Family health

6 ways to boost energy without caffeine and sugar

Feel better, and think more clearly, with our tips

By Zenya Sirant
6 ways to boost energy without caffeine and sugar

Conquered the cycle of caffeine dependence? Mourn not the loss of your artificially amped grey matter. Joanna Osborne, a registered dietitian at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, offers sound advice for fighting the mental blahs with a dietary action plan. Osborne admits: “These foods might not provide the instant burst of energy that we experience with caffeine, but they’ll provide a steady stream of fuel to keep you energized and boost your brainpower throughout the day.”

Fabulous fibre

Glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel source, which your body metabolizes from the carbohydrates you eat. Opting for high-fibre sources such as whole grains over refined ones is a more efficient fuel use. “They provide a sustained energy source because the fibre slows the absorption of the carbohydrates,” Osborne says, ”which helps prevent the dramatic rise and dreaded fall of blood sugars that follow eating sugary foods.”

Young pregnant woman using laptop eating pizza Getty / Nastasic

Pro Protein

Including a source of protein at each meal not only enhances satiety but can also support mental alertness. According to Osborne, “proteins provide amino acids (such as tyrosine), which make up the neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells.” Memo received: Stock up on such protein-rich foods as legumes, fish, poultry, meats, nuts and dairy products, stat.

Vital vitamins

A daily multivitamin will suffice, but if you can source your vitamins from a balanced diet, Osborne affirms it would serve you better. “A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is vital to supporting brain function; vitamins C, B12, B6 and minerals such as iron allow your body and brain to convert the food you eat into energy.”


In addition to a well-balanced diet, staying well-hydrated can help improve your alertness. Here’s why: “Water serves as a nutrient transportation system to the brain,” Osborne explains. “We need nutrients to fuel us, but we need water for those nutrients to travel throughout the body and brain.” Sip up. Another benefit to guzzling water throughout the day is the reduced urge to cave into your cravings for less-than-healthy fare.

Small boy drinking water Thanasis Zovoilis/ Getty Images

Go mega

Garnering good press for benefits that range from heart health to arthritis, “Omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in brain function, as well as nerve communication,” says Osborne, “which helps improve mental performance.” Super sources of omega-3s include salmon, trout, ground flax seed, flax seed oil and walnuts.

Break for breakfast


Branded the most important meal of the day, there’s a good reason: After a night’s hiatus of nutrients, the brain needs a revamp. “Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast daily can help improve concentration and maintain your energy levels throughout the morning,“ Osborne says. Consider morning nibbles such as high-fibre cereal with milk and fruit, oatmeal with yogurt and fruit or a vegetable omelette with some whole-grain bread to start the day with a store of power.

This article was originally published on

This article was originally published on Dec 23, 2013

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