If you started this year with a bang and full of vitality but haven’t been able to maintain such enthusiasm and are starting to feel fatigued, you are not alone! Fatigue at this time year is very common.
Here are 7 ways to heal fatigue with nutrition.
Reduce intake of caffeine
First and foremost, it is important to reduce your intake of stimulants. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and in small amounts can be very beneficial for mood, alertness, concentration and boosting energy levels. However, caffeine puts the body into the ‘fight or flight mode’ and overtime this can deplete the central nervous system. In addition, high intakes of caffeine may deplete magnesium and calcium and impact our ability to absorb iron. Replace caffeine with a more nervous system supportive drink such as herbal tea or a fruit and vegetable juice.
Protein at each meal and snack
Adequate protein at each meal and snack is important to keep appetite stable and support energy levels. This is especially so at breakfast time as not eating enough protein at breakfast can lead to constant cravings and an insatiable appetite during the day. At breakfast time some easy options include eggs, tofu, fish, cottage cheese, yoghurt or toss some hemp seeds into a smoothie.
Don’t forget the fibre!
We all know the importance of fibre and that is required as part of a balanced diet. However, many of us pay little attention to our fibre intake. When it comes to energy, fibre rich foods slow the release of sugar into the blood stream and therefore we are more likely to feel satisfied for longer and have a more sustained release of energy from foods. Fibre rich foods include wholegrains, fruit, legumes, nuts/seeds and vegetables. Hemp seeds are a really easy way to boost the fibre content of meals and can be added to smoothies, stirred into yoghurt or sprinkled on salads and soups.
Nourish the nervous system
Stress and can be a major contributor to fatigue and nourishing the nervous system is key in supporting energy levels. An important mineral in this respect is magnesium because magnesium plays an important role in the functioning of the nervous system. Unfortunately, both mental and physical stress can cause increased elimination of magnesium from the body. This in turn inhibits our ability to deal with stress. If you have gone through a period of stress or live life in the fast lane generally, make sure your diet includes a wide variety of magnesium rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, avocado, nuts and seeds, broccoli, asparagus and legumes
Nourish pre and post work out
Many of us neglect pre and post work out nutrition and this can have a very negative impact on our energy levels. If we arrive at exercise time low on fuel we will feel fatigued during the session and are more likely to work out less effectively and feel poorly afterwards. Similarly, if we don’t refuel correctly following an exercise session, we may suffer from insatiable appetite and low energy! If your last meal/snack is many hours before a session, have a small carbohydrate rich snack prior to exercise such as a banana and post exercise, refuel with a protein and carbohydrate rich snack such as a fruit, yoghurt and hemp seed smoothie or thick greek yoghurt with berries.
Don’t fear carbs
In recent times fat has been favoured in fear of carbs! However, carbohydrates are a very necessary part of our daily diet especially if exercising. The brain is a very energy hungry organ and requires a constant supply of energy. Carbs are needed at each meal to fuel this supply; otherwise we are left lacking concentration. Additionally, carbs are a great supply of B-vitamins, which are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and help energy production in the body.
Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate!
Adequate Hydration is critical for maintain energy levels and not to mention overall wellbeing.
If you struggle to drink enough water during the day, some easy ways to increase hydration include:
- Swap caffeinated beverages for herbal tea or fresh vegetable juice
- Add fresh sliced fruit/veg to water for extra flavour – strawberries, cucumber and mint are a lovely combo!
- Have a vegetable soup for lunch
- Snack on vegetables and fruits with a high water content (eg capsicum, cucumber, strawberries)
- Get up from your desk and have a glass of water every 30mins.
Nourish the thyroid gland
A sluggish thyroid can wreak havoc on energy levels and overall vitality. To help support the optimal functioning of your thyroid gland it’s important to make sure you are eating enough foods rich in iron, zinc, iodine and selenium, all of which are needed by the thyroid to convert inactive thyroid hormone into active, the form used by the body. Food sources include:
- Iron: red meat, almonds, apricots, parsley, spinach, lentils and sunflower seeds
- Zinc: beef, capsicum, egg yolks, ginger, oysters, pumpkin seeds and wholegrains.
- Iodine: seafood, seaweed, asparagus, dairy, mushrooms and sunflower seeds
- Selenium: brazil nuts, alfalfa, celery, eggs, fish, garlic, cashews and tuna.
When you follow these key tips and eat to nourish your body with what it needs, you’ll be full of beans and bouncing with energy in no time!
How do you use food to fight fatigue?
Zoe Bingley- Pullin is a celebrity chef and nutritionist who is also one of the experts on Channel 7’s House of Wellness. She is also the author of several successful cookbooks.