Nothing is worse than feeling tired all the time. Most of us work way too hard and it shows. We have jobs, side gigs, family, friends and more, all going on simultaneously. Often, due to all the things we are responsible for we forget about taking care of ourselves.
We tend to join the midday coffee run and can’t pass up the candy machine, or the drive-through on the way home from work because we are too exhausted to think about cooking dinner.
But, the fact is, what you eat when it comes to how much energy you have is very important. Diet is the number one way to fight fatigue that really works and gets results. Studies show that diet is the number one factor when it comes to fatigue, weight maintenance, and health. You should, of course, talk to your doctor about your fatigue to ensure that you don’t have anything else wrong, such as a vitamin deficiency.
So, whether you feel tired all the time or whether you simply suffer from the 3 PM slump, the tips shared will help you feel more energetic and less fatigued all throughout the day. Due to that, you’ll get more done and you won’t keep adding to your problems.
FOOD YOU SHOULD AVOID OR LIMIT WHEN FIGHTING FATIGUE
Of course, there are things that you should avoid if you want to get control of the fatigue that you’re suffering from. It can be hard to let go of some of these foods.
The best way to do it is to cut back slowly unless you can take three to five days off work to sleep and rest while getting over the addiction. Just make a goal to give up one item at a time, one thing per month.
Start off by cutting down from daily to every other day, to every three days, every four days and so forth until you are doing mostly without. Then after the 30 days, don’t have it anymore other than perhaps on very special occasions.
This is probably one of the hardest things to give up when you suffer from fatigue because the caffeine is a source of temporary energy for you. If you add sugar to your coffee, that’s an extra source of temporary energy.
The problem is that the energy is not consistent. You’ll get a quick boost of energy, and then you’ll have a hard fall back into fatigue, which is usually worse than the first time you felt fatigue and “treated” it with a caffeine-sugar injection.
For some, this fall feels like an uncontrollable urge to sleep. Often people will fall asleep while working at their desk when this happens. Many times, this causes the person to reach for another cup of coffee to get another boost of energy.
There are alternatives to coffee that you can enjoy such as caffeine-free green tea, Capomo (Maya Nut), and others. It’s important to find a replacement because a lot of the reason we do things are from habits that we’ve formed. It’s easier to stop something if you replace the bad habit with a good habit.
The problem with sugar is that it’s so highly processed. If you were to chew on sugar cane you’d be okay due to the fiber, but we don’t do that. Instead, to get the white sugar you’re used to consuming, you must realize that it’s processed the same way you process the powerful drug heroin.
Due to this process, there is no fiber in it, no nutrition, and only flavor.
Unfortunately, we are born to love sugar. Even breast milk is sweet. When sugar gets into your system it goes through it very fast and your body reacts to it very quickly. The problem is that the effect wears off fast, too. This means that you have very uneven energy and blood sugar levels.
Eating some candy might pick you up for a few minutes, to get you through that 3 PM slump, but it’s going to impact you greatly around five PM when you need to head home to cook dinner and take care of all the tasks of running a home and family.
It could mean you’re going to be so tired that you end up buying fast food to save time. Fast food is never a good option or substitute for eating healthy meals. It’s fun for an occasional treat, such as a birthday party, or a monthly treat if you like, but for eating on a daily basis it’s a literal health trap because there is very little nutrition in the meals. So little that it’s hard to consider it food. And why would you start your kids off on a bad habit of grabbing fast food all the time?
If you’re using fast food places as your personal chef you’re harming yourself and your entire family. When you are tired, the best thing to do is have some fruit instead, like an apple, a handful of grapes or nuts.
The high fiber in the apple, as a snack or dessert, will help the sugar absorb slower giving you more energy longer without the crash. Plus, it’ll fill you up for a longer time than junk food so you can prepare dinner without feeling run down and fatigued. Even if all you fix for dinner is steamed veggies and a can of beans you’re doing a lot better than if you serve up fast food.
