Does your energy level take a dive by mid-morning? Do you feel so tired by the end of the day that you just plop down on the couch when you get home? There are a number of reasons why you may feel fatigued. Simple things like not getting enough sleep or too much stress can do it but there’s a good chance your diet is a factor too. Ever wondered how what you eat and drink impacts your energy level? Read on and find out how to eat to have more energy.
Are You Getting Enough Calories and Carbohydrates?
If you’re restricting calories too much or eating a very low carbohydrate diet, your energy level may suffer. The same is true if you’re eating a diet high in high-glycemic carbs. Though high-glycemic carbs, foods that contain white flour or are high in sugar, may give you a temporary energy jolt, they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin response that causes your blood sugar to fall rapidly, leaving you feeling tired and hungry.
The key to avoiding rapid fluctuations in blood sugar is to choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber and eat them with a source of protein to moderate the blood sugar and insulin response. Almond butter on a whole grain cracker or cottage cheese with fruit is a better choice than a candy bar because the protein in the peanut butter and the fiber in the cracker cause a more controlled rise in blood sugar to boost and maintain your energy level and mood. Carbohydrates are also important for making serotonin, a brain biochemical that gives you a sense of wellbeing and suppresses your appetite.
Refueling with carbohydrates is especially important after a long workout since your muscle glycogen stores have been depleted and need to be replaced. Don’t restrict carbs and calories to lose weight to the point that you feel tired all the time.
Start Your Day out Right
You might be rushed in the morning, but don’t skimp on breakfast. Fill a crockpot with old-fashioned oats and water and let it cook overnight. Stir in a scoop of protein powder or cottage cheese to increase the protein or enjoy a cup of Greek yogurt with berries first thing in the morning. After an overnight fast, your brain needs glucose to help you avoid fatigue and “brain fog.” Plus, skipping breakfast will leave you so famished by mid-morning that’ll you’ll eat whatever’s around – like an unhealthy snack from the vending machine. A study published in the journal Nutrition showed that medical students that skipped breakfast reported more fatigue than those who didn’t. Give your body some fuel when you wake up or feel tired and hungry later.
Watch Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine reduces fatigue and makes you feel more alert short-term, but after a period of abstinence, you may experience the effects of caffeine withdrawal – decreased alertness, fatigue, headache and a “down” mood. You can reduce the risk of this happening by limiting the amount of caffeine you take in. If you enjoy the taste of coffee, drink decaf instead. Choose decaf coffee that’s natural decaffeinated using a water processing method rather than a solvent. An alternative to tea for tea lovers is herbal tea or rooibos tea, an African red tea that’s free of caffeine but rich in antioxidants.
The Impact of Micronutrients Have on Your Energy Level
Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause a low energy level. Iron deficiency is one of the most common ones in premenopausal women. Low iron levels can lead to iron-deficiency anemia that reduces your exercise tolerance and makes you feel tired all the time. Other vitamin deficiencies that can cause fatigue is a deficiency in vitamin B12, a vitamin present almost exclusively in meat and dairy foods, and vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies are surprisingly common. It’s worth having your doctor check a vitamin D level if you’re eating right and still feeling tired. Have them check and iron and B12 level while you’re at it.
Are You Dehydrated?
Mild dehydration from not drinking enough water reduces your energy level and causes fatigue. If you do a sweaty workout first thing in the morning and don’t replace the fluids you lost, you may have low-grade fatigue that lasts for the rest of the day. Other signs of mild dehydration include a headache, mood changes and difficulty concentrating. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water a day – and more if you work out. You can get an idea of how hydrated you are by noting the color of our urine. It should be pale yellow in color, not dark if you’re drinking enough water.
The Bottom Line?
What you eat has a major impact on your energy level but if changing your diet doesn’t help, you could have a medical problem like an underactive thyroid gland. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep too. Lack of sleep is a common cause of low energy level. Make sure you’re snoozing soundly at least seven hours a night – every night.
MIT News. “Carbs are essential for effective dieting and good mood”
Nutrition, 2008; 24: 985-989.
Medscape.com. “Even Mild Dehydration May Cause Emotional, Physical Problems”