Got Energy?

energy in a cup?

energy in a cup?

We’re living in the Age of Fatigue.  Everyone is exhausted and out of energy.  It’s practically a badge of honor to be chronically tired, and a constant topic of conversation.  Food marketers have devised hundreds of new “energy” products to fight this epidemic of fatigue.

Strangely, humans survived for hundreds of thousands of years, doing hard physical labor every single day: farming without modern machinery, building, gathering and preparing raw plant foods, hunting, fishing and walking tens of thousands of miles to populate the planet.  All without the alleged benefit of all the fancy “energy” products.  It seems like the more sedentary and inactive we are, the more energy-boosting products we need.

If you’re constantly fatigued, ingesting energy products might not be the solution, because fatigue can be caused by lots of non-food issues.  If your life includes any of these risk factors, energy gels aren’t likely to solve your fatigue problem:

  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • poor quality sleep
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • illness
  • side effects of medications
  • anemia
  • extreme hot weather
  • lack of exercise

Yes, lack of exercise.  You might think exercise will make you tired, but in fact regular physical activity can be energizing, making you more fit and increasing your stamina.

Certainly there are nutritional considerations if you’re constantly tired, or always lose energy at certain times of day.  And even if your fatigue is due to some non-food issue (see above), you can help your body deal with stress or anxiety by eating the best possible diet.  Here are some food and diet strategies to help your body fight fatigue:

  1. Stay away from foods and beverages full of added sugar.  Definitely don’t make a habit of eating meals that are primarily sugar and refined carbs.  Example: breakfast is a doughnut and a sweetened coffee drink; lunch is a candy bar and a soft drink.
  2. Make sure your iron levels are OK.  Routine physical exams usually include a simple test for iron status.  Low iron and low red blood cell count may be anemia.  But if you have anemia, don’t assume taking iron will fix it.  There are many causes of anemia besides poor iron intake.  A doctor can evaluate that for you.
  3. Stay hydrated.  Being dehydrated can make you feel draggy.
  4. Avoid big heavy meals, loaded with fatty foods.  It’s almost as if your overloaded stomach puts you to sleep, so you’ll stop eating.
  5. Avoid excess alcohol, especially on a regular basis.  Alcohol will impact how you feel the next day, even if you don’t officially have a hangover.
  6. Eat a high fiber plant-based diet, with modest portions of protein foods.
  7. Avoid consuming too much caffeine.  And know your caffeine sources: coffee, tea, green tea, energy drinks, energy bars or gels, even chocolate.  Also, irregular caffeine intake, such as drinking several cups of coffee one day and then none the next, can also make you feel exhausted.
  8. Don’t skip meals.  After all, our only true energy is calories, and if you aren’t eating your calorie supply can run low, making you feel tired.
  9. Don’t fast all day, and then overload on a big evening meal.  Your energy level will have fallen by the time you get to that big meal, which may just put you to sleep.  And sleeping on a very full stomach can lead to poor sleep, which makes your fatigue situation worse.
  10. Don’t rely on “energy” products or vitamin supplements or antioxidants or random amino acids to fix your fatigue problem.   And don’t expect “energy” products to help if you continue eating a junky, high fat, high sodium and high sugar processed food diet.

 

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