The worst thing ever invented for human consumption is processed food. At first, it seemed like a great idea to be able to feed the masses. But the problem is most processed food has been stripped of any benefit other than filling up a belly and stopping hunger pangs.
The sad fact is, processed food doesn’t stick with you long enough so you end up eating more of it a couple hours later. Then it has addictive properties which cause you to start craving it even if you’re not hungry.
Through science, food chemists and researchers have figured out the exact fat, sugar, salt combo to turn on all your happiness receptors so that you crave processed food in the same way a drug addict craves drugs. Like drug addiction, some people are more susceptible than others.
It is thought that genetics play a big role in whether you’re able to eat just one serving of potato chips or if you have to eat the entire bag, and then before you know it you’re eating a bag each night because you’re now addicted. Obesity greatly affects your energy levels.
While caffeine is in coffee, and one of the things that makes coffee so tempting to get over fatigue, it deserves a mention on its own. Caffeine is a drug. Make no mistake about that fact. No matter how legal it is, it’s a dangerous, addictive drug for people who are susceptible to getting addicted to substances.
If you find that you get headaches or literally cannot get through your day without caffeine, break the addiction slowly. Do not just go “cold turkey” because many people have debilitating migraines when they stop using caffeine.
Instead, cut down slowly. Get out your calendar and each day cut your consumption in half until you aren’t having it anymore. After 21 days of no caffeine, you should be over the addiction. Find a good substitution so that you can still enjoy your day.
For example, if you’re in the habit of drinking coffee each morning, which by the way is very dehydrating, switch to decaf or have green tea instead. Green tea is a healthy substitution if you need a hot beverage in the morning.
High Fat/Sugar/Salt Combos
One thing people often do when they’re super tired is to eat a snack. Often that snack is something that is high in fat, sugar, and salt.
It’s usually a highly processed food. However, be warned there is now high fat, sugar, salt combos that are being passed off as health food. Since the labels can claim it’s made with all-natural food, clean combinations, or even plant-based vegan recipes, they can now call it a health food, but it’s not.
The fat/sugar/salt combination is very powerful and floods your system with feel-good hormones. If you’re not careful, you’ll become addicted to this concoction because the drive for humans to have the perfect combo of fat/sugar/salt (think peanut butter) is very powerful. If you can get this type of garbage out of your system and start eating real foods instead, you’ll no longer crave or need the junk food to keep up your energy levels.
Choose whole foods. Apples, cheese cubes, nuts, celery or some chicken you’ve boiled or grilled make great snack foods. Start preparing them ahead of time so you’re not tempted to grab something junky. Keeping fresh, healthy foods on hand and ready to go makes it a lot easier to enjoy a healthy snack and it’s just as quick as grabbing a bag of chips.
Let’s be honest here. Having a small glass of red wine with dinner is not usually a problem in the alcoholic beverage category. In fact, studies have shown that one small glass, with dinner, is actually beneficial.
The problem with alcoholic beverages is the fact that most people who have them, have several beers each day after work. Or they have several mixed drinks after work.
Those types of alcoholic beverages will cause you to feel fatigue the next day. It could be a slight hangover, even if you don’t get drunk. Alcoholic beverages can also cause dehydration which leads to fatigue. If you have drinks every single night, the fatigue will begin to have a compound effect and could even lead to exhaustion.
If you do suffer from fatigue try giving up the alcohol other than very special occasions. There is no reason to completely deprive yourself. Enjoy a special drink on your birthday or during the holidays. And, when you do indulge, keep it to one or two servings and be sure to drink water between servings. Also, be sure to drink more water the following day to help rehydrate yourself.
If having a glass of wine with dinner is a problem for you, you can have a wine spritzer instead. Just mix half a cup of wine with half a cup (or more) of sparkling water and enjoy that with your meal. You’ll still get some benefits of the red wine but consume less alcohol.
Now that you have an idea about which food to avoid let’s talk about what you can, and should, eat to get healthier and fight fatigue. Don’t worry it’s not boring and you will still enjoy eating. But you’re going to feel so much more energetic which will help you enjoy life more.
