Fatigue is one of the most common concerns that people suffer from! Why is it so common? and is there a simple way to combat fatigue? Our Head Nutritionist Ben discusses some common causes of fatigue and some simple steps you can take to identify these potential causes and how you can start to re energise your life!
It goes without saying, but sleep is crucial for good health! Often people will try radical approaches to improve fatigue, but they often forget the importance of sleep in maintaining our energy levels.
What if you can’t get a good night’s rest? The first thing is making sure that you have a healthy sleep routine - this can help to regulate our circadian rhythm (our internal body clock) (1). Some simple sleep hygiene tips include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding electronics at least 1 hour before bed, using the bedroom for sleeping and intimacy only, and making sure your bedroom is dark enough to sleep in.
2. Stress management
“Stress less!” – if only it was that easy! We are biologically hardwired to stress (in fact it’s a survival mechanism). For most of us we have food, shelter and access to water (everything we need to survive), but with modern life we now have a completely different set of anxieties such as mortgages, social media likes, or our never-ending search for perfection. This can be extremely exhausting both physically and mentally (2).
You may want to consider practicing mindfulness that can help us to bring our attention to the present moment rather than the past or future that can induce feelings of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practices include guided meditation, yoga or even breath-work that have demonstrated to reduce our stress hormone cortisol (3).
Making sure we are getting enough protein in the diet is extremely important. Protein is essential for growth and recovery, but also serves as an energy source in the body. When we stress this can be extremely demanding on the body and making sure we’re well equipped with adequate protein is necessary to help the body recover (4)!
You can find protein in poultry, fish, lean red meat, nuts, milk, yogurt, eggs, yogurt, cheese, tofu and of course hemp seeds! Equally important is making sure that you get all 9 essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), especially if you’re on a plant-based diet. Our hemp protein powder contain all 9 essential amino acids that can assist you further in getting enough protein!
Unfortunately, for women who are of reproductive age excessive losses of iron in the blood can lead to fatigue. Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells that helps to transfer oxygen in the body. If you suffer from fatigue and fall into this category you should probably get a blood test for iron deficiency. The next step is to make sure you are eating red meat once to twice a week, and if you’re plant-based consume foods such as hemp seeds, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and tofu regularly to increase your iron stores (5).
5. Vitamin B12
Just like iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause fatigue through a different type of anaemia (lack of red blood cells) called Pernicious anaemia. If you’re on a plant-based diet, in particular a diet that restricts all animal products you are likely at risk of developing B12 deficiency (6).
There is no need to worry though as resolving the issue may be as simple as taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Before you do that though, best to get this tested at the doctors who can assist you further.
It might surprise you that dehydration is a major cause of fatigue! Not only is water essential to life but is responsible for all the chemical reactions that happen in your body. Without it your body cannot carry out essential tasks such as supplying oxygen in the body. Adult males should aim for 2.6 L/day (roughly 10 cups) and adult women should aim for 2.1 L/day (roughly 8 cups) (7).
Contrary to what you may believe exercise can actually help to improve fatigue. Studies have shown that when we exercise, we can see an increase in the production of mitochondria. Think of our mitochondria as our little battery packs that are in every cell of the body, and just by exercising you can help increase energy in these little packs like recharging a battery. Aim for 30-60 minutes a day of exercise (8).
Studies indicate that all mammals tend to be more active when hungry, and more sedentary when fed. When we fast, this can give rise to the hormone adrenaline that may explain the perceived feeling of increased energy in people who practice fasting regularly (9).
If you want to try fasting, intermittent fasting (IF) is the first place to start – try a 10-hour non-eating window. Simply eat dinner, set a timer (try zero fasting app), go to sleep and wait until you hit 10 hours till you have your next meal. Increase your non-eating window gradually to avoid side effects such as hunger, lack of energy/concentration.
Disclaimer: Fasting takes time to adapt so you may feel more fatigued initially! Fasting may also not be indicated in particular individuals such as women who have a thyroid dysfunction.
9. Limit caffeine intake
Who doesn’t love a cuppa right? While caffeine may have many health benefits such as providing antioxidants, excessive caffeine intake can result in fatigue. Caffeine may block the effects of adenosine (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) that is responsible for making us feel sleepy! However, once the caffeine wears off, we can sometimes feel even more fatigued than we started off! (10)
Just remember that there is no substitute for a goods night rest! Aim to consume a maximum of 1-2 cups of coffee a day and avoid caffeine at least 8-10 hours (caffeine can stay in your system for this long) before you plan to go to sleep.
10. Lay off the booze
For a lot of us, alcohol is normal part of Australian culture. You may have a couple of drinks and think that you had a restful sleep aka “slept like a baby”. Unfortunately, alcohol actually has quite a different effect on sleep and studies show that alcohol consumption reduces all measure of quality of sleep.
The reason being that when you initially fall asleep after drinking you are actually in a sedated state rather than being in a slow-wave sleep where your body can start to repair and reduce fatigue. Aim to drink as far away from your bedtime to avoid these effects (11).
If you have any questions, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above.
- cdn science pub