There's something about the change in season that can really impact our energy levels and if you're tired all the time, you're not alone, tiredness is one of most common reasons people visit the GP. According to Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in 5 of us feel unusually tired and one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, and it's usually women who tend to feel more tired than men.
There can be many reasons for fighting fatigue but lifestyle is a primary factor, including poor eating habits, an excess of caffeine/alcohol, dehydration, a lack of sleep and periods of prolonged stress. Modern lifestyles also mean we're spending far too much time 'switched on' through phone use, the TV and social media and not taking enough time out.
Am I just tired?
Everyone feels tired from time to time but while temporary lethargy may have a clear cause such as being over-worked and might be resolved with a little nap, there may be no obvious reason for feeling chronically fatigued. A lack of energy, mental exhaustion, poor muscle endurance, delayed recovery and non-restorative sleep are all indicators you might need some extra help. Chronic fatigue usually develops over time and can reduce motivation and concentration as well as impacting psychological and emotional wellbeing.
If you are lacking the nutrients your cells need to produce energy, over time, you will inevitably begin to feel tired. A nutrient rich diet including a rainbow of fruit and veg, combined with healthy fats and protein will support optimal health and energy production. Whereas a 'beige' diet lacking in colour and including lots of processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats can increase tiredness by not giving your body the raw materials it needs to thrive and potentially driving inflammation, which in turn fatigues the body further. Specific nutrients identified in chronic fatigue include vitamin C, B vits, sodium, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, l-carnitine, l-tryptophan, essential fatty acids and coQ10.
Chronic fatigue may be due to a lack of specific nutrients such as iron (as in the case of anaemia) which means not enough oxygen being transported around the body into cells (as well as folate and B12). It may also be the result of viral infections, such as the flu or even long covid, but can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying illness such as thyroid, hormone or neurological issues so it's worth having a chat with your GP if you're unsure.
- The first thing you can do to ensure a steady stream of energy through the day is make sure you have healthy balanced blood glucose levels:
- Focus on colourful fruit & veg for a wide range of 'micronutrients' essential for energy production such as B vits, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, chromium, iron, manganese and zinc
- Choose quality over quantity - eating lots of processed foods can actually contribute to fatigue as digesting them can put a strain on the body
- Think about digestive health – gut bacteria produce B vitamins and short chain fatty acids important for energy production as well as helping to keep energy draining inflammation in check so include plenty of fibre and try fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha
- Drink plenty of water – our bodies are 60% water which has many functions, including delivering nutrients into cells, removing waste, regulating temperature and producing energy, so if we're dehydrated we will quickly end up feeling knackered
- Don't diet or overeat as this will disrupt stress hormones and blood sugar balance
- Choose wholegrain rather than refined carbs.
- Eat protein at each meal - eggs, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds
- Include healthy fats - avocados, olive oil, coconut oil
- Eat smaller meals at regular intervals e.g at least every 3-4 hrs until energy levels have stabilised
- Limit sugar, caffeine and highly processed foods - which despite providing a short-term boost, will leave you tired and depleted in the long run
- Limit alcohol – which will make you dehydrated and disrupt sleep