This is a two part blog about fatigue. We have all experienced what it is like to feel exhausted at the end of the day. We are too tired to exercise, too tired to cook a decent meal and so tired that sleep becomes impossible. In the first blog Part 1, Are you tired of being tired we looked at strategies. Often fatigue is a result of overwhelm. Not enough time to prepare food, shop or rest. It is about prioritising your time and planning over the weekend. It is never full proof, but just a little preparation can go a long way and take away all of the angst of being disorganised. Creating online shopping lists, having easy meals when there is a hectic evening of activities, enough left overs for lunches and making time for you can make a big difference to your week. Read Part 1, Tired of Being Tired here.
In part two we are going to look at the types of foods that will support our bodies to combat fatigue. Drinking enough water, eating enough vegetables, protein and good fats are essential for supplying our mitochondria what they need to produce energy. Some causes of fatigue are easy to rectify, while other causes of fatigue are far more complex. But for many a change in diet, a few targeted supplements and some downtime can be enough to get you back on track.
Here are my 4 top tips to getting your life back
Drink more water.
Our bodies are made up of 70% water, being essential for life. It is needed to carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells. Without water the first symptom we experience is fatigue. We are so busy that we often forget to drink enough water throughout the day, hitting the wall at 3pm. Our bodies are confused, are we low in sugar or are we thirsty? My advice to clients are to always reach for a glass of water first. If, after 20 minutes you are hungry then reach for something to eat, but not the wrapped chocolate bar snack. This was a tip that I got from Sarah Wilson, formerly I Quit Sugar. And do you know it works!
Ideally we need to drink up to 8 glasses of water per day. A more accurate way is to drink water until your urine is a pale colour. If your urine is dark and smelly you need to drink more water!
Eat 5 or more cups of vegetables per day.
When we are eating the wrong foods - aka the processed crappy kinds, our blood sugars are on a roller coaster ride causing inflammation and disease. For sustained energy we need to eat foods that are full of fibre and phytonutrients. Fiber is like a fertilizer for our internal garden of beneficial bacteria. Without it our bacteria will starve and die, jeopardising this delicate balance that supports our immune system, our neurotransmitters, vitamin absorption, metabolism and our overall health and risk of chronic disease and cancers. Fibre helps to keep food moving, keeping you regular.
Phytonutrients are essential for vibrant health. Think of all the beautiful colours of vegetables. The reds of capsicums, the greens in broccoli, the purple in grapes and beetroot. I am not talking about white potato chips from the freezer. At every meal and at every opportunity eat your vegetables. A leafy green smoothie is a perfect way to get a hit of vitamin B’s that will give you a lift in the afternoon. (Mark Hyman, Food, What the Heck Should I Eat)
Are you eating the right fats?
We are all so fat phobic, thinking that if we eat fat then we will get fat and our cholesterol will soar. If you eat the right fats, that is the least processed kind of fats - Olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds, eggs, lean meats, fish and dairy will not make you fat but rather, give you the energy that you need. Good fats help you feel fuller for longer and are cardioprotective. The most recent study in support of a high fat diet was the PREDIMED study that showed that a high fat diet reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Making sure that you are eating fats with every meal, but make sure they are the good types of fat:
Lashings of olive oil on salads with a squeeze of lemon juice
Snacking on avocado and olives
Enjoy a handful of nuts every day
Boiled eggs are great to have in the fridge for a quick snack
Protein with every meal.
I love chicken liver pate. It's a superfood, which has several times more Vitamin A than any plants, rich in B vitamins, zinc and other nutrients. So for an instant energy hit, this is one solution. Don’t save it for the cheese plate, take some pate to work with some crackers, olives and veggie sticks and you will have a nutrient packed lunch.
Unfortunately, I may be one of the few that like chicken liver pate and I know that all the vegetarians out there are screaming “what about me?” The solution is to make sure that with every meal you are pairing it with a good source of protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing every cell in the body, for DNA production, backbone of every enzyme, in fact every cell is made up of proteins.
Criteria for selecting good sources of protein:
Choose grass fed/wild and pastured meat or poultry
Free range, no antibiotics
Choose organic if possible
Fish that is wild caught and local, go for the smaller fish as it will have lower methylmercury levels
Or sustainably farmed fish
Choose free range eggs
Organic or non homogenised milks
Good quality cheeses - not plastic slices
Whole yoghurts without sweeteners or thickeners
Coloured rice, quinoa, buckwheat, legumes
Organic soy products
If your symptoms of fatigue are not relieved by diet alone, it is important that you go to your GP to get further testing done. Often fatigue is a symptom of an underlying condition and it is important to rule out any nutrient deficiencies. Once you have done that, then go to a nutritionist who can help you find the foods and the right targeted supplements to support your body at this time. Remember, listen to your body, avoid overly stressful situations and look after yourself by taking time out in nature, reading a good book or being in the company of others.
I am a nutritionist at Proactive Health Network in Balgowlah, Sydney. I love helping people feel better by finding solutions that are just right for them. Remember good health is about embracing change. Changing what you eat is something you can do, that will change your life.
Krys Lojek, Nutritionist