Need an energy boost? Don’t reach for that soft drink! Sure, the sugar and caffeine might make you feel more energized, but that feeling is only a temporary spike in blood sugar. When it wears off, you’ll crash—and feel even worse than before!
The good news is that there are plenty of natural energy drinks that can ramp up your energy levels without spiking your blood sugar. That means no energy crash and no empty calories. Many of these drinks can even be made at home, so you can easily avoid the added sugars and artificial ingredients.
Here are eight of the best natural energy drinks you can try (and make) for yourself at home.
Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Kombucha has a long list of health properties: B vitamins, glucuronic acid (a detoxifier), and loads of antioxidant-rich polyphenols. But what kombucha is best known for is its probiotic bacteria and acetic acid, which have been shown to boost energy levels.
Probiotics play a huge role in energy production. Studies suggest that by improving the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, your “friendly” bacteria will be better able to break down the nutrients in the food you eat. This means you’ll get a natural energy boost from eating the right foods!
Acetic acid has even been shown to increase your metabolism, which means you’ll be using calories from food more efficiently. Acetic acid is the only short-chain fatty acid to reach the systemic circulation in significant amounts where it provides energy for muscles and other tissues. It’s also non-insulinogenic, which means it won’t give you a blood sugar spike.
You can brew kombucha yourself at home by obtaining a SCOBY, or you can buy bottled kombucha in a store. Just make sure you buy the real stuff!
2. Oolong Tea
Poor energy levels can be reversed with a delicious cup of oolong tea. This ancient Chinese beverage is also known as “black dragon tea,” and it’s packed with catechins similar to those found in green tea. These catechins work by promoting your body’s ability to break down fat, which can boost energy levels.
Studies suggest that the catechins in oolong help your body to use fat cells for energy, while the mild caffeine content can give you a quick boost for getting through the day. It’s also been found that drinking full-strength oolong tea may increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation by 12%, which means you’ll be better able to obtain energy from food. It may even help with weight loss!
You can make oolong tea with tea bags or loose leaves. Try blending it with green tea for an added boost!
3. Green Tea
Famous the world over, green tea is a powerhouse of health benefits and is often included in the list of beverages used by athletes for extra energy. The caffeine content of green tea is mostly responsible for its energizing benefits. Studies have shown that a regular cup or two of green tea can boost your metabolism and maintain healthy energy levels throughout the day.
Moreover, green tea is believed to increase fat-burning by encouraging your fat cells to release fat, then stimulating your liver’s ability to convert that body fat into energy. This is particularly helpful for weight loss! Try drinking green tea throughout the day to keep your metabolism ticking and your brain active. A cup or two before a workout could also contribute to your endurance and stamina.
Kvass is another fermented food, like kombucha—but it’s made from rye bread. This traditional Slavic and Baltic drink is actually known as “black bread,” and it’s still enjoyed in many Eastern European countries.
Kvass can be flavored with fruits, such as strawberries and raisins, or with herbs, such as mint. Traditionally, kvass is served unfiltered with its natural yeast content, which adds to its unique flavor. It’s a good source of B vitamins, which help your body produce energy. Kvass also contains lactic acid and simple sugars, which can be helpful for a quick boost.
Like kombucha, the fermenting process of kvass allows for beneficial bacteria that may improve your digestion. This means you’ll be better able to absorb the energy content of foods you eat. Kvass can also be made with beetroot, which boosts its nutritional content and has excellent benefits you’re your gut microbiome. Beets are a good source of folate, vitamin C, potassium, iron, and phytonutrients. These are made more bioavailable when fermented into kvass!
Matcha is one of Japan’s most revered beverages. It’s made by crushing green tea leaves into a fine, bright green powder before being mixed in with hot or cold water. This process helps to retain many of the natural antioxidants and other nutrients in the leaves.
The matcha tea bushes are grown in areas out of sunlight, which delays photosynthesis and slows the growth of the plant. The result is a higher concentration of chlorophyll, a powerful detoxifier, and a good energy source.
Drinking matcha means you’re drinking the whole leaf—all the natural caffeine and antioxidants. The nutritional content is thought to be almost 10 times greater than traditionally steeped green tea! Best of all, matcha provides the energy that comes on gently, rather than the “hit” that coffee supplies.
6. Coconut Water
Coconut water may be 95% water, but it’s still a great source of energizing minerals. Coconut water is the clear liquid found in green coconuts, and it’s a naturally sweet and refreshing drink.
Coconut water is a much healthier alternative to sports drinks—and contains more than 10 times the potassium! Potassium helps to maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes, which is essential before and during exercise as it has less sodium—the main electrolyte you lose with sweat—than most sport’s drinks. The magnesium in coconut water also supports normal energy production and reduces cramping so you’ll be able to keep exercising for longer.
Most importantly, coconut water has fewer carbohydrates than many commercial sports beverages, which is important for proper rehydration after exercise.
7. Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is a traditional drink made from the dried leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, a type of holly native to South America. It’s a very social drink and famous throughout South America.
Yerba mate can boost your energy levels in much the same way as coffee but without the caffeine jitters! In fact, the energizing effects of yerba mate are described as gentle and calm. Mate drinkers report that they feel more alert but don’t experience the crash that coffee can produce.
It’s for this reason that many athletes use yerba mate to enhance their physical performance before a workout or event. It’s also believed to be helpful to those suffering from mental or physical fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome.
It’s also mentally energizing—yerba mate enhances memory, boosts mood, and increases concentration. It’s said to make you feel more motivated and be productive by stimulating the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
8. Carrot Juice
Carrots are a fantastic source of beta-carotene—the provitamin A carotenoid which your body can quickly convert into vitamin A. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that not only protects your body from free radicals but also bolsters energy levels.
Vitamin A plays many roles in growth and development, and it’s especially important in maintaining energy. Research has shown that vitamin A is crucial for assisting with daily energy production and physical activity. Our cells create energy by first creating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. To do this, our cells first need sufficient vitamin A. Low levels of vitamin A will directly affect your body’s ATP production, causing your energy levels to dwindle.
Carrot juice is one of the healthiest veggie-based drinks out there, and it has much lower sugar than fruit juices! It’s also super easy to make at home.
You don’t have to consume artificial energy drinks to get the energy boost you need. Try out these eight natural energy drinks that are packed full of micronutrients to keep you healthy, active, and energized. You just have to put in a little more effort in preparing them, but I guarantee it’s worth it.
More Natural Energy Drinks
Featured photo credit: Raimond Klavins via unsplash.com