Everyone experiences fatigue from time to time, and for some people it is an almost daily struggle.  With the summer sun becoming more intense, there is even more reason to fight against this condition in order to prevent further maladies such as chronic or extreme fatigue.

In loose terms, fatigue is simply mental or physical exhaustion.  In many ways it is a normal process that slows the body down at the end of the day in preparation for sleep, or protects overworked muscles from possible injury.  Too often however, fatigue is an unwelcome force in our lives, proving an inconvenience or at worst completely debilitating.  Whilst we’re all aware of the basic rules to combating fatigue – not skipping breakfast, avoiding crash diets, getting plenty of sleep, and taking our vitamins, there are also some simple dietary changes that can be employed to help fight fatigue and prevent it from getting us down.

Drink plenty of water. Ok so we hear this advice a lot, but still many of us don’t get enough water.  Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue as it can reduce blood flow to organs, slowing down your brain – and you too.  The amount of water a person needs varies according to his or her weight, activity level and climate.  However one way to determine your specific recommended water intake is to divide your weight (in kilograms) by 30, which will tell you how many litres you should be aiming for per day.  However, remember this is just a guide.

The caffeine crux. Whilst one or two caffeinated drinks a day boosts the body’s energy and mental alertness, caffeine can cause dehydration and heavy usersare prone to irritability, anxiety, and reduced performance.  Perhaps try swapping your afternoon coffee with a cup of green tea, which delivers less caffeine than coffee but also contains another natural stimulant, theophylline, which has caffeine-like effects.

Eat foods high in iron. Iron relieves fatigue that is associated with insufficient red blood cells.  Women in particular are prone to iron-deficiency, especially when pregnant, as their iron reserves are used up faster to help the developing foetus.  Iron is also essential in maintaining a healthy immune system and is therefore a vital part of our diet.  Foods high in iron include red meats, beetroot, spinach, almonds and dates.

Peel a banana. Easy to digest, potassium-laden bananas make a great lunchtime snack.  Being one of few fruits that contain both simple and complex carbohydrates, bananas deliver an immediate energy boost and longer-lasting endurance.  As an extra tip to slow down and extend the energy release this fruit gives, spread some protein, like peanut butter on bite-size slices.

Oats. Carbohydrates are an ideal source of quick energy due to the body’s ability to digest them almost immediately.  However the most effective carbohydrates are those packed with fibre – like oats.  Dietary fibre takes longer to digest and therefore slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.  This results in a high, steady energy and a curbed appetite.  Try adding honey to your bowl of oatmeal too, as this natural sweetener provides a quick shot of energy, which coupled with the slow-release energy from oats will help steer you clear of that mid-morning slump.

Sweet peppers. Besides being aesthetically pleasing in an omelette or salad, these veggies are a stellar source of vitamin C, which helps the body efficiently burn fat for energy by stimulating the production of carnitine.  Carnitineis a molecule that transports fat to the part of the cell where it is metabolized, helping to burn more of it overall and thus helping your body stay revved and work efficiently.

Sweet potatoes. High in vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are full of important antioxidants, vital in the body’s defence against free radicals, which increase greatly when we’re stressed or overly tired.  Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, and are full of fibre, vitamin B6, iron, and other nutrients.

Go nuts. Research shows that eating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, instead of saturated and trans fats, slows down digestion and keeps your metabolism firing and helps you feel full for longer.  These good fats have also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.  However, remember, everything in moderation.  To prevent you from overdoing it with this snack, measure out servings in a shot glass.

 

Hopefully these few tips will help you in combating your fatigue and avoiding that mid-morning slump.  However, should fatigue persist, consult your doctor to make sure that your fatigue isn’t caused by an underlying medical problem.

7 Comments

  1. Hi Angie,
    love your article and the picture.

    Apart from being good for all the great reasons you mentioned, sweet potatoes also help with getting rid of heavy metal.
    2 Brazil Nuts have enough selenium to make up for the deficiencies in countries like New Zealand.