Be warned though, giving up unhealthy foods will cause some withdrawal symptoms and you may feel bad while your system is getting used to not having all the junk. Either wean yourself off gradually or exercise a lot of willpower the first week and get it over with.
FOOD THAT YOU SHOULD EAT TO FIGHT FATIGUE
There are many different whole, unprocessed foods that you can eat to fight fatigue. It’s important to replace all the food you shouldn’t eat with natural energy promoting food over time, instead of going ‘cold turkey’—unless you have a great deal of willpower. If you do this gradually, eventually everything you’re putting into your system is nutritious, delicious, and energy promoting. It could take six months to a year, depending on how many bad foods you consume now.
Technically, water isn’t a food. But, since your body is about 75% water, it’s something you should consume daily. You lose moisture (water) through your bodily functions—urinating and sweating mostly, but respiration (breathing) also expels moisture into the air.
To ensure that you drink enough each day, start keeping track. The recommended amount of water you need to drink each day is 64 ounces. But, remember that if you do indulge in anything salty, sugary, fatty, or dehydrating like caffeine or alcohol you should drink extra.
Some people go a little nuts with water and think you can have all you want. Avoid advice like that. You don’t want to have more than about 27 ounces per hour, otherwise, you can suffer from water intoxication. It’s better to drink water all throughout the day. If you do it that way it’s easy to get enough in.
If you just switch out all beverages for water you’ll easily get enough each day. If you have issues with drinking water because you don’t like the flavor, get a good water filter or get water delivery with a good type of water that states that it has “minerals for taste” and it will taste better. Also try drinking room temperature water and cold water to find out which you like best. You can also try adding a few drops of lemon juice or lime juice to see if that improves the flavor for you.
If you’re used to only drinking iced tea, sodas, and sweet drinks it may take about 7 to 14 days of drinking nothing but water before you start realizing that you enjoy the flavor. Good water tastes sweet and fresh once you get used to it. Eventually, you’ll truly prefer it. But give it some time.
Also, if you’re not used to consuming water, don’t start off with the full 64oz per day. Instead, add eight to sixteen ounces per day and gradually work your way up to the full amount.
When you read about not eating sugar your mind may have gone straight to fruit if it’s something you like to eat. You’re in luck, you can still eat fruit. Fruit is full of vital nutrients that your body needs and the sugar it contains is not processed. It’s natural and your body is designed to consume sugar in its natural form and will process it the way it’s supposed to.
If you have diabetes or other issues with your blood sugar, talk to your dietician about which types of fruit are best for you to eat. A good fruit to eat for example is an apple because it’s high in fiber, but it’s also a nice sweet snack.
Another good fruit to eat that is both high in sugar and fat is a banana. But, don’t worry, this is good fat and good sugar. Plus, there is lots of nutrition inside. Bananas are packed with everything you need and are almost the perfect food.
It’s a great post-workout snack due to the potassium and the combination of fat and sugar will digest slowly so that you if you eat one right before your normal 3 PM slump, the energy you get will last until dinnertime.
Eating low glycemic berries is also a great option. Add some blueberries or strawberries to your oatmeal in the morning for a little sweetness. The berries will also give you some extra energy that won’t leave you fatigued.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great snacks. If you’re watching your weight choose seeds over nuts because they have less fat. A great choice is chia seeds because they have the perfect fat, fiber, and protein ratio. You won’t get any spikes in blood sugar causing you to get overly tired later.
The trick with nuts and seeds is to understand what a serving is. (about a handful) Plus, it’s important to choose unsalted and unaltered raw or when necessary, lightly roasted nuts and seeds when it is possible.
Technically, peanuts aren’t nuts. They are part of the Legume family that includes beans and peas. You should probably treat them the same way as you do beans, but don’t worry about eating either of them raw from time to time.
Eat just one serving as a snack, or as part of your morning oatmeal, lunchtime salad, or on top of your sweet potato at dinnertime to help add additional nutrition, texture, and flavor to your food. Nuts contain healthy fats and can help you feel full longer.
