The stresses and pressures of modern-day life have left many of us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and with little time or energy to take care of ourselves.
It’s far too easy, perhaps familiar, to rely on sugar or another coffee to make it through the day. Unfortunately, the quick high that comes with sugar and / or caffeine follows a quick low leaving you as drained as before, if not more so.
So, how can you sustain your energy throughout the day?
1. Eat a nutrient rich diet
The first step to maintaining energy throughout the day is a healthy, nutrient rich diet. Your body uses nutrients as fuel to work efficiently. Filling up on protein and whole grains is a great option as these nutrients take longer for your body to break down, ensuring you have a consistent supply of energy throughout the day. Eating protein (meat, fish, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds) is also a great way to stabilize blood sugar levels. Pair this with leafy greens and colourful veg and cut back on starchy carbs (white potatoes, white pasta, white rice and white bread), replacing with wholegrains.
2. Diversify your diet
Certain vitamins and minerals are particularly useful when you want to support energy levels as they help moderate the stress response. And as anyone feeling stressed out will know, emotional exhaustion can be just as crippling as physical tiredness. Anxiety and depression will drain your energy and affect your sleep patterns making you feel even more tired. Counteract the fatigue by including the following in your diet…
Vitamin C found in cherries, red peppers, kale, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, strawberries, spinach, oranges, lemons, mangoes, asparagus.
Vitamin E found in nuts (especially almonds and peanuts), seeds, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains (like brown rice and wholemeal bread).
B Vitamins found in wholegrains, cereals, brewer’s yeast, almonds, miso, liver, milk, fish, sprouts, green leafy veg.
Magnesium found in: brown rice, beans, nuts, seeds, avocado, celery, apple, pineapple.
3. Don’t rely on caffeine
After consuming caffeine, levels of cortisol in the body are similar to that experienced during acute stress. Drinking coffee, in other words, mimics stress within the body. If you’re already stressed (and sleep deprivation is a form of stress) then the consumption of caffeine amplifies the stress response. An increased stress response is undesirable due to the knock-on effects on other endocrine systems. By avoiding caffeine (you may wish to reduce your intake overtime or stop consumption after say 2pm) you’ll create a calmer internal environment, balance blood sugar, maintain energy levels and improve sleep.
4. Don’t fruit bomb your snack time
As we get older it becomes harder for our bodies to break down fructose in fruit. Unmetabolised, it stays in your system and slows it down making you feel lethargic.
To avoid this, pick one piece or serving of fruit as a snack and aim for those with a low GI. Blueberries, cherries, grapefruit peach or pear are good options.
Whilst on the subject of sugar, filling up on sugary snacks when you’re tired isn’t actually doing you any favours, it sends your blood sugar sky high followed by an inevitable crash which will leave you feeling worse than before.
5. Avoid overeating at lunchtime
Researchers have observed that the circadian rhythms of people who overeat at lunch typically show a more pronounced afternoon slump. This is often caused by an increase in blood sugar after eating, which is followed by a slump in energy later. To avoid this, try not to overeat at lunchtime and remember nutrient density matters (see point 1&2)!
6. Drink up
Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of tiredness. Your body is about 60% water, so you need to keep hydrated up to function optimally. Aim for 2 liters of filtered water a day.
7. Get moving
If you’re feeling low on energy, exercise can be low down on your list of things to do. However, sticking to a regular exercise routine is one of the easiest ways to beat fatigue. When your body becomes more active, internal mechanisms like metabolism and blood flow increase. Increasing heart rate through exercise also helps produce endorphins, the happy hormones that trigger a positive feeling in the body.
8. Get outside
The body makes vitamin D from sunlight, and a lack of it can make you feel lethargic, sleepy and less motivated to exercise or make healthy food choices. The so-called sunshine vitamin is vital for maintaining energy levels, and one of its many roles is to help manage blood sugar though insulin, reducing inflammation, and support the immune system.
We need around 20 minutes outside every day to allow ‘white light’ to penetrate the skin and boost melatonin levels, which release an internal supply of vitamin D. Unfortunately, as we get older our body becomes less efficient at making vitamin D, so you might want to consider asking your GP to test and identify whether you need to supplement, especially important here in the UK during the winter months.
9. Prioritise sleep
When your sleeping patterns are out of whack it puts stress on the adrenals which can lead to brain fog and even more serious health problems. Sleep is when the body restores itself and produces melatonin, which sets the circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) so aim for seven to eight hours a night if you can.
If you’re struggling to fall or stay asleep, consuming certain foods that contain melatonin (walnuts or kiwi fruit) or boost tryptophan and serotonin (complex carbs) can help. You may also consider introducing a bedtime routine to calm the mind ready for sleep too. Try switching off all electronic devices an hour before bed, practice meditation, or reading a few pages of a good book with a cup of chamomile tea.
10. Consult an expert
If you feel like you’re doing everything right and you still feel exhausted, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition, which needs personalised care. Please feel free to get in touch by phone 07980858783 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Alternatively, you can book in online for a FREE discovery call at www.sarchamynutrition.com.
Shaz Sarchamy is a Registered Nutritionist specialising in Women's health. She supports, educates and empowers her clients to fully understand the role positive nutrition and lifestyle choices can have on their health and happiness.