It seems lots of us are suffering from endemic levels of tiredness and lack energy. In my role as a dietitian, it is so common to see clients who tell me they lack energy or feel fatigued for no ‘good reason’. The truth is there are some very good reasons for feeling chronically tired.
Some of these are linked to medical conditions which are many and varied e.g. poorly controlled or undiagnosed diabetes, food allergies or intolerances such as Coeliac disease leading to malabsorption of essential nutrients, or chronic low iron levels affecting your ability to function normally.
If you suffer from ongoing tiredness despite taking good care of yourself in terms of lifestyle - it’s important to take a trip to your GP to get it investigated.
Other than medical reasons (which need proper diagnosis and treatment) here are some of the more ‘garden variety’ reasons you may not be leaping out of bed in the morning.
If your partner snores, you’re having night sweats due to fluctuating hormones, or you are waking several times a night to tend to a child, it’s no wonder you’re going to feel tired. Sometimes it can be ‘just a phase’, but if it’s ongoing then a solution needs to be found! Ear plugs, sleep drops or just using the spare bedroom for a night or two may help in the short term at least. Babies and toddlers will have changing sleeping patterns. If you have a supportive partner or buddy who can give you a break for a few nights then don’t be afraid to ask.
Drinking too much alcohol negatively affects your sleeping patterns causing early morning waking and inability to drop into deep sleep cycles. Booze also puts extra stress on your body and liver to de-toxify the alcohol, leaving less capacity to perform other important metabolic functions . You’ll probably need to get up once or twice in the middle of the night to pee, or drink water due to feeling a bit parched….not a good way to wake up feeling fresh and ready to jump out of bed. Plan at least 4 days a week where you don’t have alcohol – it’ll do wonders for your energy.
You already know this but…you eat too much of the wrong foods and you don’t do enough exercise. Carrying around several extra kilograms of body fat is tiring. It takes more energy to complete even small daily tasks. Imagine lugging around a 10kg sack of sand all day every day, of course your body is going to get tired more quickly. Extra body fat weighs heavily on your chest at night affecting breathing – this is called sleep apnoea. When you don’t breathe properly – you have very broken sleep. No wonder you feel so exhausted in the morning.
We all have the friend who does it all. They run a very successful business, have raised 4 gorgeous kids, do bootcamp at 5.30 am 5 x mornings a week, and regularly throw dinner parties for 10 guests or more!
If this isn’t your natural inclination and the mere thought of cooking for more than you and your own family leaves you needing to lie down – then give yourself a break.
It’s OK not to do it all. Be honest with yourself about the level of stress and the number of balls you can juggle in your life. We’re all wired differently for good reason. If walking three times a week and doing yoga in the weekend makes you feel great - then do it. But don’t put pressure on yourself to commit to something you know leaves you feeling drained. Honouring yourself ultimately gives you loads more energy than comparing yourself to others.
Put in good food and good energy will follow. Put in too much sugar, fat and highly processed foods – and you’ll feel like a rubbish bin!
There are no short cuts – if you want to have sustained energy levels then most of the time you need to choose healthy minimally processed wholefoods to fuel your body. This doesn’t need to be complicated and you don’t need to invest in cacao nibs, acai berries and golden pea protein (unless these spin your wheels of course).
What you DO need is lots of veggies and some fruit every day, a serve or two of quality protein e.g. lean meat, chicken, fish or eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, a few serves of wholegrain cereals or grainy breads, and a couple of servings of low-fat milk based foods e.g. probiotic yoghurt.
Once you have a good nutritional foundation, make some refinements by all means – but don’t head straight to the supplement section at the supermarket UNTIL you have the basics right.
If you need help getting to the bottom of your tiredness and help to eat better and feel better, then book in to see me.