Nurses devote their entire careers to helping other people stay healthy, but to do so effectively, they must stay healthy themselves. While energy drinks may give you that much-needed boost during your night shift, these beverages typically contain caffeine and other harmful additives. So, when you’re facing a 12-hour shift, how can you have enough energy to stay alert without the negative side effects?
Some alternative beverages, while they may not always work as a substitute for your energy drink, can help you stay awake and maintain your health (at least most of the time).
1. Green Tea
When you think of tea, your first thought might be of a boring afternoon tea-time, but tea can actually be a lot of fun! An unlimited variety of tea varieties, flavors, or infusions are easily available and reasonably priced. Drink it hot or cold, depending on your preference. Teas contain quite a bit of caffeine, which boosts your energy, but it has the added bonus of containing certain substances that benefit your health. For example, green tea includes antioxidants and minerals that are good for your health and diet and also provide the much-needed caffeine that helps get you through your shift. Alternatives to green tea include black and white teas.
Brew your own tea at home or work rather than purchasing bottled iced tea ‒ it contains a lot of sugar. Plus, brewing is easy ‒ even on your busy schedule. Pour some boiling water over 1 teaspoon of tea leaves for a hot drink and 2 teaspoons for iced. Let it steep for three to five minutes, and voilà! Pour it in your portable mug or bottle or brew a cup during your break.
2. Yerba Mate
Originating in the South American rainforest, yerba mate (MAH-teh), or “mate,” comes from the holly tree. A staple in many areas of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, it has recently become popular in other parts of the world. While you prepare it similarly to black or green tea, many experts argue that it contains even more beneficial properties. Not only does it contain caffeine, but it also has antioxidants, minerals and other beneficial substances, which combine to make it an excellent choice for a healthy energy boost. Mate can be brewed just as a strong as coffee, but it lightens your mood and strengthens your health at the same time. Unlike coffee, however, it’s not acidic or addictive, which means you don’t have to worry about having caffeine jitters or a weak stomach during your 12-hour shift.
Find yerba mate in the international foods section or the tea aisle at your grocery store. To prepare it easily and cheaply, buy loose-leaf mate and use a strainer or tea ball infuser. Similar to tea, yerba mate can be consumed hot or cold. Rather than preparing it with boiling water, use hot water to brew it to preserve its nutrients. Steep a half-ounce of loose-leaf yerba mate for three to five minutes for a hot pick-me-up, or, alternatively, let it chill and pour it over ice.
3. Ginger Root Tea
Ginger root benefits your immune system and digestion, and it may help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, among other benefits. Even though it contains no caffeine, and thus can’t provide an immediate energy boost, its various health benefits may help you maintain your energy levels and stay healthy in the long term. Additionally, it also can help relieve muscle pain and allow you to relax, helping you stay calm during your shift.
Make ginger root tea. Depending on how spicy you want the flavor, brew it for 5 minutes or longer. To boost the brew, add mint leaves, lemon, honey, or other herbs and spices. Drink it cold or hot, depending on your preference. Drink a cup of ginger root tea when you first wake up, or sip on it throughout your day or night shift.
4. Fresh Juice
Caffeine is not the only way our bodies produce energy. Our bodies produce it from the foods we consume, but, of course, you know this: You’re a nurse! While you may be tempted to load up on sugary snacks to add little bursts of energy throughout your shift, it’s not a healthy way to eat. Green and fresh juices, however, help you feel full and stay awake. Literally, thousands of recipes are available that will appeal to every palate.
To make your juice, some of the best, easiest ingredients include leafy greens; they contain iron and vitamins A, C, and K. Nuts and seeds provide much-needed protein and help you sustain your energy levels. Berries are loaded with antioxidants. To appeal to your sweet tooth, add some citrus fruits, kiwis, and bananas, all of which have many health benefits. However, take care to balance the sugar.
Coffee frequently appears in the list of substances to avoid, but, in controlled amounts, it’s still better than commercial energy drinks. Night shifts are long and hard, so try to have a cup of coffee at the beginning of your shift and go for some of the other options on this list during your breaks. Doing so also ensures that you don’t risk a caffeine overload when your shift is over, and it’s time to sleep.
When consuming your coffee, however, you can make some smarter choices. For example, while an espresso may taste stronger, it actually often contains less caffeine than drip coffee. Also, eliminating sugar from your coffee or substituting it with stevia or honey helps you avoid overloading your body with excessive sugar.
Whether it’s coffee, tea or a change to your diet, explore alternatives to your go-to energy drink. You’ll not only enjoy a refreshing new taste, but you can get the added health benefits from these options. Find the drink that works best for you. Remember: It takes a few weeks to form a new habit, but once you do, you’ll love the new, improved, energetic you!