As an owner-operator, I’m sure you have experienced fatigue on the road. The first thing most drivers go for is coffee. Coffee is so accessible with an ever flowing coffee bar at every truckstop along your route. Adding to accessibility, coffee is very affordable, and it is sold for about $1 a cup. And when you don’t feel like making a stop for that piping-hot cup of joe, it’s easy to treat yourself to an instant pack of coffee. So why not drink a lot of coffee to help you battle fatigue?
More than 2 cups of caffeinated coffee a day can cause anxiety and irritability, high blood pressure, and increase cholesterol. If you are tired and think you need caffeine to stay awake, there are other options out there. Below are 10 alternatives to coffee that you might enjoy. Some you’ve used, some you likely haven’t, but maybe this is the week to broaden your horizons and possibly even lower your blood pressure while getting the energy boost that you need! Below are healthy alternatives that have less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Food. But not just any foods. You should be eating every few hours to keep your metabolism up. Your metabolism breaks down the food your eating and turns it into energy while burning fat. So you don’t want to eat anything high in sugar. Sugary foods or beverages give you a slight rush from the sudden sugar, then you crash as the sugar levels decreased.
Fruits have the good sugars, so those are ok to eat. Sugar from fruit is "better" because it comes along with many essential nutrients, whereas "added sugar" (table sugar, corn syrup, etc.) provides "empty calories" without any nutrients. The daily limit for added sugar is 10% of total calories; for instance, if you need 1500 calories, then your added sugar limit is 150 calories. But that doesn't mean fruit is a "free food". You can overdo any food, including fruit. Aim for the correct number of servings from fruit and all of the food groups within your calorie allowance. Cheeses and nuts are good options for their protein. Beef jerky is a good one too. (There are other articles about healthy snacks, so I won’t go into detail.)
2. Water. This one has a lot of health benefits. It helps you digest food and get the nutrients out and into your blood stream. It cleans out your body of any waste that might be building up. It helps your metabolism. It regulates your body temperature as well as helps your joints and muscles works correctly. Best of all, it aids in sending messages between your cells to help your body with the little things, like vision and thinking! The problem, of course, is bathroom breaks. I can only say to drink it slowly, about one cup an hour. At first, you may notice an uptick in how often you have to go, but once your body is hydrated, you will find the need will lessen.
3. Daily Vitamins. Head to the vitamin/medication section of any grocery store and pick a vitamin supplement that has B12, B6, C, D, and E all in one convenient capsule. These will give you natural energy by helping your body do what it’s supposed to, but discuss which vitamins are best for you with your doctor first.
4. Tea. Green teas, or herbal teas, are good for you and taste great. Tea has much less caffeine than coffee - between 25-50% as much. There are many health benefits from tea including that it contains tannins and catechins, which have been associated with cancer and heart disease prevention. Tea has also been shown to act as a stress-reliever. Try herbal teas with ginseng, ginger, licorice, ginko biloba, or rosehip to name a few.
5. Exercise. There is a lot to be said about just stopping to stretch your legs. Giving your body a little stretch and your mind something new to focus on will help. I’m sure you’ve heard or have experienced that exercise will build muscle and burn fat, but did you know that aerobic exercise also increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, waking you up and clearing your mind? Added bonus, it ups your metabolism again!
6. V8 V-fusion plus Energy. This is one of my favorites. It’s low in calories, uses green tea which as we discussed earlier, still has caffeine, but less than coffee, has vitamins, and as an added bonus, has one serving of your fruit/vegetables for the day, making it healthier! I used this recently on a road trip and it worked for a good 3-4 hours without making me feel jittery.
7. Chai Tea. Chai consists of red, black, and green tea. While the black and green portions contain caffeine, the red does not. When compared to coffee, Chai has much less caffeine content. It is popular for its mild spiced flavor and light caffeine content. Chai Lattes are particularly popular for it's rich spiced flavor. Just try to avoid the chai tea mixes that contain a high level of sugar.
8. Cold Air. Turn on the air conditioning if you are feeling tired. Warm air relaxes you, causing you to become drowsy. Try reversing that by turning on the cold air instead. This is only a quick fix, but can help wake you up to get you somewhere to pull over.
9. Chew gum. The benefits of chewing gum are subtle. With less calories than a cup of coffee, gum will also help curb your appetite and increase your desire to drink water.
10. Sleep. This is really #1. None of these are true replacements to sleep. Sometimes you just have to pull over and rest. I realize that you have deadlines and goals, but none of them matter if you can’t be safe while doing your job. Do whatever you can to use your downtime for the sleep your body needs. Adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep at night. Studies show that those we get less than that over an extended period of time perform poorly on complex tests later. Know your body and how much it functions on best.
I challenge you to try something this week that’s on this list. Go ahead, take another step towards becoming healthy. Happy trucking!
Watch Carissa Pick the Top 10 Coffee Alternatives from the Grocery Store!