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Getting through exams with caffeine alternatives

Updated: Feb 21

Contributor: Phoebe Yin

Now that exam season is upon us, many students find themselves drinking more coffee than usual to get in an extra hour or two of studying. An average cup of coffee usually contains between 80-100 mg of caffeine, which is the stimulant that helps you feel awake and energized. Normally, after being awake for a while, adenosine levels in the brain begin to increase, and adenosine molecules bind to the receptors that promote sleepiness. Caffeine works by binding to these receptors instead, preventing adenosine from having access.

Although caffeine does its job well, it’s not always the best option. Whether you hate the taste of coffee, can’t drink coffee, or simply want to reduce your coffee intake, there are many alternatives—both with and without caffeine—available.

Drinking tea

Many teas are also caffeinated, but there’s often much lower caffeine content compared to coffee. In particular, peppermint tea and black tea (such as in chai and kombucha) have been found to provide us with a little extra energy. Peppermint tea is not only refreshing, but research shows that it can increase energy and reduce fatigue. This is also true for peppermint essential oils, if you’re not a big fan of drinking tea. Green tea is another great option, since it’s less processed than many other teas and has a variety of health benefits.

Golden milk

This beverage, given its name based on the colour of the ingredients, is made from milk and spices. Tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, and honey are mixed in some combination with milk to create exactly what the name suggests—a milk-like drink with a golden colour. Golden milk is known to help with cognition, memory, and mood. The ingredient turmeric will help you stay alert by making energy-producing hormones more abundant in the brain. Since there are so many options for spices to add, this is bound to taste good.

Chicory coffee

Despite its name, chicory coffee, made from chicory root, has no caffeine content. The flavour is supposedly similar to that of coffee, so this may be an easy switch to make. This drink actually orginated from periods of caffeine shortages, when people were searching for alternatives to get their daily energy boost. Chicory also has other potential benefits, such as improving digestive health and lowering blood sugar. However, since it’s made from chicory root, it can cause an allergic reaction in some people, especially those with ragweed or birch pollen allergies.

Eating foods that keep you energized

Studying is always better when you have a snack, and studying is even better when you have a snack that can help you concentrate for longer. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, fat, and protein will not only keep you full, but will also give you energy. Berries, nuts, and avocados are just a few of the many foods that can have this effect. In particular, studies show that walnuts can improve your memory learning skills. Chia seeds and hemp seeds are also great options, if you can add them to yogurt or a smoothie.

Making small lifestyle changes

As simple as it sounds, maintaining good habits can make a difference when it comes to having more energy. Spending time under the sunlight and getting some vitamin D, especially in the witner, can make you feel more awake. If you find yourself losing energy and you’re brave enough, take a cold shower to instantly feel more alert. Finally, drinking more water can help as well. Even mild dehydration can be a cause for fatigue, so it’s important to remember to drink water throughout the day. If you prefer beverages with a little flavour, coconut water has many health benefits and contains electrolytes, which help to keep the fluids in your body in balance. You can also try adding some lemon, cucumber, watermelon, or mint to make drinking water more appealing.

While coffee is a popular and effective way to improve your studying during exam season, there are other ways to achieve the same effect if you’re looking to decrease your caffeine consumption. Luckily, many of these alternatives look just as tasty as coffee, if not more. Even if you’re content with your current caffeine intake, making these drinks or snacks can be a fun study break!


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