Is your diet making you tired?



One of the most common symptoms highlighted that I see with clients when they register to work with me is fatigue. This is not surprising when we all seem to lead lives that are packed to the absolute brim with work, family, and general life commitments. Our days seem to be completely full before we even have a chance to schedule in some time for exercise, preparing meals, groceries, or even just taking a breather for ourselves.

When you feel tired- there can be many causes of this, but often assessing our diet as a potential cause can be overlooked. Here are a few things that I recommend considering when it comes to boosting energy:

Are you having enough iron?

Energy production happens through many key nutrients- an important one of these being iron. Red blood cells are needed to deliver oxygen to muscles for energy and require iron to do this job- hence a poor dietary intake can negatively effect this process.

Red meat is important. People who eat meat only on occasion or sporadically are at highest risk of inadequate iron intake- while those who consume it in small amounts regularly are in a much better position. Chicken and fish contain iron too- but in lower amounts compared to red meat.

Include red meat in some of your lunches and dinners throughout the week. Salads, leftovers, stir fries- they can all have lean beef and lamb added to bump your iron intake up.

Absorption is important too- avoid tea (tannins) for 60mins after consuming red meat and enjoy some vitamin C (fruit or veg) with or following your meals for optimal absorption.

If consuming a vegetarian diet- monitor iron levels regularly. Often we see an adaption to a low-iron diet in vegetarian eaters as their body becomes efficient at absorbing iron from non-meat food sources in the diet.

Too many convenience foods?

Processed foods aren't an issue when they are used as emergency snacks when rushing out the door- but if these emergency snacks are happening frequently- then they can start to displace other important foods in the diet. Too many processed foods containing artificial ingredients, sugar, and refined carbohydrates will not be doing your energy level and immune system much good.

Whole foods like fruits, veg, grains, dairy, nuts and seeds offer many benefits above and beyond processed foods and supplements and we need these foods every day to maintain optimal health. The more variety and colour you can get in your whole food intake- the better. Aim for 16 different foods every day (e.g. breakfast made with chia seeds, nuts, oats, berries, yoghurt, and milk = 6 foods) to boost nutrient intake and support immunity and energy production.

We need atleast 3-4 cups of veg and 1-2 handfuls of fruit every single day. you can do this by keeping chopped veg ready to eat in the fridge, leaving fruit at work or at your desk as a snack, or adding veg to lunches and dinners every day.

Too many "energy boosters"?

Interestingly, when we consume too much of our common "energy" boosters such as energy drinks or caffeine- the effect can be to leave us feeling worse then before we consumed them. Caffeine has a safe limit (400mg) and when we go above this (easily done with 2-3 coffees) we can start to feel sick, tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate. With our energy drinks- often these are laden with sugar which leads to a quick increase then rapid decrease in blood sugar levels and energy- but also are incredibly high in caffeine- leading to an excessive amount for your body to try and process.

Stick to 1-2 caffeinated drinks/ day and swap others out for decaf, herbal teas, and water. Adults need atleast 2L of water every day so if you aren't hitting this then here is a key starting point for you to boost energy!

Are your meals balanced?

Proteins, fats, colour/ volume, and carb. These are the things to tick off at every meal time! Protein and fat are important for many processes in the body but are useful in the digestino of our food- making us feel energized and full for a long time. Carbs on their own (e.g. rice crackers) will give us a quick boost in energy, followed by a rapid drop in blood sugars and fatigue.

Everybody needs some level of carbs for their muscles to function optimally. If you have reduced carbs dramatically and feel good- then great! If you are eating low carb and feeling terrible- then maybe this is for you. If you exercise often and are consuming less than 80 or even 100g carb/ day then you may be running on empty- causing your fatigue. Always choose slow digesting carbs with visible grains as these are going to keep you fuller for longer.

Most people need around 20-30g carb at each meal time. If you do feel better with lower carb- then test out different timings and amounts to see what works best for you.

If you need more support with your diet then this is what I am here for. Get in touch with me by sending me an email on alex@alexcameron.co.nz or contacting me through this form.