How to get caffeine-like performance increase without caffeine?
February 28, 2008 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Caffeine-like performance without the caffeine? Details inside...

I teach high school and I've recently begun to realize that I am a much better, more dynamic, more creative, more productive, and more inspired/inspiring teacher when I've had a good dose of caffeine in the morning (particularly a No-Doz pill). I also enjoy my job more--to a significant degree--when I am operating on caffeine.

BUT I'm really not interested in becoming a caffeine pill/coffee addict and I really don't like the idea of relying on any external substance to be good at/satisfied with my job.

I've tried simply "getting more sleep" but even on a good night's sleep I am often lethargic and uninspired. Plus, as a high school teacher who has to get up at 5:30am, I'd have to go to sleep by 9:30 every night to get 8 hours--which I consider an unacceptable bedtime for anyone over 10 years old.

Any advice on how to get the caffeine "boost," especially the increase in alertness, quickness-on-my-feet, and motivation that seem to come from it--without the caffeine itself?

As I mentioned, I'd rather not rely on any substance at all, but I might consider a vitamin, herb, tea, or some kind of supplement that doesn't have negative side-effects or addictive qualities like caffeine. I'm also interested in dietary, physical, spiritual, and other creative ideas, especially ones that have been tested by others in my situation.
posted by Alabaster to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:57 PM on February 28, 2008

I've never gotten a caffeine boost from anything other than caffeine, but exercise (specifically running) makes me more alert for the rest of the day after. Doing it after work will carry over for energy levels in general but probably won't give a morning jolt.
posted by Airhen at 7:58 PM on February 28, 2008

Oops, I meant to say, "Since you get up so early you may not be into working out before work."
posted by Airhen at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2008

Personally, I think you may be looking for something that doesn't exist. First of all, you enjoy caffeine because it's a stimulant, and stimulants are addictive, period (pretty mildly, in the case of caffeine -- withdrawal's basically a headache). Secondly, caffeine's a natural chemical that's been used by humans since the dawn of civilization as a "utilitarian" drug -- we take it because it gives us something that we can't get otherwise, and because that quality makes our lives better -- or, at the very least, because we are happy to accept that trade-off. The same is true of plenty of other plant-based chemicals. You may be uneasy with being dependent on coffee, but I'd suggest that you consider which is more important to you -- the quality of your teaching or your notion of bodily purity.

I know that this is the sort of answer that questions the premise of the question -- the least useful kind of answer on MeFi -- but hey, there's my two cents.
posted by tweebiscuit at 8:15 PM on February 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

LobsterMitten nailed it.

A brisk workout/jog/etc in the morning will jumpstart your machine.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:20 PM on February 28, 2008

Indeed, anything that acts as a stimulant will be just as addictive if not more so than caffeine. It probably won't taste better, though, or have any of the proven health benefits of coffee and tea.

The placebo effect works very well, though, so you can just ignore this comment and believe all the posts that will undoubtedly follow telling you to try taurine or ginkgo supplementation. Please note that most of these "supplements" also contain caffeine, often in large amounts.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:26 PM on February 28, 2008

You're looking for two things that are contradictory. You don't want to get enough sleep, but you do want to be alert and energetic. The two simply don't mix, due to the limitations of our human physiology.

Caffeine can help you 'cheat' a little bit, but as you well know, stimulants have a downside (the crash, the addiction)

So, you've either got to to come to terms with an earlier bedtime, or find a job that allows you to get up later. I know it sucks, but you simply can't have it all.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:49 PM on February 28, 2008

Honestly, Provigil does pretty much exactly what you describe. However, difficulty of getting a prescription and insurance coverage for it (an epic undertaking) for it aside, that's abusing a drug with very limited data on longterm effects.
posted by Ryvar at 10:55 PM on February 28, 2008

You can either use the caffeine or use the sleep. And, no, if you get up at 5:30, then 9:30 bedtimes AREN'T for 10 year olds - they are for people who need 8 hours of sleep to function (you). If you were to loose the attitude and actually get the sleep that your body is demanding, then you would have enough energy to rock the classes and still have a life. But, if you insist on cheating your body and mind of its rest, then you are going to have to resort to stimulants (coffee). It's your choice, but if you keep cheating yourself of sleep, you will pay in the end. The body ALWAYS wins.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:19 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

what The Light Fantastic said. i mean, if you have to get up at 5:30a then, really, you're just gonna have to accept that you'll need to be in bed before most people do. so get over it.

and nthing exercise.
posted by violetk at 5:43 AM on February 29, 2008

I had a college professor that had us do this little exercise. I forget what it was. We stood up, slapped our thighs a couple times did some little routine with our arms and said some kind of chant.
It work everyone up and I bet woke him up, too.
posted by beccaj at 6:08 AM on February 29, 2008

Apologies for making a possibly incorrect assumption.

Have recently started having to wake up this early? I remember when I transitioned from being a student to working full time I was in denial about the loss of my long evenings. I loved staying up and enjoying my leisure time into the wee hours. As a result I was always tired at work, as I had to wake up at 6:30 am rather than my previous 10 am. Eventually I realized that those days are over. It is not possible to be well rested an energetic at work without getting enough sleep. I know a 9:30 pm bed time is a hard pill to swallow but it's your reality if you are serious about being alert and energetic at work.
posted by lemur at 8:11 AM on February 29, 2008

Yerba mate has an effect similar to caffeine's but without the jitteriness. However, it's possible to get addicted to anything--it's not the substance that's an issue, it's your relationship with it. If you decide you can't live without mate, you'll be just as addicted as if it were lattes.

My advice? Don't worry about getting addicted. It's socially acceptable and not likely to have any costs other than the money you spend, and even that can be minimized if you brew your own.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:34 AM on February 29, 2008

Yerba mate does have caffeine in it, though I'll agree that the buzz is less jittery than from coffee or a caffeine pill.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:54 AM on February 29, 2008

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