Health concerns about the typical energy drink are everywhere, so you may not want to depend on them for energy. After all, not only can they be extremely high in caffeine, but they also tend to be full of sugar, artificial colorings and other unnatural ingredients. They don’t exactly fit my whole food, traditional diet criteria. The question is, how do you replace them?

I’ve been reading an interesting book about energy by Jonny Bowden called, "The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy." It has been really insightful, as Jonny goes through a holistic view of why we have low energy. It is a worthwhile read (despite the fact that he never covers my own low-energy problem, caused by low iron levels). I agree completely with Jonny that for good energy, we have to depend on more then an energy-boosting drink. Our sleep, eating habits and stress level all effect how we feel.

But having an afternoon pick-me-up can be helpful, which is why I wanted to share a few recipes for simple homemade, energy drinks.

Chia Pomegranate Green Tea Cooler

Directions: Brew 1 green tea bag (I prefer organic Jasmine green tea), for 1-3 minutes in 6-8 ounces of hot water. Remove tea bag. Add 1 tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate (I used this brand: Jarrow Formulas Pomegranate Juice Concentrate). Sweeten to taste with honey or stevia. Stir in 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour over a cup of ice. Stir until chilled and enjoy.

Why it works: Tea is a natural source of caffeine, however it also contains an amino acid called “theanine” which is a natural relaxer with anti-anxiety properties. It helps energize you without making you jittery. When you are stressed, both the energy boost from the caffeine and the relaxing effect of the theanine can be helpful. Pomegranate juice is full of nutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants and is low in sugar. This healthy juice can help give you a boost from nutrition alone. (It’s also worth noting that according to Bowden, it is called the “natural Viagra” and has been traditionally associated with love and sexual vitality.) The chia seeds were traditionally used as a support for long journeys. The gel-like substance they form when put in liquid absorbs slowly into the body, for a slow release of nutrients and energy. Chia seeds are high in vitamins and minerals, making them a favorite with many nutritionists.

Homemade Chocolate Milk

Directions: In a blender, mix 1 cup of whole milk with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of fair trade cocoa powder, a dash of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. Blend until combined.

Why it works: Milk gives you good source of both protein and fat for sustained energy. Milk also contains some natural sugar that gives a boost of energy. Use grade B maple syrup for a higher nutrient content, and you will add both more natural sugars for a more instant energy boost. The cocoa powder gives some caffeine, as well as more antioxidants and nutrients (such as magnesium). I prefer raw, pastured milk.

Green Drink

Directions: The darling of the raw foodie and many health conscience people, the green drink trend shows no sign of slowing down and there are many green drink mixtures available online. Make according to the package directions, or add a scoop to a smoothie.

Why it works: Green drinks work because they are high in nutrients, very alkalizing (which makes you feel refreshed and energized). Plus, some mixes contain herbs known for their energizing attributes. Mix them with a pomegranate, noni, or other antioxidant-rich juice, or combine with a high protein snack like nuts or canned fish for sustained energy.

The above recipes are gentle, natural options for an energy boost and are perfect for a mid-day drink. Being more natural, and not as high in caffeine, they may not keep you in a working frenzy all night long when you need it, but on the plus side, they offer many health benefits. 

MNN tease photo of wheatgrass shot: Shutterstock

Related stories & drink recipes on MNN:

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.