You might be all too familiar with the 11am energy dip or the 4pm slump where you reach for a coffee, a biscuit or a slice of cake to pull you back up and see you through the rest of the day. Many of my clients are victims of these energy slumps. Have we just accepted that we are forever a slave to these daily energy patterns or is there something we can do to help reduce these dips in energy.
In this article I’m sharing my top tips for reducing fatigue.
B-vitamins play a key role in energy metabolism and as a co-enzyme to many physiological functions. B12 is absolutely critical in maintaining energy as it is essential in red blood cell production. However, meat, fish and eggs are the main dietary source of vitamin B12. Research has shown that individuals who eat a more plant based diet are at risk of B12, omega-3, selenium and zinc deficiencies. Those following a plant-based diet are often recommended to supplement with B12.
Iron is another micronutrient which is fundamental for maintaining energy levels. One of the prime symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia is severe lack of energy. Iron deficiency can also lead to cognitive decline which can consequently reduce productivity and work quality. Iron is an important component of haemaglobin which helps to transport oxygen in the blood around the body. Dietary sources of iron include red meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. For plant based iron sources it is recommended to combine it with vitamin C to increase the bioavailability (the amount that can be absorbed and utilised) of the iron; try a squeeze of lemon juice over spinach.
- Maintaining blood glucose balance.
Eating food stimulates a rise in blood glucose response. Foods rich in simple carbohydrates and sugars create a large spike in your blood sugar levels and a consequent insulin release which causes blood sugar levels to drop significantly lower than baseline leaving you feeling low in energy and ready to reach for the next biscuit to re-start the cycle.
Opting for foods rich in protein and fats can maintain a stable blood glucose levels, prevent the roller-coaster spikes and maintain energy levels. Should you wish to opt for something a little sweeter I recommend combining it with a source of protein or healthy fats. For example apple and peanut butter, dates and almonds or Greek yoghurt with berries, cinnamon and a splash of honey.
- Maintaining a Healthy Gut
Gut health appears to be making it’s way into most articles at the moment.However, this shows how much of a role it plays in the overall functioning of our body. Gut disorders such as leaky gut and IBS can inhibit the absorption of micronutrients leaving you with a variety of micronutrient deficiencies and consequently feeling all round exhausted. Look after your gut by consuming pre and probiotic foods regularly. Foods such as fermented vegetables, kefir, yoghurt, kombucha and saukraut are great for building a healthy gut bacteria. Should you suspect you have a serious gastrointestinal disorder I recommend seeking personalised advice from a nutritionist.
- Stay Active
After a long days work, often the last thing we want to do when we’re lacking energy is hit the gym. However, this can be the energy boost you need. How many times have you walked out of a workout with more energy than you had before you went in? Research has shown that graded exercise has helped improve symptoms of individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Even a simple walk when you’re feeling tired or an invigorating yoga class can make all the difference.
Finally, sleep is essential in maintaining energy. During periods of sleep the body rejuvinates and repairs itself. It is the periods of REM sleep which are essential to this process. Research has shown those who lack sleep are more likely to opt for high sugar foods which can stimulate that blood glucose rollercoaster. Ideally aim for 8 hours sleep a night. This may sometimes require you to skip a TV show or leaving work drinks a little bit earlier but your body will thank you for it in the long-term.
These tips are here to help you with your everyday low energy slumps. If you’re suffering with severe lack of energy I recommend you contact a nutritionist or your GP for more specific advice.
Fayet, F., Flood, V., Petocz, P., & Samman, S. (2014). Avoidance of meat and poultry decreases intakes of omega‐3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium and zinc in young women. Journal of human nutrition and dietetics, 27(s2), 135-142.
Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.
Jáuregui-Lobera, I. (2014). Iron deficiency and cognitive functions. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 10, 2087.
Wallman, K. E., Morton, A. R., Goodman, C., Grove, R., & Guilfoyle, A. M. (2004). Randomised controlled trial of graded exercise in chronic fatigue syndrome. Medical Journal of Australia, 180(9), 444.
Kjeldsen, J. S., Hjorth, M. F., Andersen, R., Michaelsen, K. F., Tetens, I., Astrup, A., … & Sjödin, A. (2014). Short sleep duration and large variability in sleep duration are independently associated with dietary risk factors for obesity in Danish school children. International journal of obesity, 38(1), 32-39.