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Beating All-Nighters on Wall Street: Natural Alternatives to Red Bull and Amphetamines

It’s no secret that bankers work brutally long hours under high-stress conditions. For interns, analysts and associates, work can bleed late into the evening and sometimes into the following morning. To cope, bankers often use shortcuts to boost energy and get through the day: coffee, Red Bull, energy shots and even amphetamines.

One U.S. investment banker who asked to remain anonymous said that Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is “very prevalent” on Wall Street. It even has a nickname in some circles: “diet coke” – with the connotation of it being a similar, albeit less powerful version of cocaine.

Needless to say, there are serious drawbacks to the long working hours. Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old who was interning at Bank of America in London, tragically died last month before completing the 10-week program. During the aftermath, anonymous posters on a Wall Street forum suggested that he may have worked as many as three all-nighters in the week leading up to his death.

Stress, exhaustion and the reliance on temporary energy boosters have obvious, well-documented side effects: high blood pressure, increase cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and anxiety to name a few. But stimulants also create a false sense of energy, tricking the body into believing it doesn’t need to create its own, says Dr. Laura Chan, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. “Stimulants actually deplete long-term energy reserves,” she said.

Living a healthier lifestyle while working long, stress-filled hours is difficult, but not impossible. It starts with the core activities – diet and exercise – but there are also several natural herbs and vitamins that can help boost energy, decrease stress and increase focus, Chan said.

The Essentials

Good nutrition plays a critical role in creating sustainable energy, says Chan. Ditch the sugar-filled muffins and pastries that provide only short-term energy and replace them foods high in protein, like smoothies, eggs on whole wheat toast, a vegetable omelet or even peanut butter on a banana.

Second, drink plenty of water. Coffee and energy drinks are diuretics that lead to dehydration, which can quickly lead to “brain fatigue,” she said.

Exercise, often the first thing that busy people cut from their schedule, is another critical component to staying fresh. This doesn’t mean you need to spend an hour a day at the gym, though. “Just 15 minutes of moderate exercise is crucial to minimizing stress hormones and increasing oxygen capacity, which boosts the amount of natural energy the body can produce,” she said. Try walking to work. Over time, it will make a difference during those late nights.

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Secondary Options

There are several all-natural supplements that can boost energy and help the body handle stress without all the drawbacks of more temporary solutions, said Chan. These should be used in conjunction with diet and exercise.

B Complex Vitamins: B vitamins play a crucial role in brain function and supporting natural energy production. They also help power the adrenal glands, which act like our body’s battery. In stressful situations, the body will release adrenaline through these glands. B complex vitamins can be very supportive in replenishing the battery.

Ginseng: Caffeine and amphetamines make you feel energized temporarily, but in reality they are depleting the body’s natural energy reserves by secreting adrenaline. Ginseng can help the body from wearing down. Chan suggests Siberian Ginseng, known to strengthen the body and make it more resistant to daily stress.

Ashwagandha: An Indian herb, Ashwagandha provides energy but without overly stimulating the body. Chan suggests it for people who need energy but who also tend to get anxious. Ashwagandha can help provide energy and even support for sleep.

These natural alternatives aren’t going to work as quickly in the body as traditional simulants, but they’ll help provide more long-term sustainable energy. B vitamins are faster-acting than Ginseng and Ashwagandha.

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