Why do I sometimes wake up groggy and tired? Is coffee the answer? What’s the latest deal with coffee – how much is really tooooo much? (asking for a fatigued friend)
Energy is something I have really struggled with after having Diego, I have good days and days when I just want to go to bed at 6:00pm and I am constantly trying to be better in tune with what my body needs.
My friend and incredibly knowledgable Functional Medicine Nutritionist, Klara Mudge is here to talk about why some days we wake up still tired and if coffee (or other energy sources) are really the best energy boosters.
Here’s what she had to say…
Everyday the body reminds us how complex it is.
Low energy or fatigue is no exception to this web-like, confusing complexity.
Exhaustion can show up unannounced any day of the week for so many different reasons, and I bet none of them are “not eating enough energy”. Ironically – and annoyingly – having low energy levels is not a kilojoule deficiency problem…
If only the human body actually worked in such a simple, linear way. (Many conventional physicians in allopathic medicine still treat it like it does – see symptom, suppress symptom– but that’s a whole other story for another post)
Back to Energy! And your questions on how to have more of it…
Why do we wake up groggy?
HPA dysfunction is a pretty common cause of morning fatigue that a lot of people aren’t aware of.
(HPA stands for Hypothalamus – Pituitary – Axis, google it 😉 ) and a resulting out of whack circadian-cortisol curve.
Cortisol is our get-up-and-go hormone and is normally at its highest 30 minutes after waking, declining steadily during the day and reaching its lowest point at bedtime.
Those with adrenal gland dysfunction who wake up tired, generally have irregularities in this cortisol curve. There could be several ways to bring this dysfunction back into balance, depending on what’s causing it in the first place…(An always-on stress response? Long term chronically elevated cortisol? Chronic abuse of stimulants? Fatigued adrenal glands? Gut imbalances and / or gut hyper-permeability? Etcetera…
Sometimes, there might be something in our diet or life that is intoxicating us (like alcohol does to the liver, manifesting as a hangover). This could be a food you’re unknowingly intolerant to, or it could be a relationship or your job or a situation that’s making you sour from the inside out. Another ‘sleep obstruction’ to consider here is sleep apnea, which must be taken seriously and discussed with your doctor ASAP.
This is due to late dinners or low levels of digestive enzymes or gastric acid. If food hangs out in the stomach or gut for too long it can start to ferment and irritate the gut, and the brain (see gut-brain connection, everywhere you look) Undigested food weighs us down, in all ways including mental.
We’re Just Not Very Good At Sleep
Great, another thing to feel bad about, and work on until it’s “optimized”…
Before you despair, relax – improving sleep isn’t that hard and the benefits on your body and mind and life are worth it.
If you’re interested in cleaning up up your sleep act – see this post on Natural Sleep Remedies that really work (it includes ideas like less screen time before bed time, a mega calming nightly pre-bed ritual, maybe more magnesium, a blackout dark bedroom, a healthier irritant-free stimulant-free dinner, less sugar and fewer carbs throughout the day, catching your first sleep wave before 10pm, a proper plan to actively manage daily stress, and etc etc)
A Nutritional Therapist or Health Coach could help you get to the bottom of these issues and help remove the proverbial thorn from your side…
If I wake up tired, can coffee save the day?
Coffee beans are the seeds of certain types of coffee berries, and apart from being roasted, they’re usually minimally processed so they’re pretty natural. And yes coffee is energizing thanks to the caffeine which inhibits adenosine in the brain and pumps up adrenaline – one of our fight or flight hormones that help us cope during emergencies.
It can cause….
- More alertness, attention, focus and memory
- More physical energy (thanks to elevated blood sugar and adrenaline)
- A better mood (thanks to more dopamine and glutamine) to deal with whatever is happening.
Are there health benefits from drinking coffee?
Coffee contains quite a lot of antioxidants (called polyphenols) and other compounds that have neuro-protective and anti inflammatory properties. There is a significant amount of robust evidence emerging showing that in fact, drinking a couple cups of coffee a day doesn’t cause us the harm we used to think it does, and actually, it might be doing us some good.
Most recently, a scientific review published in JAMA Internal Medicine found longevity benefits associated with nearly every level and type of coffee consumption. Drinking coffee was found to be associated with a lower risk of early death — virtually regardless of how much you drink and whether or not it’s caffeinated.
Another large study published last year found the same longevity benefits of coffee drinking, with mortality inversely related to coffee consumption for heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease!
So should we all be drinking more coffee?
Coffee has some down-sides to consider – It can be highly addictive and it does alter our stress hormones, so after a while if we’re overdoing it, drinking coffee regularly can make us start to feel wired, tired and overall depleted.
If any of the following sound familiar to you, you should probably take a break from coffee for a while (around 3 weeks, and see how you feel) …
- You get nervous, anxious, shaky, or experience heart palpitations from coffee. Even if just 2 cups make you feel this way, you may be a poor metabolizer of caffeine (something that is genetically determined)
- Coffee makes you cranky and irritable
- You have adrenal fatigue and wake up tired every day or hit an energy slump wall every afternoon at around 3pm
- You drink 2 – 4 cups a day and struggle to fall asleep at night, despite good sleep hygiene
- You’re a woman and are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
- You think you’re addicted to coffee and wouldn’t be able to function without it.
But then what?
Caffeine Alternatives That Provide Energy
- Dandelion Herbal Blend
- Reishi Mushroom Tea
- Matcha (still caffeinated though)
- Yerba Mate
- Any herbal tea of your choice
What if you’re absolutely fine with coffee and none of the above apply to you?
If you think you tolerate coffee well, great! Continue drinking it.
Here are some healthier ways to have your coffee…
- An espresso has less caffeine than a drip cup of coffee (so if you want to cut back a bit, there’s a plan)
- Drink it black rather than adding milk and sugar
- Be mindful of how much coffee you drink and find the right amount for you, stopping before you’ve had too much.
- Try adding fats to your diet (You’ve probably heard of Bulletproof Coffee, which blends MCT oil and a bit of grass-fed butter or ghee with high-quality, organic coffee)
When you add good fats to your coffee, the fat satisfies you for hours while keeping your insulin from spiking. Fats keeps you full and balanced when drinking coffee, as opposed to sugar that spikes then crashes your blood sugar.
My Morning Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
(makes 2 servings)
- 2 cups brewed coffee (organic, single origin)
- ½ teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)
- ½ teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon MCT oil
Blend all ingredients in a blender (I use a NutriBullet). Sprinkle with a dash of ground cinnamon. Enjoy!
Note: If you have high irregular blood lipids or cholesterol issues, check with your doctor before taking MCTs and saturated fats.
MCTs can cause certain chemicals called ketones to build up in the body. This can be a problem for people with diabetes. Avoid using MCTs if you have diabetes.
Because MCTs are processed primarily by the liver, they can cause serious problems in people with liver disease. Do not use MCTs if you have cirrhosis or other liver problems
Special thanks to Klara for sharing all of her tips with us!
How do you stay energized throughout the day? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!