It’s 3pm – what are you doing? Planning an exercise class after work, or searching for the chocolate biscuits to give you an instant energy boost?
If it feels like you’re always struggling to keep up, let alone stay up past 9pm, you need to stop your energy stealers in their tracks.
Take our quiz – answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each question – to find out whether your diet, your boss or your bed is making you feel tired all the time, then get some energy tips to help beat fatigue for good.
Q1. My boss/boyfriend/best friend is often quite critical, and I’m starting to feel that making an effort is no longer worth it.
Experts say 70% of our energy is emotional, but emotional energy drains – like a negative partner – can rob you of the enthusiasm to live your life well.
Q2. I’m on a new diet, or I eat a lot of ‘white’ foods such as pasta and processed ready meals.
Limiting your calories is a physical drain on your energy, while certain foods can also act as energy stealers.
Q3. I exercise quite regularly, especially activities like running or dance classes.
Many women have low iron levels, which can cause fatigue. But certain activities have also been shown to reduce iron levels, triggering ‘sports anaemia’.
Q4. I always wear sunscreen and take care to avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest.
Over-zealous sun safety could be contributing to low levels of vitamin D, which is needed to power the energy centres in our cells.
Q5. I have never suffered from insomnia, and fall asleep quite easily.
Poor sleep is a major energy stealer – losing just one hour a day adds up to a whole night by the end of the week.
If a bad boss, or a bad relationship, is zapping your energy, you need to start putting more ‘you’ in your life. Doing things that make you feel positive, like seeing friends or taking up a hobby, is one of the best ways to boost your emotional energy and help you achieve your goals.
Take a look at your diet: losing weight may help you look good but depriving yourself of essential nutrients can wipe you out. Ready meals, or foods that cause a blood sugar spike can also lead to fatigue. Get our expert nutritionist’s tips on how to lose weight safely instead.
While exercise is essential for energy, high-impact sports like running can trigger ‘sports anaemia’. Iron helps transport oxygen around our bodies, but the pounding action of our feet can cause red blood cells to be destroyed. This means there’s less iron available, which means less oxygen is transferred into our muscles, causing fatigue. Upping your iron intake can help fight sports anaemia.
And although protecting your skin in the sun is important, experts warn that a strict sun safety regime could trigger a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is needed to enhance the activity of mitochondria, the ‘batteries’ inside every cell, beating muscle fatigue and boosting energy. The advice now is to regularly spend a few minutes outside during the day everyday – without sunscreen – to produce enough vitamin D.
If you’re not dealing with a specific emotional energy drain, like an overly critical ‘friend’, it’s still important to keep your energy levels topped up. Think of any areas where you could ‘plug’ potential energy drains – such as looking for a more rewarding job – to make sure you stay enthusiastic about your life.
Eating normally, but still feel fatigued? Then your protein intake could be lacking. We need protein to help produce energy, it helps keep us going for longer than carbohydrates, and is a good source of B vitamins which our bodies need to release energy from food. Protein is also a good source of iron, ideal for beating anaemia. Start eating more protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, or beans, or take a vitamin B complex.
While your approach to sun safety means you’re probably producing enough vitamin D, make sure you’re not damaging your skin. Mushrooms create vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so adding them to your diet can be an effective way of maintaining your vitamin D levels, or take a supplement to keep them topped up.
Finally, look at your sleep hygiene routine if you’re having trouble nodding off. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet, cut down on coffee and alcohol, and make sure you get enough exercise so you’re physically (as well as mentally) tired at the end of every day. Still struggling? Take our quiz to discover your secret sleep stealers.
If you’re looking for more ways to fight fatigue, see our energy-boosting guides for the best tips and tricks.
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