Feeling wiped out? It’s normal to have ‘off’ days when you feel too tired to do anything more than what’s essential. But if this happens often, and gets in the way of your daily life, it’s time to take steps to lift your energy levels.
Our main energy sources are:
Carbohydrates – the body’s preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose that fuels everything we do, from breathing to physical activity.3
Fats and protein – if you don’t eat enough carbs, your body will first use fat and then protein for fuel. However, these aren’t the most efficient energy sources. Using protein for energy means there’s less available for it’s main role; repairing and maintaining muscles, and other body tissues.4Some diets, such as the Ketogenic Diet, are designed to optimise burning fat for fuel. But side-effects can include bad breath and a build-up of ketones in the body (acids created by fat digestion) that may be harmful.5
Try these tips to help restore your vitality:
1. Get some sunshine – our skin makes vitamin D from sunlight but low levels of the nutrient are linked to fatigue, according to a 2013 study from Newcastle University. It’s thought that vitamin D enhances the activity of mitochondria, the ‘batteries’ inside our cells.14 During our British winters, or if you don’t get outside much, the government advises everyone to take a vitamin D supplement.
2. Stay active – it may sound counterintuitive when you’re tired, but exercise works. A 2008 study in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found just six weeks of gentle exercise improved energy levels in sedentary adults with unexplained long-term fatigue. The researchers suggested that exercise ‘wakes up’ the nervous system, reducing tiredness.15
3. Eat energy-boosting foods – nutritious fuel is essential to beat low energy levels. Choose low-glycaemic index foods such as wholegrains, vegetables and legumes that release glucose more slowly, and can help keep you going for longer.16 Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time too, so you can make healthy choices even when you’re busy or stressed.
4. Get enough B-vitamins – B-vits are needed by the enzymes that break down the food we eat and turn it into energy.17 The B vitamins are found in a range of foods, including wholegrains, eggs, legumes and vegetables, so it’s important to eat a varied diet.18 If you think you’re not getting enough, consider taking a vitamin B complex.
5. Drink plenty of fluids - a 2011 US study found that even mild dehydration increased feelings of fatigue during exercise.19 The NHS advises drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day – not necessarily all water – to stay hydrated.20
Sources1. Collins Dictionary Online. Energy 2. British Nutrition Foundation. What is energy? 3. NHS. The truth about carbs
4. As above5. The Association of UK Dietitians. Top 5 worst celeb diets to avoid in 2018 6. Markus MacGill. Medical News Today. Tiredness and fatigue 7. Royal College of Psychiatrists. Tiredness
8. As above
9. As Source 6