The Not-So Starving Student

For a caffeine degenerate like me, I always wished there was a natural substitute for caffeine.  Although there isn’t any perfect substitute, over the years I’ve found some ways to help me beat the afternoon slump without resorting to Starbucks.  As a busy AU student, my philosophy is that caffeine should be a last resort than the first choice, and should be utilized effectively to meet those harsh deadlines or last-minute exam cramming.  So for those of you who are addicts, degenerates, or dependents, the new year is a time for self-reflection and a time to potentially addi some positive tweaks to your daily routine.  Rather than upheave your entire dieting routine, as many new year resolutions involve, try taking baby steps that are realistic and achievable.  If one of your goals is to stay to energized naturally then we’ve compiled the perfect list for substituting that espresso with some quality snacking.

Peppermint tea

Without the threat of upcoming deadlines, I can safely sip on my peppermint tea and feel awakened with the cool, minty sensation.  Peppermint tea has been proven to improve alertness, long term memory, and speed of memory (Moss, 2016).  Of course, the best peppermint tea uses fresh, crushed peppermint leaves, but you can always substitute with dried store-bought tea.

Whole grain crackers

Complex carbohydrates help sustain your blood sugar level without allowing it to spike.  In the afternoon following a large meal, your natural energy level plummets, especially after a carbohydrate-heavy meal, which makes the afternoon extra difficult to survive.  For me, a ten minute nap typically turns into a three hour snooze.  To fight the energy drop, try adding some whole grain snacks into your afternoon and help keep your facial muscles moving.

Dark chocolate

Flavonoids found in dark chocolate are a potent anti-inflammatory agent, helping boost your immune system and improve cardiovascular health.  Could it help your energy level as well?  Studies show that absorbed flavonoids accumulate in brain regions responsible for learning and memory (Berk, 2017).  Specifically, they enhance sensory awareness that could be the secret to staying awake longer in those sluggish afternoons.  Choose low-sugar dark chocolate for optimal results.

Raw veggies and hummus

Staying hydrated plays a large role in your natural ability to fight sleepiness, and raw veggies not only offers hydration but also sustainable, beneficial carbohydrates that will last you until dinner.  Hummus offers an excellent dose of protein without being excessive.  One of the most important tips I’ve learned is asking yourself if you’re truly hungry or simply bored.  Many times, it could be the latter and controlling the sizes of your snacks could be difficult.

Trail mix

I love mixing my own trail mixes since I can gauge the nutrients without feeling guilty about excess sugar content.  Raw walnuts are my personal favorite since they offer the much needed omega-3 oils for a well-oiled engine that is your brain.  Before you consider chocolate chips or simple carbohydrates, try adding coconut shreds or dried cranberries to add a touch of sweetness without spiking your blood sugar.

Berk, L., Lohman, E., Bains, G., Bruhjell, K., Bradburn, J., Vijayan, N., & More, S.  (2017).  Is Chocolate Beneficial for Brain Health? Dark Chocolate (70% Cacao) Increases Brain EEG Power Spectral Density (μV2) Gamma Wave Frequency (31–40 Hz) Which Is Associated with Enhanced Cognitive Processing, Learning, Memory, Recall, Neural Synchrony and Mindfulness Meditation.  The FASEB Journal, 31(1 Supplement), 636-23.
Moss, M., Jones, R., Moss, L., Cutter, R., & Wesnes, K.  (2016).  Acute consumption of Peppermint and Chamomile teas produce contrasting effects on cognition and mood in healthy young adults.  Plant Science Today, 3(3), 327-336.
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