’t thought of it until I cut back my caffeine consumption again in August 2019. During that time, I was searching for coffee substitutes and I came across Dandy Blend, an herbal caffeine alternative, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Perhaps it’s the natural ingredients it contains, but for whatever reason, Dandy Blend gives me a light energy boost without the crash. Even better, it has a coffee taste that I love.
Dandy Blend isn’t likely going to knock you out of a dog-tired day like some of the other methods on this list, but when you combine the drink with a Fruit Fast, dancing or another one of the strategies mentioned in this article, it can give you an extra sense of alertness that’s 100% natural.
I love Dandy Blend and have a 2 lb bag of it sitting in my kitchen right now. If you’re trying to kick caffeine, I recommend checking it out yourself.
6. Wake up an hour earlier, so you can grab a late morning nap
You may think napping is for kids or old dudes.
But the age old habit is vastly underutilized by the adult population. And it can be one of the best strategies on this list for waking up because a nap can give you a huge boost of energy if you fall asleep, even for as little as 10 minutes.
But here’s the thing.
There is a strategic way to nap that can set you up for a more productive day. And you do that by waking up an hour earlier than normal, which gives you an extra hour during the day to nap.
Yes, an hour long nap is what you’re aiming for.
Most of the time when I use this strategy I’m able to catch some zzz’s during my nap. In the rare instances when I don’t, I typically get a slight boost of energy from the hour spent relaxing in bed. Then I’ll throw in some fruit, a couple big glasses of water or some other items on this list to perk me up more. I recommend doing the same.
What time should you nap?
It’s really up to you, but I usually do it right before lunch at 11 a.m. or around 3 p.m.
7. Embrace your sleepiness & stress with meditation
Sometimes sleepiness isn’t really sleepiness.
As mentioned earlier with dehydration, sometimes something else is making you drowsy.
But lack of water isn’t the only thing.
Sometimes it can be stress or tension. And sometimes, if you stop resisting that stress and tension, and just allow it to be, then it disappears on its own. That’s where meditation comes in.
Countless times when I’ve woken up tired or felt fatigued mid afternoon, meditation has helped me catch a second wind. Resisting a sleepy state or stressful day can make you even more exhausted. And when you meditate, you’re allowing those negative emotions to be. You’re saying, I’m okay with you. You just observe them, yield and let them pass like a cloud in the sky.
So the next time you feel tired, stop what you’re doing. Go sit or lie down in meditation for 20 minutes and I bet you’ll feel at least a little refreshed when you’re done.
8. Unleash your inner cat and stretch
Us dudes can learn from animals.
While I’m a dog guy myself, cats have a unique habit we can all model. They stretch a helluva lot. But why do they stretch?
According to Wonderopolis.org, they stretch for the same reasons humans do: to increase blood flow and get their body moving. Which is why you’ll often see cats stretch after one of their many daily naps.
Stretching increases blood flow not only to your muscles, but also to your brain. Similar to dancing or cardio mentioned earlier, all this extra blood flow wakes you up.
So if you’re feeling dog-tired, don’t be like a dog. Be like a cat and stretch.
Which caffeine alternatives are best for you?
Maybe it’s a Fruit Fast, a nap or Dandy Blend. Whatever it is, I encourage you to experiment with all the strategies on this list.
Some may not click with you. Others may be just what you need.
But you’ll never know if you don’t try.
So I encourage you to choose just one of the strategies to get started. Whether you’re tired or not, try one tomorrow and see how it works. Then the next day try another.
Remember, if your goal is to quit caffeine, start during a week when you’re less busy.
Your chances of success will increase exponentially. And when you add a few of these caffeine alternatives into the mix, your energy levels will rise even higher, without a single sip of coffee.