It sometimes feels like there is nothing you can do about fatigue, but changing your diet is an easy way to fight it. Eating the right foods to beat fatigue doesn’t have to be difficult – follow our simple tips for a healthier diet that will give you more energy and reduce fatigue.
There can be a number of reasons for fatigue. Often it can be caused by menopause, pregnancy, an infection such as flu, or by just being too busy. In some cases, fatigue can be caused by poor diet.
Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, the main reason any animal eats food is for energy. Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated or dull. For most people it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like swapping to wholemeal pasta or brown bread. Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.
So whether your diet is the cause of your fatigue or not, increasing the amount of energy rich foods you eat will help you feel less tired. We’ve provided a guide to help you figure out which foods provide good sources of energy and which you should avoid.
What to eat
Complex carbohydrates are a great source of energy – they release energy slowly, avoiding the peaking and crashing that accompanies sugary foods. Complex carbohydrates include starchy root vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot and parsnips, as well as pumpkin, squash, quinoa, brown rice and legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
Low iron can be a cause of fatigue, so if you are anaemic or think you aren’t getting enough iron, eat more foods like red meat, spinach and asparagus. Interestingly, spinach actually contains more iron per 100g than a beef steak does. Increasing your Vitamin C intake will help your body absorb this iron –this vitamin can be found in bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, cauliflower, pineapple, lemon and oranges.
Leafy Greens – as well as being a source of iron, nutrient-dense leafy greens such as spinach and kale contain a range of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, vitamin B and Vitamin C, and are packed full of protein for energy.
Chia seeds – these small black seeds contain protein, healthy fats and fibre. Chia means ‘strength’ in Mayan, and it is thought that the great Aztec warriors ate these seeds to give them energy and strength for long battles.
Nuts – choose from almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and pecans. These are a great source of energy, and make an easy, delicious afternoon snack! Raw, unsalted nuts are the healthiest option.
Eggs provide everything required to grow a single cell into a living chick in the space of a couple of weeks, so they are packed full of energy in the form of protein and healthy fat. They are best served soft-poached or soft-boiled, as frying and hard-boiling can destroy the proteins and nutrients inside.
Water – not a food, but water is so important for maintaining energy levels as it plays an important role in metabolising food. Even mild dehydration can affect energy levels (as well as mood and concentration) because the body puts all of its energy into preserving water rather than digesting food. The common recommendation is around two litres a day. If you struggle to drink this much, try adding a straw to your bottle; this allows you to sip away all day without really thinking about it.
Green tea – again, not a food, but green tea helps boost metabolism which makes it easier and quicker to digest food and get the nutrients and energy you need. It’s lower in caffeine than black tea as well, so won’t cause the same crash in energy later on.
There are loads of delicious, healthy snacks you can make that combine these energy boosting ingredients. Anything with nuts and seeds is a good start, and the less refined sugar the better!
We just love these Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls. They’re so easy to make and great for snacking on at work, or for refuelling before and after exercising. Why not give them a go?
TIP: Add some cacao powder for an extra indulgent treat!
What not to eat
Processed foods – these include ready meals, sugary breakfast cereals, tinned food and bacon. These foods tend to be high in sodium which is dehydrating, as well as saturated fats that will make you feel sluggish.
Caffeine – caffeine seems like a good way to boost energy, but this is a short term solution. Eventually your energy levels will crash lower than they started. Try our caffeine free alternative to coffee, Bambu. If you really can’t manage without caffeine, at least opt for black coffee as this doesn’t contain the sugars and chemicals found in fizzy drinks.
Sugars and simple starches – you don’t need to completely eliminate these from your diet but you should definitely reduce them. Simple starches are the opposite of complex carbohydrates. Easily broken down, they provide short bursts of energy, which is good sometimes, but a diet based on this kind of carbohydrate will leave you with energy levels all over the place. Sugars are found in chocolate and sweets, and simple starches are found in white flour and white bread.
Could my pH levels have something to do with fatigue?
The enzymes needed to digest food work at a narrow pH range, so if your body’s pH falls below this and becomes too acidic, then the enzymes become deactivated and you will struggle to properly digest food. Following the guidelines in this article will help reduce acidity, as common advice for balancing pH includes eating more complex carbohydrates and more vegetables, including leafy greens, and reducing processed foods, sugars and caffeine.
Along with this healthy diet, you may find a supplement useful to help balance your body’s pH. We recommend A.Vogel’s Balance Mineral Drink which contains mineral salts, zinc and magnesium to balance pH and reduce fatigue.
Breakfast and Smoothies
No healthy-eating article would be complete without a special mention of breakfast and smoothies.
One of the first rules of any healthy diet is that you must eat breakfast. This is particularly important for fighting fatigue because it kick-starts your day and gives you the energy to be productive up until lunchtime. It even helps lose weight, because it prevents unhealthy snacking during the morning. The right kind of breakfast is important though – it should be healthy, with a mix of nutrients and food groups. We recommend: wholegrain cereal; granola with fruit and yogurt (or a vegan alternative such Alpro yogurt); whole grain toast with fruit or eggs; porridge; or a smoothie.
Smoothies can make a healthy, filling meal if you know what to put in them. They can be high in sugar if they are entirely fruit based, but there are plenty of ingredients you can add to balance the nutritional value. Adding oats to a smoothie really helps fill it out (blend this first with a little milk, yogurt or water), or you could add chia seeds for extra energy. Adding some greenery like spinach and avocado helps add some extra nutritional value. Add a prebiotic supplement such as Molkosan Fruit, or our Balance Mineral Drink to balance pH and release energy more easily from your food. Have a look at our smoothie recipes for some ideas. My favourites are the Blueberry and Oatmeal smoothie and Molkosan Fruit smoothie – perfect for breakfast!