I love everything about coffee — the smell, the taste, the rush of creative energy that flows to my brain just minutes after my first sip. And until recently, I’d say coffee and I have been in a pretty good relationship. But while once upon a time a morning cup would suffice, I’m now a consistent two-cup-a-day kinda gal — and by “cup” I mean 12 to 16 ounces. It would be one thing if 32 ounces of coffee a day were giving me superhuman powers, but it’s not. Instead, the more I drink, the more it becomes a crutch, only boosting my energy levels up to the point where I feel “normal,” i.e., not about to fall asleep any time I sit down.
So recently, I decided to do an experiment: swap my second coffee (because there’s no way I’m ditching my morning cup) for bone broth every day for at least a week and see what happened.
Why bone broth? A few reasons: it packs some serious nutrition, with a decent amount of complete protein (5 to 10 grams per serving) and collagen, which is being linked to everything from reduced joint pain to stronger hair and nails to improved gut health; it’s got more heft than herbal tea, which I’ve tried (and failed) to sub for coffee in the past; and it’s now insanely convenient, thanks to a number of new brands that are selling prepackaged options and even powdered versions of it that you simply mix with hot water.
If you’re interested in trying bone broth, you can make it yourself (here’s a great recipe for slow cooker beef bone broth), but I’m not that ambitious. After doing some research into the most widely available brands, I ended up ordering Bonafide Provisions Organic Bone Broth (frozen), Kettle & Fire 100% Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth (shelf-stable), and Vital Proteins Certified Organic Bone Broth Collagen (powdered, made from dried bone broth).
Here’s what I noticed when I added them to my daily rotation.
I got a different kind of energy boost.
I was kind of nervous when I started this experiment and I fully expected to fail (positivity isn’t always my strong suit). So I was pleasantly surprised when I did, in fact, feel pretty great while sipping on my 3 p.m. cup of bone broth. It delivered a dose of what I’d call “calm energy.” Unlike coffee, which can make me feel amped up, anxious, and nervous if I drink too much, bone broth simultaneously increased my ability to focus and made me feel comforted and calm.
This may have happened for a few reasons: For one, drinking too much coffee can actually deplete levels of B vitamins, which help your body make neurotransmitters that regulate mood and stress — so drinking less coffee over time might result in reduced stress due to higher nutrient stores. But, more realistically, the immediate calming sensation I experienced was likely due to the fact that I was sipping on something that tasted like chicken soup, which always seems to soothe my frayed nerves. The energy boost I got, I assume, had more to do with the calories and protein in the bone broth — meaning I was actually giving my brain nutrients it needed to function as opposed to tricking it into a state of alertness with caffeine.
This isn’t to say I felt perfect. The first few afternoons of nixing coffee I was still dealing with some drowsiness and crankiness. But the switch was less painful than expected.
Bone broth cured my chronic munchies.
Whenever I grab an afternoon coffee at work, I tend to also grab a snack. Maybe it’s mental, since coffee seems to pair so well with a cookie, or granola bar, or Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (man, those are good). Or maybe — as many Internet anecdotes claim — the coffee itself triggers sugar and carb cravings. Either way, come 3 p.m., the only thing keeping me awake is a severe case of the munchies.
But when I sipped on bone broth, I felt satisfied without needing an additional snack. Each brand I tried clocked in at around 40 to 50 calories per serving and contained 10 grams of protein, so the fact that it curbed my carb cravings makes total sense. And on days when I needed a little something extra, I started to add a drizzle of olive oil, chopped garlic or herbs, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to up the flavor and satiety factor.
And I’m not even mad about it. Some hot summer days, a soup-like beverage does nothing but induce rage … and that’s not the goal of my experiment.
I had a good run — a solid week — before I had an afternoon cup of coffee after a night of lackluster sleep. And the upside was that it delivered a more immediate and noticeable buzz than I was used to as result of my overall reduced caffeine intake.
I’m not going back to my old ways though. The plan is to continue with bone broth in the afternoon (with some herbal teas thrown into the mix) and use coffee as more of a strategic tool when nothing else will cut it. Because sometimes it really is the only solution.
What a Nutritionist Says
Aiming for about three to four 8-ounce cups of coffee a day is a totally reasonable goal that’s inline with the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute — more than many of us might assume!
“With that in mind, if you’re cutting back on the caffeinated stuff, I’d rather you go for unsweetened teas most of the time and opt for the occasional bone broth when you have a hankering for something a bit more savory,” she advises. “That’s because bone broth, depending on the type you buy, can be loaded with sodium — some contain up to 40% of your recommended intake of sodium for the whole day! Teas and coffee are naturally calorie- and sugar-free, which makes them an easy choice to switch it up between regular H2O.”