Energize when Coffee Fails

Here’s what it feels like when coffee fails me. I’ve been drinking coffee for hours, just to keep my eyes open. I feel like I’m trekking to the ends of the earth. My heart rate is heavy, my mind races, I’m dizzy and weak. Yet I also feel like shooting electricity from my fingertips? And not in a badass evil-emperor kind of way. More like a pathetic zombie-listlessly-searching-for-brains kind of way. (I thought this stuff was supposed to HELP.)

THIS, my friend, is what happens when coffee fails. When the miracle beverage is no longer “doing its job” of keeping you alert, awake, and kind of manic.

Why does this happen? Here’s the biological reason.

This is what happens when I'm too tired to function

Coffee Doesn’t Give You Energy

The truth about coffee is that it triggers your body to burn its energy stores. The stimulation we feel from drinking coffee doesn’t actually come from the beans. It comes from us. From our bodies.


Yep. Coffee isn’t PROVIDING anything. Rather it is a trigger. A signal. A catalyst. Coffee tells your body to go into its reserves and light that stuff on fire! It does this by activating your fight-or-flight reaction, otherwise known as the stress response. One study found increased cortisol levels – which is the stress hormone – appeared in people all day after having their morning caffeine. And for those who hadn’t had caffeine in awhile, the substance boosted their cortisol considerably. Bam!

Long story short, coffee doesn’t bring any nourishment on its own.

Ever noticed how satisfying it feels to eat something sugary with your coffee? Or sugary AND fatty? Well, there’s a reason for that. Whether you pour it into your drink or eat it on the side, sugar and cream provide quick energy. That way, the coffee has something to help you burn. Often, this will give you with a big burst of energy.

But that burst is not going to last forever. And once the energy is gone, no amount of caffeine is going to replenish it, because that’s not caffeine’s jam.

So THIS is why drinking coffee when you’re already tired seems to “do nothing” (and maybe even makes things worse). Because it is lighting you on fire, even when you have nothing to burn.

So you’re NOT running out of coffee energy. You’re running out of personal energy. Then you become a zombie. Blurg.

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When Coffee Fails, Actually Your Energy Fails

In my last year of writing my dissertation, I pushed myself over the edge. To a place where not even coffee could help me.

I felt obligated to spend every moment of my waking hours working on my PhD defense. Yet I knew it wouldn’t be enough.

I needed to be on point. At all times. I needed to be awake and INTELLIGENT. Not just barely able to prop myself up at meetings. My most intelligent self! [Insert expletive here]

To Sumarize:

  • No time could be wasted.
  • Coffee ran out of energy boosting power and left me weak.

I started to panic.

Geez, was I desperate. I was willing to try anything. And that’s when I figured something out. How to keep my brain in “I woke up like this” mode all day long. How to not need coffee at all. And I’m actually going to tell you what it is right now 🙂

The Solution: Replenish your Natural Energy (8 Ways)

Alright, so you’re going to be shocked (I’m sure). But my actual solution for when coffee fails to uplift you is to replenish your energy like nature intended – naturally! Or rather not deplete it doing stupid things. Here are my 8 favorite ways:

Ripe pears - a healthy alternative to a cup of coffee

1. Eat Some Super-Healthy Food

Eat very healthy, raw, nutrient-dense food. This gives you real, pure energy that will burn for awhile, leave you feeling refreshed. Some favorites:
  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Chia Seeds *

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2. Do a Five-Minute Workout

This gets your nervous system bumping AND even helps generate brain tissue growth. Fantastic options:
  • Walk around the block
  • Do sit-ups or an ab workout
  • Yoga poses (think: 1-2 sun salutations)
  • Run in place
  • Dance party to one song!

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3. Meditate

Meditating for just 1-5 mins is great for anti-anxiety, it calms your mind, and truly gives your more time and mental energy. I like:
  • Anti-anxiety meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Grounding meditation
  • Color meditation

4. Eliminate Distractions

Things like social media pull your energy away. Here are the top things to stop giving your energy away to:
  • Your phone
  • Other people
  • Media & news
  • Fears of the future
  • Social Media in all its forms

5. Do Your To-Dos and NOTHING ELSE

Okay, this one really comes in handy before coffee fails you. (So you don’t get to that point.)

It is just so nice to hyper-focus because 100% of your available energy is on the tasks at hand (hypothetically). Once something is done and checked once just MOVE ON. Don’t keep re-reading what you did. Just focus on checking things off and that’s it. Believe me, its more powerful than it seems. You’ll get done faster. And won’t need another doubleshot. 

A nice tall glass of clean water6. Drink TONS of Water

If coffee fails you, perhaps you don’t need more. Although “basic,” some nice clear cool water may be just the thing for your tired brain! Heres’s some fun ways to get more of the life-giving stuff into your system (so that it can function properly):
  • Infuse your water with lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint
  • Try a sparkling water
  • Chug 8 ounces of water (see my post Mental Health Trick: Keep Dry Skin Happy for my quick-hydrating technique!)
  • Fill a big water bottle and drink it over 1 hour

7. Stand Up to Work

I know you’ve heard of the standing desk craze. Well yes, it is more healthy for you. But you know what else? It is also more energizing than sitting in your chair like a lump. Get up on your feet, blast some upbeat tunes, and watch yourself kill that to do list baby!

8. Have a Quit Time – and Obey It

To keep you motivated and avoid procrastinating (which also just drains your energy), have an absolute quit time (and not at midnight either). I’m talking a good old end-of-day stop time. With this in place, you won’t be quite so tempted to spend your energy on non-critical tasks and chit-chat. And without those things, you’ll have more energy to spend on what you consciously deem important.

My Philosophy: Only Coffee-Up When You Have Energy to Spare

Am I 100% against drinking coffee? Absolutely not.

Am I 100% against drinking coffee when you’re hungry and dead-tired? Yes. 🙂

If you need to get things done, taking care of yourself is a WAY better option than drinking coffee. Counter-intuitively, some self-care actually works to boost your energy. Believe me, I finished my PhD using these tricks. Ultimately, I couldn’t do it without my health. ♥

Much Love,


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