Fighting Fatigue with Food
Fatigue affects us in different ways
For many of us just the thought of getting out of bed in the morning can be quite daunting as we either don’t find sleep to be refreshing, or simply don’t get enough good quality Z’s. For others, hitting that mid – afternoon low energy slump seems to be a recurring phenomenon. This is exactly when we tend to reach out for sugary foods, coffee and energy drinks. Sugar and stimulants can certainly pick up our energy levels temporarily, but in the long run they are energy – depleting and can make us even more exhausted as they lead us down the path of a more chronic or permanent fatigue.
Was it the chicken or the egg?
Are we insomniacs or light sleepers because we’re not eating well, or… is our poor diet the cause of our disturbed sleep?
Are we experiencing large amounts of continuous stress which ultimately leads us to making not so healthy food choices, or… are the biochemical processes already so out of whack due to the fact we have been feeding our fatigued bodies with high–calorie, low micro–nutrient foods?
And just for argument’s sake, if our stress levels are that high that we can’t find the time or even bother about making healthier food choices, then why are we stressed? Do we ever stop and think about why we are feeling the way we are feeling, thinking the way we are thinking, doing whatever it is that we are doing?
So what can we do in order to fight fatigue?
Food is our fuel - we are all ‘what we eat and digest’. But looking around at our nationally – growing waistline and poor national health status, it is sad to say we are quickly becoming one of the fattest, unhealthiest nations in the world. If we all make this very simple but critical association between how we feel physically and the food and drinks that go into our mouths, we can experience not only an increase in energy levels but also a great improvement in every aspect of our health.
Fatigue Fighting Food Tip # 1:
Mum was right!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and must always be consumed. So yes, we need to make sure we never miss breakky. What we actually eat for breakfast in fact, can determine our energy levels for the rest of the day.
In order to increase our energy levels, and keep them sustained throughout the day, it is crucial that we eat unprocessed wholesome foods at breakfast time and during the day. Choosing any types of foods that either come from the ground, have a mother and haven’t been ‘messed with’ (meaning as wholesome, unrefined and as unprocessed as possible) regularly, makes it easier for us to find food sources that are beneficial for both increasing and sustaining our energy levels daily.
Fatigue Fighting Food Tip # 2
Include a good (unprocessed) source of protein for brekky.
Protein has an interesting effect on the release of glucose, our body’s main source of energy into the blood. Adding a serve of good quality protein to every meal will ensure a gradual release of glucose, and therefore more sustainable energy levels throughout the day. Here are some simple, tasty and satisfying breakfast suggestions:
· Poached eggs on wholegrain toast (such as wholemeal sourdough, wholemeal multigrain, dark rye, barley or spelt) with avocado and grilled tomato.
· A bowl of cooked wholegrain oats or steel cut oats, with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or chia seeds and a drizzle of honey OR Home Made Bircher Muesli (Recipe available in ‘KIS and Lose Weight’ and online at mayabrosnan.com.au/blog)
· A ‘kick start’ smoothie: 1 cup of A2 milk or dairy alternatives (rice milk, goats’ milk, oat milk, almond milk), ½ - 1 banana, ½ - 1 cup of your favourite berries (blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries etc.), 1 teaspoon of honey (if desired), 1 raw free range egg and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds. Alternatively, replace the raw egg, yoghurt and seeds with a raw vegan protein powder. Delicious!
Fatigue Fighting Food Tip # 3
At lunch and dinner time, make sure you consume a variety of vegetables plus a healthy source of unprocessed protein such as fish, chicken, egg or turkey for example. The grains you choose should be of wholesome sources like brown rice and wholemeal or spelt pasta for example. Wholesome grains provide our body with not only the energy it needs from the carbohydrates it contains, but also accessory vitamins and minerals within these foods to help the body convert it to energy.
Fatigue Fighting Food Tip # 4
Cut the Crap!
Although sugar can pick your energy levels up very quickly, it also creates a fast drop of blood glucose which can get us feeling more tired than before we had it. Make an effort to restrict your consumption of sugar (including soft drinks, energy drinks and commercial juices), and junk food in general. Have a good, honest look at your diet and notice how often you have these types of foods. Rather than cutting treats out altogether, and as long as you eat wholesomely most of the time, allow yourself to have an occasional treat with a smile (no more than once or twice a week).
Fighting Fatigue Food Tip # 5
5 Alcohol Free Days per Week will do the Trick
If you find yourself having a drink (or three) more than once or twice a week to help you sleep or reduce your stress levels, you may need to find a different way to unwind. Gentle yoga and meditation can certainly do the trick while improving your overall energy levels in the process. Alcohol has a detrimental effect not only on your liver, but also on your insulin response and blood sugar levels. Consuming this nutrient depleting beverage often will deplete energy levels and promote further cravings to not just alcohol, but also sugary or junk food in general.
Fighting Fatigue Food Tip # 6
Coffee is meant to give us a little bit of a ‘lift’ as it helps pick up our energy levels. Having 1 – 2 coffees per day, without it affecting your sleep, giving you headaches or making you feel anxious is ok. However, any more than one or two cups (depending on the individual), can increase your cortisol production (a ‘long term’ stress hormone), which can in turn put loads of pressure on your adrenal glands. As the adrenal glands work overtime and begin to fatigue, you will find that you gradually become more and more lethargic, moody or depressed, and that coffee or even energy drinks can no longer give you that instant ‘pick up’.
Fighting Fatigue Food Tip # 7
Never go past 4 hours without eating
Make sure you have a couple of healthy snacks between your meals in order to sustain your energy levels and avoid craving unhealthy foods. Snacks can consist of seasonal fruit, nuts and seeds, fruit with yoghurt, boiled eggs and vegetable sticks or wholegrain crackers with hummus dip, just to give you a few healthy ideas.
Once you get used to this new way of eating, you may find that the need for a mid afternoon sugary snack or energy drink will become a thing of the past, increased energy levels a thing of the present, and healthy eating just a way of life.