Diet and nutrition

Dr Mark Winwood, Clinical Lead for Mental Health Services at AXA Health

Feeling sluggish? 9 pick-me-ups that are caffeine-free

Diet and Nutrition

21 December 2020

Mark Winwood

Written by Dr. Mark Winwood

Dr Mark Winwood is a leading figure in the mental health field and AXA Health’s Consultant Psychologist.

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Reducing your caffeine intake has various benefits – from better sleep to fewer tummy troubles. But it’s often hard to tell whether a product contains caffeine and how much. Small amounts are unlikely to be listed on food labels so look for ingredients like coffee beans, cacao, or green tea. Many teas, chocolates and sweets, and over-the-counter medicines contain caffeine and even decaf coffee contains small amounts (about the same as you’d find in a hot chocolate).

And if you do reduce the amount of caffeine in your diet, what can you  instead of reaching for a cup of tea or coffee when you're feeling sluggish?

Here are some suggestions from Mark Winwood, Clinical Lead for Mental Health Services at AXA Health for some caffeine-free pick me ups to try when you need a boost.

  • Drink lots of water

    You may be surprised by how much fluid you take in with cups of tea during the day… Make sure you replace your usual caffeinated drinks with an alternative. If you’re feeling tired and headachy, it could be because you’re dehydrated.

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  • Get outside

    Sitting at a desk, reading computer screens and office air conditioning can take their toll. A 15 minute walk outside during your lunch break, for example, will invigorate you with oxygen and daylight - even on a grey day - and kick start the rest of your day

  • Workout for your brain

    Stimulate your brain with a crossword or Sudoku.

  • Sweet treats

    You don’t need chocolate to pick you up in the afternoon, reach for piece of fruit, like an apple or a clementine, instead and feel the rush of natural sugars.

  • The big chill

    Try drinking ice-cold water. You can also run your wrists under a cold tap and splash some on your face, or suck on an ice cube.

  • Winter warmers

    Giving up your caffeine fix can leave you craving a warm drink during cold months – try a cup of soup (miso is quick and easy) or a zingy peppermint herbal tea instead.

  • Cheating doesn’t pay

    Don’t be tempted to substitute sugary drinks and foods to get the boost you got from your caffeinated ones…you’ll find the immediate payoff is short-lived and followed by a slump.

  • Take a nap, or meditate

    It seems obvious, but perhaps you’re feeling sluggish because you are, quite simply, tired. Rather than fight it, why not recharge with a power nap or a few focused minutes of meditation?

Sources & further reading

The Center for Science in the Public Interest

Caffeine Informer

BBC Goodfood

European Food Information Council 

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