This is a question I hear quite often in my private practice. There is no one easy answer or any one miracle food, but there are certain foods and nutrients that might make you feel more energized after you have first looked at your overall health picture. If you constantly feel fatigued it would benefit you to see your primary care provider and get a physical and some blood work as well as rule out any of the more common concerns that can lead to fatigue such as
- Thyroid problems
- IBS (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Sleep deprivation
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Shift work
- Sleep apnea.
There are also some serious illnesses, which while less common can also be related to a chronic state of fatigue such as:
- Chronic heart disease
- Psychiatric illnesses
- Connective tissue diseases
- Neoplastic disease
- Chronic infections (eg, AIDS)
- Endocrine diseases (eg, Addison disease)
- Liver disease
- Renal disease
Once your have ruled these illness and conditions out. It’s time to look at your lifestyle, your activity level & your usual nutritional intake.
Are you starting the day out right with a balanced breakfast?
One that contains both carbohydrate and protein? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating carbohydrates for energy and protein for endurance. Some quick options include:
- Cereal with fruit and yogurt
- A smoothie made with fruit, and a protein sources such as Greek yoghurt.
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and fruit
- Hard-boiled egg with whole wheat bread
- Scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit
Are your drinking enough water?
Dehydration is one of the main reasons people can feel exhausted. If you’re not well hydrated, your body will use its resources to maintain your fluid balance not your energy. Make sure you are well hydrated through the day; you may want to pay attention to just how much water you are drinking during the daytime.
Are you using caffeine and simple sugars to stay alert?
While some caffeine can be helpful too much can rebound and cause more fatigue and sleep cycle disturbances. Try switching to ginger tea or green tea, which has less caffeine that coffee. Stop drinking caffeinated drinks 8 to 10 hours before you go to bed. Also if you drink soda try to eliminate it or switch to a mixture of soda water with a splash of juice for flavor. Caffeine withdrawal can lead to headaches so if you currently use a lot of caffeine then gradually wean off to prevent negative side effects.
Are you eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day?
Aim for 5 servings per day and when you need a boost grab some fruit and avoid the highly processed snack foods & fast food. Fruits and vegetables are vitamin & mineral powerhouses and will give you the nutrients you need to stay energized until your next meal. Grab a handful of nuts that are rich in Magnesium (see below) to have with your fruit. Magnesium: sources include Almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts; this is a mineral important in converting carbohydrates into energy. Other good sources of magnesium include whole grains and dark green vegetables.
Are you getting Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet?
Omega – 3 can reduce inflammation, combat depression and improve mood and memory. Sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens and hemp seeds.
You may wish to consult with a registered dietitian (RD or RDN) who can do a full nutritional assessment & help determine if you need to modify your diet & if you need a nutritional supplement.
Sara Flores, RDN
Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist