Many of us experience low energy levels throughout the day. We often mistakenly think that this is due to lack of sleep or just too much going on in our busy lives.However, you can help yourself to minimise fatigue and boost energy by adopting an number of methods:
- Always eat breakfast. Preferably include some protein such as eggs which are high in protein that can help you feel full for longer and balance blood sugar levels. If you are one of those people who can’t face too much breakfast in the mornings, try some yoghurt sprinkled with nuts and seeds and fresh fruit. Whiz it up into a smoothie if that helps it go down!
- Never skip lunch – skipping this meal means your blood sugar levels will remain low throughout the afternoon and continue to drop leaving you not only tired, but also unable to concentrate, irritable and hungry.
- Always eat protein-rich foods at lunchtime such as chicken, lean meat, tuna, eggs, beans or reduced-fat cheese. Protein-rich foods appear to either help to block the production of sleep-inducing serotonin or increase levels of other brain chemicals which make us feel more alert and increases our ability to concentrate.
- Avoid sugar and sugary foods to perk you up. A bar of chocolate and can of cola will rapidly boost blood sugar levels to give you a quick energy boost. But the effects will be short lived. Your blood sugar levels will drop just as rapidly, leaving you right back where you started.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day. Being even slightly dehydrated will make you tired and listless with poor concentration. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty before drinking either – by the time thirst kicks in you are already dehydrated. The key is to keep drinking regularly throughout the day. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water daily – more if it’s hot or you’re exercising.
- If possible, do some exercise at lunchtime. If you can’t manage to exercise at lunchtime, take a 10-minute walk when tiredness hits, preferably outside. The fresh air will help you feel more alert. Plus, a quick brisk walk will improve your circulation and help you breathe more deeply so you take in more oxygen – an essential ingredient for the brain.
If all these tips fail, check you don’t have a medical problem that causes extreme tiredness. For example, underactive thyroid, depression or anaemia can include symptoms such as fatigue, a lack of energy and poor concentration.
Foods for increasing energy levels
Vitamins and Minerals
- Iron rich foods: important for energy production:
Red meat, pulses, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables – eat with Vitamin C foods (see below) to help get most out of vegetarian source of iron
- B vitamin foods: help to give you a steady increase in energy instead of rollercoaster highs and lows. B vitamins are needed for efficient metabolism.
Brown rice, millet, barley, pulses (beans and lentils), seeds, nuts. Calms nerves and supports adrenal function. Other whole grains such as rye and whole wheat. Also found in red meat, chicken and dairy.
- Vitamin C: strengthens immune system; makes collagen to keep bones strong and helps convert food into energy.
strawberries, broccoli, kiwi fruit, peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes
- Magnesium foods: important for the heart muscle and nervous system and for energy production.
nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, seeds, whole grains and cereals
- Coenzyme Q10: present in all human tissues and organs. Helps the provision of energy for all human cells. Our ability to produce CoQ10 decreases with age
Sardines, mackerel, spinach, pork, sesame seeds, walnuts.
Foods that can decrease energy levels
- Sugar can contribute to feeling of fatigue:
Too much sugar can encourage energy highs and lows leaving you feeling fatigued and lacking in energy.
- Caffeine may also cause fatigue:
creates a “caffeine buzz” which is followed by another “energy-crash”. Eliminating caffeine and sugar from the diet for a couple of weeks can help make a big difference to energy levels.
- Avoid eating very large meals:
digesting food can be hard work and make you feel very sleepy especially during the day. At lunch thick vegetable soups are easier to digest than a large meal. Add beans and pulses for extra protein.
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