Most people can relate to feeling constantly exhausted for a long period of time at some point in our lives. Often, it’s tricky to work out what to do to get yourself out of that rut so that you can enjoy life without the extreme fatigue. Improving sleep quality, adjusting your level of exercise and limiting stress can be hugely important for boosting your energy levels, but your diet actually plays a more significant role in this than you might think.
Steady on! Maintaining your blood sugar level
We’re often told that eating well involves cutting out foods that are highly processed or high in sugar. Not only is this because they contain many fewer essential nutrients for your body than whole foods (such as vegetables and wholegrains such as brown rice), but they can also play havoc with your blood sugar level. In order to avoid fatigue and stay energised throughout the day, you want your blood sugar level to remain relatively constant. If your blood sugar level dips, you’ll feel tired all the time and lethargic, and if it spikes you’ll experience a burst of energy which quickly disappears and leaves you feeling more washed out than you were before.
Processed and sugary foods have what’s called a high GI (glycaemic index). This means they cause your blood sugar level to spike immediately after you eat them, but to drop back down straight afterwards. You might think that a chocolate fix is just what you need to get you through the afternoon, but after an initial boost you’ll be left feeling more fatigued than you were before. Instead, try a less sugary snack (for example, some almond butter on oatcakes). Not only will this keep you fuller and more satisfied for longer, it will help you maintain a steady blood sugar level and fend of fatigue.
How often should you be eating to stop feeling tired all the time?
It’s not just about what you eat, but when you eat. Skipping meals is a big no-no, as your blood sugar level will take a significant dip and you’ll likely find that you feel sluggish even after eating. Having breakfast is especially important, but be wary of sugary breakfast cereals as these will induce a spike and crash effect. The RYH plan has some great recipes packed with essential nutrients and slow-burning carbohydrates to start your day.
Similarly, some people find that only eating three large meals a day, spaced hours apart, can make them feel tired all the time. If this sounds like you, try eating smaller meals more regularly and a few snacks spaced evenly throughout the day to feel energised for longer. Often, it comes down to personal preference. Experiment with your meal timings and frequency to see what helps you feel at your best.
The caffeine buzz might be making you feel tired
As with sugary and processed foods, caffeine might seem like a quick fix to solve your tiredness but in the long run it can just make the problem worse. That cup of coffee will give you an initial buzz but you’ll soon be back to feeling exhausted and listless. Cutting back on the caffeine will help remind your body how to manage its own energy levels, leading to a healthier and more sustainable energised feeling.
Hydration is key to combatting tiredness
We know that including lots of water in our diet is good for our general health, but research has found that drinking plenty of the old H20 can help stop you feeling tired all the time. A 2014 study compared two groups, one whose participants drank 2.5 litres of water per day and another who only drank 1 litre. Not only did they find that the group who drank more water felt happier, but they also felt more awake during the day and found it easier to sleep at night (1) . If you’re struggling with fatigue, try to drink around eight glasses of water per day. This should improve your alertness and make you feel more energised.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
If you think you’re doing all the right things to manage your blood sugar level and keeping hydrated but you still feel constantly fatigued, it might be a sign of a deficiency in key vitamins and minerals. A common symptom of B12 deficiency is tiredness (2). This condition is becoming increasingly common these days as more people choose to avoid protein sources which are rich in B12, such as meat, eggs and dairy. Conditions such as leaky gut, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease also affect how well our bodies absorb B12. The foods listed above are also packed with iron, another mineral which is vital for staying energised as it is essential for making red blood cells. Patients with iron deficiency anaemia often display fatigue as a symptom (3). It is entirely possible to eat well without including these foods in your diet, and the RYH plan caters for all sorts of dietary restrictions without compromising on nutritional quality.
Can eating well solve tiredness completely?
Although for many people paying attention to their diet can make a huge difference to their energy levels, your constant feeling of fatigue could be an indicator of a bigger problem. Lack of good-quality sleep could be one (see our top tips for getting an amazing night’s sleep). But it might also be a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as an under-active thyroid. If you’re concerned that your tiredness might be about more than your gut health, be sure to consult your GP.
1. Pross N, Demazières A, Girard N, Barnouin R, Metzger D, Klein A, et al. Effects of Changes in Water Intake on Mood of High and Low Drinkers. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(4);
2. A; AAK. Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Cobalamin) [Internet]. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine; [cited 2020Jun26]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28722952/
3. C; JKK-DSG. Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia [Internet]. Gastroenterology & hepatology. U.S. National Library of Medicine; [cited 2020Jun26]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27099596