Eating for Energy: 4 Healthy Eating Habits to Address Fatigue

feeling tired

Reviewed by Harriet Smith, Registered Dietitian

Feeling tired all the time? Constantly exhausted and wanting to crawl back into bed? You’re not alone! Even if you’re getting sufficient sleep and regularly exercising, eating well is key to feeling refreshed. The good news is that with a bit of forward-planning, eating the right sorts of foods can help you to feel energised. This blog post offers five ways to change your eating habits to help address fatigue and stop you feeling tired all the time.

1. Start the day with a decent breakfast

Breakfast is widely thought of as the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides you with energy to kick-start your day, which studies suggest improves short-term memory and concentration throughout the morning (1, 2). So what are the best breakfast foods for tiredness? Try to choose a breakfast consisting of some protein (i.e. eggs, fish, yoghurt), healthy fats (i.e. avocado or nuts) and some wholegrain carbohydrates, as these release their energy slowly, helping to maintain blood sugar levels (3). Even better, add in a portion (80g) of vegetables or fruit, to boost your fibre intake!

2. Avoid ultra-processed foods

As the name suggests, ultra-processed foods like hotdogs, sweets and fizzy drinks are highly processed. They’re often high in added sugars, saturated fat and salt along with artificial flavours and chemical preservatives – ingredients designed to make us crave more. Many ultra-processed foods have a high glycaemic index (GI). The GI is a ranking of carbohydrates and indicates how slowly or how quickly those foods will raise your blood sugar levels after eating. Ultra-processed, high GI foods can cause a high blood sugar spike, followed by a sugar crash, making you feel lethargic and tired (4). So, cutting down on ultra-processed foods is a fantastic starting point when it comes to improving your energy levels.  

3. Limit caffeine intake

Constantly reaching for a coffee? The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant which can help you feel more alert for a limited amount of time, but if you become too reliant on coffee for that burst of energy, it’s possible you might experience caffeine withdrawal when the effects wear off (5). This can leave you with headaches, low energy levels, anxiety and even mood disorders (6). The recommended safe amount of caffeine is 400 mg per day, which is equivalent to about three mugs of brewed coffee or four cups of tea (7). If you feel that caffeine is effecting your sleep, consider limiting caffeine after lunch time or switch to decaf.

4. Follow a healthy and balanced diet

It can be difficult to plan and prepare a healthy, balanced diet filled with the right amounts of nutrients that our body requires. It’s so tempting to order a Chinese takeaway and collapse on the sofa after coming home from work! However, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can contribute towards feelings of fatigue and low energy levels. For example, iron deficiency anaemia is associated with fatigue and tiredness (8). Similarly, patients with B12 deficiencies often present with feelings of fatigue (9). Most people can get all the nutrients they need from eating a healthy and balanced diet, without resorting to expensive supplements.

So,  how can you ensure you’re eating foods that help with fatigue?

Following the top tips listed above may sound like a daunting task, but don’t worry! Reset Your Health (RYH) is an online plan, based on an algorithm, which is personalised to an individual’s dietary and medical needs. You’ll be provided with a bespoke meal plan reviewed by Registered Dietitians to optimise both physical and mental health. Our recipes, nutrition facts, blogs and supermarket shopping lists are designed to make healthy eating simple and sustainable. If you’re tired of feeling tired all the time and wondering if there are foods to help with tiredness, why not try out the RYH program

References

1. Michaud C, Musse N, Nicolas J, Mejean L. Effects of breakfast-size on short-term memory, concentration, mood and blood glucose. Journal of Adolescent Health. 1991;12(1):53-57.

2. Galioto R, Spitznagel M. The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Adults. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(3):576S-589S.

3. Marventano S, Vetrani C, Vitale M, Godos J, Riccardi G, Grosso G. Whole Grain Intake and Glycaemic Control in Healthy Subjects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):769.

4. Gellar L, Nansel T. High and Low Glycemic Index Mixed Meals and Blood Glucose in Youth with Type 2 Diabetes or Impaired Glucose Tolerance. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2009;154(3):455-458.

5. Rivera-Oliver M, Díaz-Ríos M. Using caffeine and other adenosine receptor antagonists and agonists as therapeutic tools against neurodegenerative diseases: A review. Life Sciences. 2014;101(1-2):1-9.

6. Sajadi-Ernazarova K R, Anderson J, Hamilton RJ. Caffeine Withdrawal. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls; 2020.

7. Reyes C, Cornelis M. Caffeine in the Diet: Country-Level Consumption and Guidelines. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1772.

8. Kristine Jimenez K, Kulnigg-Dabsch S, Gasche C. Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2015;11(4):241-50.

9. Ankar A, Kumar, A. Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Cobalamin). In StatPears [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): Statpearls; 2020.