Everyone experiences fatigue from time to time, and for some people it is an almost daily struggle. With the summer sun becoming more intense, there is even more reason to fight against this condition in order to prevent further maladies such as chronic or extreme fatigue.
In loose terms, fatigue is simply mental or physical exhaustion. In many ways it is a normal process that slows the body down at the end of the day in preparation for sleep, or protects overworked muscles from possible injury. Too often however, fatigue is an unwelcome force in our lives, proving an inconvenience or at worst completely debilitating. Whilst we’re all aware of the basic rules to combating fatigue – not skipping breakfast, avoiding crash diets, getting plenty of sleep, and taking our vitamins, there are also some simple dietary changes that can be employed to help fight fatigue and prevent it from getting us down.
Drink plenty of water. Ok so we hear this advice a lot, but still many of us don’t get enough water. Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue as it can reduce blood flow to organs, slowing down your brain – and you too. The amount of water a person needs varies according to his or her weight, activity level and climate. However one way to determine your specific recommended water intake is to divide your weight (in kilograms) by 30, which will tell you how many litres you should be aiming for per day. However, remember this is just a guide.
The caffeine crux. Whilst one or two caffeinated drinks a day boosts the body’s energy and mental alertness, caffeine can cause dehydration and heavy usersare prone to irritability, anxiety, and reduced performance. Perhaps try swapping your afternoon coffee with a cup of green tea, which delivers less caffeine than coffee but also contains another natural stimulant, theophylline, which has caffeine-like effects.
Eat foods high in iron. Iron relieves fatigue that is associated with insufficient red blood cells. Women in particular are prone to iron-deficiency, especially when pregnant, as their iron reserves are used up faster to help the developing foetus. Iron is also essential in maintaining a healthy immune system and is therefore a vital part of our diet. Foods high in iron include red meats, beetroot, spinach, almonds and dates.
Peel a banana. Easy to digest, potassium-laden bananas make a great lunchtime snack. Being one of few fruits that contain both simple and complex carbohydrates, bananas deliver an immediate energy boost and longer-lasting endurance. As an extra tip to slow down and extend the energy release this fruit gives, spread some protein, like peanut butter on bite-size slices.
Oats. Carbohydrates are an ideal source of quick energy due to the body’s ability to digest them almost immediately. However the most effective carbohydrates are those packed with fibre – like oats. Dietary fibre takes longer to digest and therefore slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This results in a high, steady energy and a curbed appetite. Try adding honey to your bowl of oatmeal too, as this natural sweetener provides a quick shot of energy, which coupled with the slow-release energy from oats will help steer you clear of that mid-morning slump.
Sweet peppers. Besides being aesthetically pleasing in an omelette or salad, these veggies are a stellar source of vitamin C, which helps the body efficiently burn fat for energy by stimulating the production of carnitine. Carnitineis a molecule that transports fat to the part of the cell where it is metabolized, helping to burn more of it overall and thus helping your body stay revved and work efficiently.
Sweet potatoes. High in vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are full of important antioxidants, vital in the body’s defence against free radicals, which increase greatly when we’re stressed or overly tired. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, and are full of fibre, vitamin B6, iron, and other nutrients.
Go nuts. Research shows that eating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, instead of saturated and trans fats, slows down digestion and keeps your metabolism firing and helps you feel full for longer. These good fats have also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. However, remember, everything in moderation. To prevent you from overdoing it with this snack, measure out servings in a shot glass.
Hopefully these few tips will help you in combating your fatigue and avoiding that mid-morning slump. However, should fatigue persist, consult your doctor to make sure that your fatigue isn’t caused by an underlying medical problem.
Angie is our resident features writer on location in London, specialising in festivals, food and nutrition, and with a keen interest in ethical fashion.