When you eat grains ensure that they are 100 percent whole grains. If you don’t have celiac disease there is no reason to avoid gluten or grains of any type. One hundred percent whole grains like Oats and Quinoa are great examples.
Eating 100 percent whole grains helps lower cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels. Whole grains are low glycemic and full of fiber. This means that they digest slowly, helping you to avoid feeling famished within an hour like you do when eating fast food or junk food that’s full of processed carbs.
One thing you should know is that your body converts carbohydrates into sugar for fuel. Your brain needs sugar to function properly, so trying to eliminate all carbs and sources of sugars from your diet is not a good idea. If you’re having trouble with brain fog, make sure you’re eating enough servings of whole grains each day, or other natural carbs, and it’ll probably lift. Just make sure you don’t eat processed carbs very often—things like breads, cakes, cookies, chips, etc.
Eating carbohydrates in the form of 100 percent whole grains is also good for you because they’re loaded with energy-boosting B vitamins and other nutrients.
Don’t avoid eating these types of grains each day because you’re afraid of eating carbs. You need these types of carbohydrates in your diet unless you’ve been diagnosed with an issue.
However, do avoid adding bad fats, like margarine. If you need a flavor boost, go for real butter. Use grass-fed butter if you can. Butter has gotten a bad rap, but it’s now known that real butter isn’t the evil food they once thought. Think about it, our ancestors were eating real butter for hundreds of years. You need healthy fats in your diet, so be sure to learn the difference between fats so you can make wise food choices.
If you like a bit of sweetness in your grains, try using honey instead. It’s all natural, just make sure you buy pure honey.
Beans are also a natural food that is very good for you. They’re high in protein, packed with fiber, and help improve digestion. Just ensure that you drink enough water when you have beans (or any low-water, high-fiber food) to help lessen the occurrence of gas.
Beans keep your blood sugar steady, which will help you avoid energy slumps during the day. They keep you full longer, are high in iron and a great source of B vitamins, which are also both energy promoting.
You don’t need to eat a lot of them. You can add a serving on top of a baked potato, a healthy green salad, and into soups and stews to get in a serving of them every single day when possible.
Protein Rich Food
You don’t need a lot of protein each day to ensure that you’re getting enough. Most people only need about 10 to 35% of their daily calories in protein to be healthy.
This is a lot less than you think you may need when you consider that a one cup serving of beans has about 16 grams of protein, one cup edamame contains 17 grams of protein, and a 6-ounce serving of meat has about 42 grams of protein.
As you can see, you can even get enough protein in your diet without eating meat if you want to, however, if you’re eating a vegetarian diet make sure you get several sources of protein, as some proteins are considered incomplete proteins.
The best way to deal with protein is to match it with other food to help prolong and slow your digestion thus causing energy to be released more slowly throughout the day. This helps keep your energy steady without having slumps.
Each meal or snack should contain protein, carbs, and fats. This combination is how our body was designed to consume nutrition – a truly balanced diet. This will help keep your energy up.
Just because vegetables are last on the list, don’t think they are unimportant. The largest portion of your meals should be vegetables. They are your best (and biggest) source of energy, especially non- starchy vegetables.
Starchy vegetables get a bad rap because so many people tend to want to fry them, add salt to them, and put sugar on them. But whole, raw, steamed, or roasted vegetables without adding too much fat, salt and sugar make them super healthy and energy promoting. But, you do want to keep starchy vegetables to a minimum. Have rice and potatoes once or twice a week, but eat other vegetables the remainder of the time.
Vegetables have a high quantity of water, fiber, and nutrition. They are also low in sugar and fat. This makes them perfect to help keep your energy going. The reason is, you can literally eat vegetables any time you want without any worry of gaining weight or harming your blood sugar.
Try adding leafy greens to most of your meals. Eat more sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes. Try cooking veggies in different ways. For example, roasted fresh asparagus or brussels sprouts are delicious. Thinly sliced cucumbers with daikon radishes make a great crunchy and spicy snack.
