Although many people report elevated energy levels when they adopt a vegan lifestyle, it’s natural to feel a little sluggish sometimes or to want to enhance athletic performance with a pre-workout energy drink. With many of today’s commercial energy drinks containing harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, additives and red dye #40, they make less-than-ideal energy enhancers.
So where do we turn to when we want to find plant-based alternatives to enhance energy levels safely and naturally? To the past, of course!
Our forefathers knew a thing or two about increasing energy levels so that they could maximize productivity. Whether you’ve hit an afternoon slump or you’re training for a marathon, these natural energy drinks will do wonders at increasing energy levels naturally and effectively without leading to a blood sugar crash.
Not only will these time-tested, historically approved elixirs provide you with a much-needed energy boost, they are also loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients to help you gain optimum health. Many of them even have the added benefit of working as weight-loss tonics and supporting adrenal health.
So read on if you’ve ever wondered what people living in unindustrialized societies used to do when they were in need of a quick pick-me-up.
Most of these all-natural 100% plant-based energy drinks are easily available online or at major health food stores.
There is archaeological evidence to suggest that pre-Inca societies in Peru were drinking chicha morada as early as 3000-2500 BC. Served warm or cold, chicha morada is a popular Peruvian beverage made by boiling purple corn with pineapple rinds and spices and is served from both street stalls and fancy restaurants alike. The pigment responsible for giving the corn its vivid purple color is anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that aids in lowering blood pressure, combatting type 2 diabetes and improving cellular function. Drinking chicha morada also aids in increasing blood flow, helping energy levels to soar. It is also commonly used to treat digestive complaints.
Pinole and Chia Iskiate
The Tarahumara Indians of Sierra Madre in northwest Mexico are known for their Spartan diet and awe-inspiring athletic stamina. With many Tarahumara Indians able to outrun horses well into their 60s, scientists and nutritionists from all over the world have been studying their diets for years. The Tarahumara Indians subsist on a simple diet of squash, chili peppers, beans, wild greens, chia seeds and ground corn, which they wash down with a centuries-old, all-natural energy drink called pinole and chia iskiate. This drink, made from chia seeds, agave nectar, spices and roasted corn kernels, is credited with being the secret elixir that gives the Tarahumara runners their endurance and stamina.
Horny Goat Weed Tea
Horny goat weed grows in the mountainous regions of China and has been used as an aphrodisiac and stimulant for more than 2000 years. As an integral herb in traditional Chinese medicine, horny goat weed has historically been used to stimulate the libido, combat erectile dysfunction and as a general tonic to improve concentration and boost energy levels, making it a natural choice for people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. It has also traditionally been used to relieve weakness in the back and knees.
Guayusa (pronounced gway-oosa) grows in the Amazon rainforest and contains a naturally occurring blend of caffeine and theobromine that gives a balanced, focused energy making it popular with sportsmen. Guayusa has recently been gaining widespread popularity amongst athletes for its ability to dramatically improve athletic performance and concentration. Unlike coffee and tea, it contains no tannins which means that it does not stain the teeth or leach iron from the body. With more antioxidants than green tea, drinking guayusa can help fight free radicals and prevents premature aging. It also works as a natural appetite suppressant, aiding in sustained weight loss over time. It has been used and cultivated by indigenous Ecuadorians for 1000s of years and was traditionally used to help hunters stay alert during nighttime hunting sessions.
The first recorded use of this so-called “tea of immortality” was in China in 221 BC. The word kombucha is said to have originated in Japan in 415 AD where it has been a popular beverage for centuries. Kombucha is a fermented drink made from black tea, honey, and spices and is said to improve gut health and cellular function as well as strengthening the immune system by providing the body with a vast array of antioxidants. It also contains acetic acid and polyphenols that aid in weight loss. Its gluconic acid and probiotic content make it ideal for detoxifying the body and its high profile of enzymes and B vitamins is said to boost energy levels naturally making it a popular choice for athletes.
Reishi Hot Cocoa
A veritable panacea for the mind and body, reishi mushrooms have enjoyed a long, illustrious history as nature’s cure-all, fighting everything from hormone imbalance and palpitations to heart disease and insomnia. It is one of the most revered remedies in traditional Chinese medicine and has been touted for its ability to “enhance vital energy” for centuries, making it one of nature’s most potent energy drinks. Historically, reishi mushroom was prescribed to patients as a tea but it has recently been updated as the primary ingredient in reishi hot cocoa, which makes it kinder on the palette as reishi mushrooms are naturally bitter. The added health benefits from the cacao include magnesium, iron and anandamide, the so-called “bliss molecule” responsible for improving one’s mood.
The national drink of Argentina is made of the dried leaves of the evergreen holly, Illex paraguariensis, and is believed to be consumed in about 92% of all households across Argentina as well as being a popular beverage in Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. Yerba Mate is traditionally drunk in a hollowed out gourd and its earthy taste and smooth texture are reminiscent of green tea. It was called “the drink of the gods” by the Guarani Indians and “green gold” by European settlers. Its popularity stems from its properties as a mood enhancer and the clean, calm energy it bestows, imparting a state of alert wakefulness and improved concentration that does not interfere with sleep and that increases athletic performance. It was traditionally prescribed to people suffering from extreme fatigue and weakness and boasts an impressive spectrum of nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and zinc.
Known as “the mother fruit” across southeast Asia, coconut water is a thirst-quenching, low-calorie drink that contains more potassium than four bananas and is packed full of manganese, antioxidants, amino acids, zinc, magnesium, enzymes, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and calcium. It’s little wonder that coconut water is touted as “nature’s sports drink” by savvy marketers. With a sweet, slightly nutty taste coconut water is packed full of electrolytes which prevent muscles from cramping during intense workouts, it is also used to treat headaches, lower blood pressure and promotes weight loss. It can also be used as an effective rehydration solution because of its electrolyte profile. It is also an excellent source of carbohydrates, which helps to lift energy levels.
Beloved drink of the Pharaohs, karkade, (pronounced kar-ka-day) is made from the dried calyces of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant and is packed full of polyphenols, vitamin C, and essential minerals. It was mentioned in the Ebers papyrus, an Ancient Egyptian medical text, as an effective remedy for coughs and colds and as a general tonic for vibrant health and energy. Served hot or cold, karkade makes a cheap, refreshing alternative to sugary energy drinks and is traditionally served at weddings and parties. Its other benefits include decreasing blood pressure and ridding the body of excess water. It also has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties as well as aiding in 2nd-degree labor.
Coca Leaf Tea
The coca plant is indigenous to the Andean regions of South America and was sacred to the Incas. This humble plant is still revered in many indigenous regions throughout Bolivia and Peru and provides a healthy dose of antioxidants, and alkaloids as well as iron, vitamin A and B vitamins. It also contains inulin, a compound that has a stimulatory effect on the body, helping boost energy levels as well as improving mental focus. Besides its impressive nutritional benefits, coca is still used in traditional religious ceremonies and helps combat altitude sickness by aiding in vasodilation (enlargement of the blood vessels) so that oxygen is more effectively trapped by the body. It is also effective at increasing metabolism and makes a great weight-loss elixir.
We hope you’re are as excited as we are to get out there and try these amazing natural drinks!