More energy without caffeine

Parents need extra energy and alertness to get through a day of kids, work, and care, but not everyone wants to overdo caffeine. Lactating or pregnant moms may want to avoid it altogether. So what are some safe ways to boost energy during the day, and help you sleep at night? Here are some suggestions based on what nutritionists have discovered about the components of foods; as well as folk remedies, and health suggestions based on research into mood regulation.

Not every person will react to the foods listed in the same way. For example, some of us will feel sleepy an hour after eating fruit on an empty stomach, some will feel energized after eating one, with no drop afterward. Only you can tell how your own body reacts.

Although juice and smoothies may give some folks energy, I don't recommend them for people who tend to get sleepy after eating sugars, or if you're on a diet.  Here's why: removing the fiber or breaking down a food by blending means your bloodstream absorbs the sugars and starches faster, which can cause a spike and then drop in blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops you will feel drowsy. Some of us will then feel cravings for sugary or fatty foods around the same time: this means your insulin levels are so high, and your blood sugar so low, that even if your stomach is full you aren't getting enough energy to function properly. You want to avoid that cycle of overeating and cravings: when your blood sugar is low, your brain and body aren't going to get enough nutrients to function properly. And your system can go into crisis mode, triggering more overeating and unhealthy cravings.

The same thing happens when whole grains are refined into flour. The body can overreact to the flood of sugar and starches. Whole grains are the best, whole grain flours are second best because they can cause the spike-drop in blood sugar. White flour isn't a good choice because it's the furthest removed from the natural balance of whole foods. Manufacturers try to compensate by adding in fiber and vitamins, but this isn't as good for your body as the naturally occurring nutrients. Try eating a piece of plain white bread on an empty stomach and see how your body reacts over the next hour, to see if that might be slowing you down during the day.

Think of it this way: the blender, juicer or factory is doing some of the work of eating your food for you. Less work means fewer calories burned by eating and digesting, and more calories getting into your body, too fast for  to process normally. Some folks won't be affected, but many of us are. Only you can tell what's affecting you, by paying attention to your own reactions to food.

I include environmental stimulation in the list because of the importance of sunlight and darkness to regulate your system. The better you keep to a natural environment and schedule, the better your health, energy level and mood will be. The same thing works for kids. Morning sunlight and fresh, cool air for you and your baby will naturally regulate sleep and energy cycles, as well as your emotional health.

Of course a good night's sleep is the best energy stimulant you can get, so if you're not getting enough, you won't be able to continue at the same pace, no matter how much stimulation you get.

If you want to link to this post, I'll continue to add information and suggestions as I continue my research, so you can check back in or add suggestions/comments. And always, rely on your own judgment: google these suggestions for further information on why they might work.

Food and drinks that may gently give you energy without caffeine/chemicals

ice water (try adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or mint, or a splash of juice)
black pepper
hot peppers
 wheat germ
nuts and seeds
citrus fruits

lean protein coupled with complex carbs (beef stew, peanut butter with an apple, beans and brown rice)

most whole grains (this is not the same as whole grain flour, which can make some people sleepy)
brown rice
red rice
black rice
wild rice
wheat berries
(corn and barley tend to have more sugar/starch so they're not on the list)

supplements-- take them in the morning!
B vitamins
Omega 3 fatty acids
L-tyrosine (also good for stress)
kelp powder

any mint
red clover
bay leaves

anything that has the following ingredients
white flour
white rice
Environmental stimulants:
cool air
sunlight or bright lights
changing positions/locations, even briefly
cold water (splash it on your face, jump in the pool or shower)
brisk exercise of any kind
Cheerful or high energy music
Other people-- whether it's visitors, play dates, phone calls, people walking by, other shoppers, or family members, having other folks around you can give you and baby a little extra stimulation

Food, drink  and environments that calm

warm water (tea, hot water with honey, bouillon, soup)

"brassica" vegetables:
broccoli rabe, broccolini etc
brussels sprouts

starchy vegetables:
sweet potatoes
winter squash



supplements-- take at night:


Environmental calm:
Lights low or off
Reduced noise levels
No visitors, turn off the TV
regulated sound and airflow like a fan, white noise machine, low, calm music
warm (not hot) air 
deep breathing 

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies