When you feel worn or exhausted, it’s only natural to turn to a stimulant in order to get a lift. Whether the stimulants are natural, like coffee or coca leaves, or synthetic like amphetamine or modafinil – they have similar types of effects in the body. Most stimulants affect the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and cause a buildup of dopamine in the brain, which can give a sense of euphoria or pleasure.
“The downside is that taking stimulants is like stepping on a ‘gas pedal.’ They can override bodily systems and delicate feedback loops that are designed to maintain homeostasis and protect us,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph, Director of the Peak Health Center in California. “When you feel tired, your body is asking for you to rest, rather than to keep going.”
One way it does this is that adenosine, a calming neurotransmitter, levels rise each hour you stay awake. This causes you to naturally feel sleepy later at night.
When your body gets completely exhausted, it goes into an “emergency mode” that temporarily switches off non-urgent functions like sweating and digestion in order to conserve energy. Stimulants can cause your body to ignore these delicate biological braking mechanisms and keep barging ahead full speed.
Eventually you can experience tolerance to the stimulants and develop a habit. eventually experience a crash where you feel depressed and fatigued because you are too low on neurotransmitters. Even just drinking a few cups of coffee per day can cause your energy and focus levels to fluctuate throughout the day, making you less consistent than had you never started in the first place.
Astaxanthin is a pink-colored antioxidant that gives flamingos, shrimp and salmon meat their color. It also gives salmon the tremendous energy to swim upstream and leap up waterfalls, in order to spawn.
It is believed to have neuroprotective properties and the ability to energize people too: taking between 2mg to 6mg of Astaxanthin per day can increase energy and improve resistance to the UV-rays of bright sunshine. For this reason, many surfers, swimmers and outdoorsmen take astaxanthin.
Resveratrol is a phenol antioxidant found in the skin of grapes as well as some other berries, real dark chocolate, and cocoa. Red wine contains small amounts of resveratrol. Consuming resveratrol has antioxidant protective effects and many people who try it comment that they feel more energy and stamina.
“For the biggest energy boost, try drinking liposomal resveratrol on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph. Liposomal resveratrol is a special formula made from tiny particles that can easily be absorbed in the small intestine.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an important antioxidant found in every cell in the body that helps enzymes work. It is located in the membrane of the mitochondria, or the “cellular power plant” where it helps the body make energy. It does this by helping shuttle electrons to make ATP, the body’s main energy currency molecule.
According to Dr. Bomi Joseph, a form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol is the form that has the most antioxidant and energizing potential. People who take ubiquinol supplements report having more physical and mental energy levels as well as physical strength and exercise stamina. It also helps promote heart function. Older people and those taking statin medications especially notice the difference when supplementing CoQ10.
Stimulants and oxidative stress
Taking stimulants can creative oxidative stress which can cause aging or health issues. In contrast, antioxidants help fight oxidative stress! If you are currently taking prescription stimulants you may want to ask your doctor if there is a way you could taper off them.
If you are currently drinking a lot of coffee or energy drinks, you might consider switching to tea or increasing the amount of antioxidant rich foods like leafy greens, berries, and wild Alaskan salmon. The energy that you feel from antioxidants may be a little more subtle than stimulants, but it is also cleaner, healthier, and far more sustainable. Antioxidants make you feel great and there is little downside in supplementing them moderately!
Interesting related article: “What is Health?“