Coffee Alternatives – Worth the Hype? 

by Nicola Cartwright, Cofounder of Powderful

Why are so many people are using coffee alternatives right now? 

America runs on stimulants and it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t enjoy their daily fix of caffeine in the morning (me included!). In fact, for most of us, it’s hard to imagine a day without it. Caffeine provides an immediate energy boost. It may also protect us against some illnesses, according to Johns Hopkins₁ and increases epinephrine levels to keep us focused₂. So that makes it a healthy drink, right? Not quite. For most of us, the side effects of many cups, or one large dose of caffeine are not so helpful: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Jitters 
  • Energy crashes 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Irritability 
  • Difficulty falling asleep. 

There is a huge market for people switching coffee alternatives. Most alternatives contain herbal ingredients called adaptogens, or medicinal mushrooms. But are they worth the hype? Let’s look at the options and the benefits of making the switch! 

Low Caffeine Alternatives 

Mushroom coffee (such as Ryze, Four Sigmatic) is a blend of ground mushrooms and coffee. Mushroom coffee uses Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Cordyceps, or Reishi rather than culinary mushrooms. 

Pros: Mushroom coffee has a lower amount of coffee than a standard cup. So you will get your fix, while also benefiting from the herbal ingredients. If your goal is to cut down on rather than cut out coffee, this could be the option for you.

Cons: Mushroom coffee can be expensive, with 30 doses costing $60 or more. Consider this if you drink more than one cup a day. Consumers also report that the earthy taste of mushroom coffee can be tough to get used to. 

Caffeine-Free Mushroom and Adaptogen Blends 

Mushroom and adaptogen blends increase your energy and focus using natural, caffeine-free ingredients. Our favorite is Powderful. They are often blended with spices to increase the antioxidant content of the blend. 

Pros: No caffeine means no crash. So you experience sustained energy, and other benefits of the adaptogens and mushrooms. These products tend to be a lot cheaper than mushroom coffee and taste better with the added spices. 

Cons: Switching to caffeine-free from 10 cups a day can lead to feelings of withdrawal. You can start by using half coffee, half adaptogen blend to begin with, and reduce the coffee as you get used to it. 

Benefits of Using Mushrooms and Adaptogens 

Coffee alternatives are a great solution for those trying to reduce caffeine intake. The herbal ingredients are purported to have many benefits. Functional mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga show promising study results for their effects on: 

  • Focus and memory₃ 
  • Digestive health₄ 
  • Skin health₅ 
  • Immune function₆ 
  • Energy levels7 

Their adaptogenic qualities can also reduce the jitters and negative effects of coffee. So you can still get your caffeine fix, but in a lower amount, and with health benefits. Using mushroom coffee doesn’t result in the same coffee ‘crash’. Caffeine and sugar cravings are less prevalent when energy levels are more stable.

What should I look out for when considering a coffee alternative? 

It’s important to know you are getting a quality caffeine alternative. Things to look out for: 1. Does the packaging show a dietary supplements panel? 

The FDA states that supplements must display a dietary supplements panel. If you don’t see this, you are likely dealing with a brand that does not make the product to the necessary standards. 

  1. Does their website or packaging mention GMP standards? 

GMP is Good Manufacturing Practice. This means they have manufactured the product in a regulated, hygienic facility. 

  1. Does the product contain a proprietary blend? 

Look at the dietary supplements panel on the label. A proprietary blend lists all the ingredients but does not include how much of each ingredient is in it. This allows brands to list powerful ingredients like Lion’s Mane, but only use a tiny amount that will not have any effect. Always go for brands that list the full amount of each ingredient. 

References 

  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-reasons-why-the-righ t-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8964766 
  3. https://restorativemedicine.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/lions-mane.pdf 4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464621001870 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5584359/
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