1. Sugar Excess
Simple sugars in the form of breads, cereals, rice, cookies, cakes and junk food are digested very quickly by the body which then leads to a drop in blood sugar levels that can leave you feeling fatigued. This is often referred to as the “sugar blues!” Replacing refined simple carbohydrate foods with whole grains which are much higher in fiber and nutrients will help to create lasting energy. For some people, avoiding grains all together is needed to restore energy levels completely.
We all know the importance of drinking enough water but even mild dehydration can have adverse effects on your health. As little as 2% dehydration can leave you crankier, less able to concentrate and feeling more sluggish. The goal is to consume half your body weight in ounces of water per day (150 lbs. = 75 oz. of water)
3. Lack of Movement
It may seem counterintuitive that exerting energy will actually increase it but the results of several studies show that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue. More than 90% of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improvement in fatigue levels compared to groups that did not exercise. In addition, regular exercise improves sleep quality which will ultimately leave you feeling more well rested.
4. Poor Snack Choices
Depending upon the vending machine for a quick afternoon snack is a sure fire way to zap your energy! These types of snacks are high in simple carbs and sugar which will take your energy levels in the wrong direction. Instead, choose a snack that has a combination of protein and complex carbs for an energy boost that will last throughout the afternoon. Consider choosing raw trail mix, veggies and hummus or nut butter with a piece of fruit.
5. Skipping Breakfast
Breaking the fast is one of the most important decisions that you can make each day. A healthy breakfast will help to stabilize blood sugar levels and fuel your body throughout the morning. Skipping breakfast causes your body to run on empty which leaves you famished by lunchtime. This drop in blood sugar makes us more likely to make unhealthy choices that will cause the sugar blues all afternoon. Aim for high fiber, high protein options like steel cut oatmeal, eggs or protein smoothies which are all easy meals that will fill you up and power you through to lunch.
6. You’re sitting too much
Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been proven to be harmful to your health. Sitting for just one hour can begin to negatively affect your heart and be a major energy zapper. Standing up and moving even for a few minutes helps to get your blood circulating throughout your body and thus increases the oxygen in your blood. This ultimately sends more oxygen to your brain which increases alertness. If you work a desk job, try setting a reminder on your phone to get up and move every hour.
7. Poor Posture
Slouched walking and sitting has been found in studies to decrease energy levels and even contribute to depression! Simply altering your body posture to a more upright position instantly elevates mood and energy. Set reminders on your phone or calendar throughout the day to remind yourself to check in with your posture and straighten up. Follow The Posture Project on Facebook and Twitter for daily information and reminders about the importance of posture.
8. Caffeine Excess
We are often reaching for caffeine in a desperate attempt to boost our energy. This caffeine excess puts stress on our adrenal glands which eventually contributes to burnout and energy crashes. In addition, consuming caffeine too late in the day can affect sleep quality which continues to contribute to the low energy cycle. Keep coffee to a maximum of 1 cup per day and switch to water or herbal tea to keep the body well hydrated for the rest of the day.
9. Tired Blood
A simple blood test can help to reveal if a condition called anemia or low iron is the cause of your fatigue. Optimal Ferritin (iron storage) levels should be over 100 and levels falling below 15 are considered to be severe anemia. Other symptoms can include feeling cold, paleness, shortness of breath, dizziness, lowered immunity, irritability, headaches and easy bruising. The fix is simple and should include a combination of an easy to absorb iron supplement along with Vitamin C, B12 and Folic acid. Most people feel dramatically better within 21 days.
10. Low Thyroid Function
This accounts for up to one-third of the population’s fatigue symptoms. There are 4 lab tests that should be done in order to get the complete thyroid function picture. These include TSH, Free T4, Free T3 and TPO. TSH is the main marker for thyroid function and levels above 3.0 are considered to be a low functioning thyroid. Other symptoms may include feeling cold, hair loss, depression, weight gain, constipation, headaches, brain fog, aches and pains.
11. Food Allergies
Fatigue can be the result of hidden food allergies or sensitivities. Gluten is the biggest culprit in this case but other inflammatory foods such as sugar, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, pork, shellfish, eggs and processed foods often also play a part. In order to discover if foods are playing a role in your fatigue, you can undergo a 21-day food elimination diet whereby all of the listed foods are eliminated for 21 days and then slowly re-introduced back in one at a time, three days apart. Alternatively, a simple blood test called an ELISA food allergy panel can easily reveal hidden food allergies- this type of testing is only available through Doctors of Natural Medicine.
12. Adrenal Fatigue
Stress plays a role in almost all disease and conditions. The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting the hormones that we need in order to respond to the stressors in our lives. Chronic stress can deplete the function of the adrenals and reserves can become diminished. This can result in fatigue, lowered stress resistance, lowered immune function and an overall burnt out feeling. Testing for adrenal function can be done through a saliva test known as the Adrenal Stress Index.
It is estimated that 60% of Canadians are suffering with some type of sleep issue. Sleep is key to our daytime energy levels and many of us are burning the candle at both ends. The first step is creating a sleep routine. Start winding down around 8pm. Step away from the computer and dim the lights. Doing this will allow your brain to start producing melatonin. Avoid eating after 7pm so that your digestive system can also take a much needed rest. The next step is creating a sleep zone. This means creating a space that is inviting for sleep. Turn your bedroom into an oasis of comfort and relaxation. Make sure there are no lights left on in your room. Turn the alarm clock away from your head so the light from it does not interfere with your melatonin production. If outside noise is an issue, invest in a white noise unit. Keep pets on their own beds and out of yours. Turn off the TV and empty your mind of the day's worries.