    Have a fantastic day.
    Yorinda

  2. Robert Redfern Reply

    Energy does not come from carborhydrates, it come from oxygen, CoQ10 and tiny amount of D-Ribose, a 5-carbon sugar cleaved off from glucose; and gasp-shock-horror, sea salt. Without salt we cannot transport iron and oxygen. Eating carbs for energy has the same problem as caffeine. Big fix to begin with and a deep low later. Breathing, exercise and vegetables and low sugar fruits equal cell and physical energy (with no diabetes later). PS you cannot overdose on healthy fats.

  3. Robert Fedfern, thanks for your comment. As a nutrition student I can tell you that carbohydrates do provide energy. Monosaccharides provide 3.75 kcal per gram, and disaccharides 4 kcal per gram. With regards carbs having the same problem as coffee, this is not completely true. Sure when digesting starchy carbs, your body may feel slowed down, but this is why I said in the article that you want to aim to each carbohydrates packed with fibre. Fibre is non-starch polysaccharides, and can be found in the cell walls of vegetables, fruits, pulses and cereal grains (oats). Currently in the UK, intakes of NSP are on average about 12g per day, but it has been recommended that average intakes should rise to 18g per day.

    To say you can’t overdose on healthy fats seems a not well thought out comment, as everything, including water, can be bad for you if you over do it. For example, the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oils may help to prevent heart disease by decreasing the tendency of the blood to clot. overdosing on omega 3 essential fatty acids can cause your blood to thin. This can cause excessive bleeding and make you bruise more easily than normal. It can also cause problems for people who suffer from conditions that are affected by blood such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

    Hence why the comment – everything in moderation. Current recommendations are that the average intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for the population should be about 1.5g per week.

  4. Robert Redfern Reply

    Angie, I thought you was discussing cell energy. You meant muscle energy. Which I agree does store glycogen for muscle energy. Most people do not need extra carbohydrate because they are not using much muscle energy. Eating your carbs in vegetables and fuit rather than starchy carbs is better as I think you indicated. I was clearly discussing cell energy which does basically use D-Ribose/Oxygen/CoQ10 for its energy cycle. Studies show those suffering chronic fatigue improve taking D-Ribose but not increasing starchy carbohydrates. Drinking of water should always be mediated with seasalt. The dangers of too much water are too little seasalt. Can you point me to any studies that show those peoples around the world who are eating high levels of fish are suffering higher levels of internal bleeding compared to those who eat low levels of fish?

  5. I don’t know about whether eating high levels of fish means people suffer higher levels of internal bleeding compared to those who eat low levels of fish. However it is well known that Omega 3 fatty acids cause blood thinning. This is why people already on blood thinning medication or who have a medical condition need to consult their doctor before consuming Omega 3 fatty acids.

    Below are some websites that have more information on this area.
    Hope this helps
    Regards
    Angie

    http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/possiblesideef_slyf.htm
    http://www.omega3-fishoil.co.uk/

  6. Hi Robert and Angie, I am a lover of nutrition(also as an ex profesional sportsman) and I know that this can make the difference between sucess and failture. Certainly it is essential to get enough off the correct carbs at the right time as well as all the other proportions and quantities of micro/macro nutrients. However, I agree, the majority of people do not need such high amounts of carbs though as Angie points out, you do need the correct amount. Unlimited healthy fats doesn’t seem a great idea – while I agree eating huge amounts of fish would make it difficult to overdoes on healthy fats and then bleed excessively – I assume Angie’s comment was regaarding suplmentation, whereby it may be easy.

    I quite like the zone diet and the paleo diet – both recommend moderate carb intake mostly in the form of very fiberous low GI veg. It even suggests potatos and fruits cause too great of an insulin spike, however I find if you are fairly active, the zone is no good as doesn’t contain enough carbs. Also, in sport an insuline spike can be useful as you can absorb nutrient faster. What are your thought on peleo and zone for both sports people and less active folk ?

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