When you don’t have control of your day, but you do have control of your meals, you can do a lot to combat fatigue with food. As you see the best food for energy is whole plant-based foods, but you can still enjoy animal-based proteins too if you buy non-hormone, grass-fed, free-range, local and healthy options without additives.
What’s great is that these foods taste delicious without a lot of additions, if you prepare them properly. Usually, roasting, lightly steaming, and braizing takes just a few minutes to get done each day. You’ll be glad that you made the change because within a month or so your energy will be boosted and you’ll feel so much better. You’ll likely gain time in your day due to not being so exhausted all the time.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
Now that you understand that some foods fight fatigue and some foods cause fatigue, you should consider getting started as soon as possible on your new eating plan. But, you don’t have to go cold turkey, be miserable, or give up everything all the time.
Perfection is Not Required
The awesome thing about diet, and about the human body, is that it responds very well to having good nutrition, most of the time.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for a high standard when you’re first starting to affect your energy levels with nutrition, but you can make the changes slowly. For example, if you decided to give up coffee, assess where you are, and determine where you want to be within 30 days. Set a plan in motion to get there.
But, once you’ve abstained for about six months to a year, you may be able to add coffee back to your diet, in moderation. But you must be careful with foods you were once addicted to. Set a limit and track it, so you don’t slip back into daily consumption and ruin all the work you’ve accomplished.
Many people never get completely over an addiction, but maybe you can indulge from time to time. You’ll have to try it to find out. If you do think you’ll have issues, then only have your special treat on special occasions. Don’t be afraid to have a serving of cake on your birthday, but keep it to one serving.
Give the remainder of the cake to your guests to take home, so you’re not tempted. Also, learning serving sizes will be very helpful in maintaining this idea.
Plan Your Meals
Planning in advance is the only way to ensure success when it comes to developing a new eating plan. Today, depending on where you live, you may be able to cut your meal planning time down by ordering from a healthy meal delivery service.
Another alternative for some is to order your groceries from a local store that has delivery or uses one of the delivery services. There are even meal planning services that will help you plan meals based on your preferences. Most services offer a discount for first-time users of these services.
Write it All Down
Don’t try to do things by memory. Write down your menus, snacks, and try to note how much water you’ve drunk in a day. You can use apps to help you track.
This will help you make sure you don’t underestimate anything essential. In the beginning, you’ll have to be more diligent. After a few months, these will become habits and be easier to manage and stick with.
Monitor Your Success
Start taking notes about how you feel at different times each day. You can use the note function on your mobile device, or if you’re on a computer a lot, you can use a Word file or even Google Calendar to track how you feel.
It helps to note if you were tired and what time you were tired. That way you can look back at what you ate during the day (and even the night before), how you slept, and so forth, to help discover what caused the drop in energy. That way you can mitigate the danger of it happening again.
Get Others to Join You
It’s always easier to stick to a change if you can get others involved. It’s not always easy to do it. You can try by having a contest at work, or even within your family. Sometimes a little competition can do wonders, especially when you’re trying to get over an addiction like drinking caffeine or eating a lot of processed food.
Even though it’s not about weight loss, it’s about being healthier, you can get many people on board with that if you ask them to support you. You can even join groups online on Facebook or start one yourself to get support for your energy boosting diet.
Eating right for your needs is very important. You need to be able to set up your lifestyle so that you can be prepared to eat right every day unless it’s a planned event where you want to indulge.
That type of indulgence isn’t as bad for you as daily choices of fast food, coffee, and super fatty and processed foods. It’s the overall choices you make that matter, so don’t think you must give up the fun stuff forever, only about 80 percent of the time so that when you do enjoy that glass of wine or that beautiful frozen coffee, it’s a special treat that will not harm you.
Don’t put it off. Start by slowly replacing the low energy foods with the high energy foods so that you simply crowd out the foods that are sapping your energy. When you have a replacement ready it’s going to be a lot easier to make the change. Before you know it your energy will be through the roof and you’ll be a superstar at getting more done than you ever thought possible.