Do you always struggle to stay awake while your friend is raring to go? Part of the answer could lie in your DNA, but a whole range of other factors play an important part in how fatigued we feel.
Luckily you can put a stop to extreme tiredness, starting today.
Why do I suffer from fatigue?
Research has revealed those who experience energy slumps may have a gene mutation that controls the amount of energy in our cells. It becomes active when our fuel stores start to deplete, such as during exercise. If it’s faulty, this process is active even when you’re at rest, making you feel tired even though you’re not doing much.
Conditions such as depression, anaemia and an underactive thyroid can also affect your energy levels. Anaemia is caused by a lack of iron, so up your intake of iron-rich foods like lean red meat and broccoli, while an iron supplement may also help.
An underactive thyroid causes everything to slow down, so tiredness is a common symptom. Ask your GP for a test if you suffer from weight gain, sensitivity to cold and irregular periods too.
Your body clock could also trigger fatigue. We now spend most of our time indoors, under office lighting, so we’re not exposed to the natural daylight our body clock needs. This has a knock-on effect on our sleep quality, which could trigger insomnia.
If you’re suffering from persistent tiredness, which doesn’t improve with sleep or gets worse with exercise, it could be chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). You might also experience problems concentrating, a sore throat, tender lymph nodes, dizziness and joint pain. If you’ve felt this way for at least four months, ask your GP to carry out some tests to rule out CFS.
Boost your energy
Sugary foods can play havoc with energy levels, sending blood glucose levels soaring then crashing again. Go for foods low on the glycaemic index (GI), such as wholegrain bread and brown rice to help stabilise your blood glucose.
Get as much daylight as possible – especially in the mornings – to help reset your body clock, and avoid caffeine at night. Try taking valerian root if you’re still having trouble sleeping. The traditional herbal remedy is often used to help relieve sleeping problems caused by mild anxiety.
Make sure you exercise- the more you sit around, the more sluggish you’ll become. Low energy is a common side effect of poor fitness levels, but exercise is also a great way to get rid of stress hormones like cortisol.
Give Siberian ginseng a go– the herb is popular for its adaptogenic properties; the ability to increase the body’s resistance in coping with both physical and emotional stress, reducing fatigue.
Eat little and often throughout the day to keep your energy up– experts recommend four to six small meals a day, which includes healthy snacks, to help keep your blood glucose steady. Protein shakes, protein bars, or a handful of unsalted nuts make great snacking options, and are ideal before doing any exercise too.
Foods that can help fight fatigue
Eating small meals and snacks throughout the day is important to avoid blood sugar slumps, fighting fatigue and keeping your energy up from dawn till dusk. But what you eat is just as important as when you eat it. Include these energy boosters in your daily diet and you’ll be raring to go all day.
A study found certain compounds in beetroot, called nitrates, help dilate blood vessels, getting more oxygen into your muscles. This could improve your stamina during exercise, so you can keep working out for a while longer. Drinking beetroot juice was found to have the same effect as eating the vegetable, or try it roasted and served with goat’s cheese and a sprinkle of walnuts.
- Coconut oil
It may be almost 90 per cent saturated fat, but the majority of coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides, which provide energy in the same way as carbohydrates, so it’s a great energy-booster. Just watch the calorie content, as, like all fats, there are nine per gram. Spread it on your toast, fry your food with it, or use it in cakes – it’s incredibly versatile.
Feeling sleepy? Try eating some chestnuts. They’re high in fibre and rich in starchy carbohydrates, the body’s preferred source of fuel. And because they’re so low in fat, they’re lower in calories than other nuts, like almonds or cashews. Roast some with a coating of honey, or use in a tasty stuffing.
- Hemp seeds
A sprinkle of these can help fuel you during the day. Hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, plus they’re also rich in protein and fibre, so this nutritious combo will keep you going for longer and stave off those hunger pangs. A spoonful on your cereal or used in baking will lower a meal’s glycaemic index (GI) and make it extra-filling.
Instead of a coffee to pep you up, try matcha. It’s made from tea grown in the shade for weeks, dried, and then powdered. It has 137 times the antioxidants of green tea and also contains l-thianine, an amino acid that helps calm the central nervous system. Add a scoop of powder to a smoothie to help you fight stress throughout the day.
If you’re looking for more foods with hidden health benefits, check out our recipe section.
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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.