Coffee remains the most popular choice for early morning workers trying to get an immediate boost. As much as 83 percent of Americans qualify themselves as regular coffee drinkers, and anyone who's consumed the beverage knows the effects of its high caffeine content, which include reduced fatigue and higher alertness.

But coffee also has some downsides. For people especially sensitive to caffeine, the excessive amount in coffee can cause anxiety and restlessness, sometimes referred to as the "jitters." For pregnant and breastfeeding women, it's best to avoid sources of caffeine this strong. Coffee is also highly acidic, and can exacerbate the symptoms of certain gastrointestinal diseases. On top of that, some people just hate the taste of coffee.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to get a morning boost--without the need to turn to coffee.

Alternative Sources for a Morning Boost

Try one or more of these coffee alternatives if you want a less intense, less bitter-tasting way to pick yourself up in the morning:

1. Exercise. It may seem counterintuitive that an activity that specifically demands energy expenditure can leave you feeling more energetic, but research shows that's exactly what happens. Regularly exercising, using low-intensity exercises for periods of 20 minutes or more several times a week, was associated with a 20 percent increase in energy levels throughout the day (compared to a control group). More intense exercise was associated with even higher levels of energy. The boost is also immediate and short-term, so if you can squeeze in a quick 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise in the morning, you might get enough energy to keep you going throughout the day.

2. Tea. If you like the idea of a hot beverage to perk yourself up in the morning, but don't want the high caffeine content or bitter taste of coffee, you can try switching to tea. The average caffeine content of a cup of coffee ranges from 100 to 150 mg, while the content of a cup of black tea is around 50 mg, and green tea is around 25 or 30 mg. On top of that, tea is loaded with antioxidants, giving you additional health benefits that can make you feel better throughout the day.

3. Kombucha. If you're looking for something a little stronger, consider switching to Kombucha as a morning beverage. Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that offers a sweet, somewhat sour flavor--for some people it's an acquired taste. The main benefit of Kombucha, in addition to its typically mild caffeine content, is its probiotic cultures, which are highly beneficial for your digestive system. Many regular Kombucha drinkers report feeling energetic after consuming a beverage in the morning.

4. Healthy breakfasts. Instead of ingesting a potent beverage meant solely to trick your body and mind into feeling more energetic, why not supply your body with more direct energy? When you eat a well-balanced breakfast, you'll supply your body with energy that will last throughout the day, helping you feel fuller, more focused, and more alert. Make sure to choose foods that are high in protein and/or complex carbohydrates; for example, you could cook up a couple of eggs with whole-grain toast, or have some Greek yogurt (which is high in protein) with some fresh fruit.

5. Smoothies (with healthy fats). Smoothies are another interesting beverage choice for a quick morning pick-me-up, serving as a breakfast substitute for those trying to leave in a hurry. Most smoothies offer plenty of fruit, which are a good source of complex carbohydrates, but they're also high in sugar, which means you'll set yourself up for a mid-morning or afternoon dip. To balance this side effect, be sure to include some healthy fats in your smoothie, such as from peanut butter or dairy products.

Getting More Sleep

You can also reduce your need for an early morning pickup by ensuring that you get enough sleep every night. You can improve your chances of getting a full, restful 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night by making sure to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, eliminating distractions before bed, allowing plenty of time for yourself to wind down, eating healthier, and (ironically enough), reducing caffeine in your daily diet. If you can get enough sleep on a consistent basis, you'll naturally wake up feeling more energized--and ready to tackle the day even without a boost. It takes time and commitment, but it's definitely worth it.

Published on: Nov 30, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.