Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
CAFFEINE ALTERNATIVE FOR ALERTNESS
Nutrition and the brain are inexplicably intertwined. What you eat determines what fuels your body and brain to power you through your day. If you're suffering from decreased alertness, brain nutrition could help you address your symptoms. Many online articles recommend the stimulant caffeine to increase levels of alertness; however, not everyone can drink caffeinated beverages or use supplements that contain the substance (plus we can only use the restroom so many times). Fortunately, there are other ways that you can promote mental focus. Read on to learn more about one of the most beneficial brain nutrition supplements for those concerned with alertness.
MENTAL ALERTNESS DEFINITION
For everyday people, mental alertness refers to a state of being fully awake and aware of one's surroundings. If someone is mentally alert, they are attentive to their surroundings and able to focus on tasks. Typically when psychologists use the term, they refer to a heightened state of awareness that the mind goes into as a part of the fight or flight response. In this article, the first definition of mental awareness is what is being discussed.
WHY ALERTNESS MATTERS
There are several reasons why you may wish to increase your level of alertness during the day, including:
- Information retention. If your mind is drifting due to fatigue, you may find it challenging to retain critical information. For students, this can mean missing key points of a lecture. You may not hear important instructions about completing a project or assignment on the job if your mind is not focused correctly.
- Cognitive ability. It's difficult to complete tasks that require problem-solving or attention to detail when your mind is not fully alert. Fatigue can lead to problems concentrating on even day-to-day conversations with friends and family.
- Overall energy. When your mind is in a fog, you may find it hard to remain physically active, even if your body is not tired.
- Safety. Mental alertness helps to prevent injuries by making you more in tune with your surroundings. If you are fully alert, you are less likely to miss a tripping hazard or bump into something.
THE TROUBLE WITH CAFFEINE
Caffeine is a natural substance produced by many species of plants. When consumed, caffeine stimulates the nervous system, increasing alertness. Despite its biological origins, caffeine can cause unwanted side effects, such as:
- Racing Heart
- Irregular Heart Rate
- Interactions with certain medications
Over time, your body becomes immune to the effects of caffeine, and you need to consume more to achieve increased alertness. This can increase your risk of developing side effects. Because the body can become dependent on caffeine, suddenly discontinuing consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Poor concentration
ONE OF THE BEST CAFFEINE ALTERNATIVES FOR ALERTNESS
For those who experience side effects from caffeine or wish to avoid dependency, theobromine is an alternative. This substance is extracted from cacao trees. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs used theobromine as a part of rituals and for natural healing. Its scientific name Theobroma comes from the words for god and food, referring to its status as a food of the gods.
HOW THEOBROMINE WORKS
Unlike caffeine, theobromine does not act directly on the central nervous system. Studies have revealed that it inhibits the activities of phosphodiesterase enzymes and makes an important chemical messenger called cAMP more active. These two actions result in a widening of the blood vessels that increases circulation and may help to stimulate the mind. Because of how it affects the brain and body, theobromine has become a popular alternative to caffeine.
HOW TO REAP THE BENEFITS OF THEOBROMINE
There are many ways that you can incorporate theobromine into your brain health nutrition diet:
- Supplements. This is the best and most effective option available today. Many people prefer to take brain health supplements because chocolate is highly caloric and usually contains added sugar. A high-quality supplement can treat your mind and body to the benefits of theobromine without these drawbacks.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING AND USING MENTAL FOCUS SUPPLEMENTS
To get the most benefits, follow these tips when shopping for and taking theobromine supplements:
- Choose a standardized formula. A standardized cocoa bean supplement contains a certain percentage of theobromine per serving. If a product is not standardized, you may only get trace amounts of the beneficial natural chemical.
- Consider a combination supplement. Caffeine-free mental focus supplements combine theobromine with other natural substances shown to increase alertness for added benefits.
- Look for synergistic ingredients, meaning that the formula contains other nutrients that support and enhance the effects of the formula as a whole.
- Follow the dosing guidelines. Carefully following the directions for use printed on the supplement packaging can help to ensure the best results.
Brands like Body Kitchen meet all these characteristics. The team has developed a highly effective formula, EXEED Mind, that’s designed for the student, the office-warrior, and/or the gamer. They use patented and clinically-studied ingredients so you can be sure you’re getting top-quality and researched ingredients.