A health science guide examines alternatives to caffeine.
At age 26, Beshara was diagnosed with a heart condition that required him to drastically cut down on his caffeine consumption. For the young business owner, the recommendation seemed impossible. “I took it for granted that coffee was the ambitious person’s best friend,” writes the debut author in his introduction, but after five years of experimentation, “I have learned about the different compounds from around the world that allow me to consume a fraction of the caffeine I used to, yet produce a multiple of the energy and productivity that coffee once delivered.” In this book, Beshara takes readers on a journey into the world of nootropics, adaptogens, mushrooms, anti-inflammatories, and other noncaffeinated methods of keeping the body energized throughout the day. Nootropics—a broad category of compounds intended to improve cognitive function that run the gamut from safe and healthy to dangerous and addictive—take up the bulk of the volume’s pages. They include alphabet soup compounds like Omega-3 EPA and Alpha-GPC as well as obscure plants like ashwagandha and bacopa monnieri. Adaptogens are destressing agents. Beshara structures the work like a series of product reviews, giving each compound or plant a sustainability score (how safe it is to consume regularly) as well as discussing how well it works and any negative side effects it might have. Panax ginseng, for example, receives a sustainability score of only three out of five (too low for the author to recommend). While this adaptogen has displayed signs of improving cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s patients, “Panax ginseng must be avoided in pregnancy. It has been shown to increase the risk of birth defects. Continuous use should also be limited to six months or less due to its hormone-like effects on the body.” Beshara’s book—written with Engle (The Concussion Repair Manual, 2017) and debut author Haynes—is short at just over 120 pages, but it features an extensive bibliography that includes the many studies on which the text is based. Those who are looking to consume less caffeine will be intrigued by this extensive list of alternatives, though nothing the work describes sounds quite as good as a regular cup of joe.
A worthy, comprehensive exploration of supplements to improve brain function and energy.