“Man, I sure wish I had more energy. I had to skip breakfast and lunch because I’ve been so busy. I better get a 5-Hour Energy drink. Maybe a triple-mocha with extra chocolate or whipped cream? Yeah, that will get me through this meeting. If it goes well, I will reward myself by going out tonight and drinking with my buddies. If I stay out too late, I can always hit up Starbucks on my way into work, tomorrow.”
When you are fatigued, it helps to go back to the fundamentals of what gives us our energy. Energy is heavily influenced by:
- Physical health
- Mood altering chemicals
- Past experiences and more
Below are some basic ideas to help create and sustain energy through food choice. Most of us have increasingly high demands in both our personal and professional lives, leading us to feel exhausted and drained. Typically, when fatigued, we reach for caffeinated beverages instead of water like energy drinks or coffee and rely on carbohydrate-heavy foods like a bag of chips. This is likely due to learned behavior(s) as foods heavy in carbs provide us with quick energy and the effects caffeine has on mental stimulation.
After consumption, carbs digest quickly, breaking down into glucose to fuel our bodies for a brief period. As our brains tire, we look to energize ourselves with these high-glucose items to improve functionality and rid the feeling of fatigue. However, most of us have experienced that approximately one hour later, our energy from our carbo-rich snack is quickly is depleted. On the flip side, when we include whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats; we can slow down the carb digestion process, which can give us energy for longer periods. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are broken down at different parts of the digestive tract which help the utilization of the glucose you’ve stored. We also need to ensure we are drinking enough non-caffeinated fluids like water throughout the day. Dehydration is a known cause of fatigue. It can not only negatively impact how we utilize nutrients, but slow down our cognitive functioning. Aim for 11-16 cups of fluids like water and decaf tea daily.
Try this: Next time you are feeling like a crash is coming around 3 p.m., instead of running to your nearest coffee shop, try grabbing a handful of trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, or maybe a granola bar and yogurt. Make sure to include 8 oz of water as well. These options provide great sources of the nutrients needed to help keep your energy levels high. If you are someone who gets adequate sleep and exercises regularly, but still feel fatigued; you may be experiencing some underlying dietary issues. You may need to consult with a dietitian and/or medical doctor as there could be a medical issue that needs to be addressed.
Article By Elijah Bedrosian, MC, LPC & Taylor Aasand, MPH, RDN