Feeling tired all the time? These food-related hacks will help give you more spring in your step.
1. Eat regularly
Regular meals give you a constant energy supply helping to prevent any midmorning or mid-afternoon slumps. Start the day with breakfast – it literally breaks the fast and gets you firing for the day. Then maintain your energy levels by eating a balanced lunch and a nutritious dinner. If you need a little bit of a pick me up in between meals, go for something small like a piece of fruit, handful of nuts or tub of yoghurt. Lastly, get into the habit of eating at regular times of the day, as research shows unusual eating times can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, causing sleep and other health problems1.
2. Control your portion sizes
When it comes to maximising energy levels make sure you get your portion sizes right. Both eating too much or not enough can lead to feelings of fatigue. If you’re not eating enough you miss out on the vital energy and nutrients you need to function at your best. While eating too much food is taxing on the body and leads to feelings of sluggishness2.
3. Include low GI foods
At all meals and snacks include a low GI food and say goodbye to energy slumps. Low GI (glycemic index) foods like oats, milk and pasta are slowly broken down and absorbed by the body, meaning they provide a constant supply of energy. High GI foods on the other hand produce a quicker and sharper rise in blood sugar levels, causing a short burst of energy followed by a slump. You can enjoy longer lasting energy simply by swapping your white bread for wholegrain bread, your quick oats for rolled oats and swap regular potato for sweet potato.
4. Use caffeine to your favour
Your morning coffee does wonders for putting more spring in your step, and you have caffeine to thank for that. Caffeine stimulates the brain boosting alertness and helps you go for harder for longer, particularly when you’re training. But there is a negative side too. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours, making it hard to fall asleep, as well as interfering with sleep quality. In fact, one study found consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by 1 hour3. While you don’t need to avoid caffeine completely, it’s best to enjoy your cup of joe or can of Kanguru in the morning.
5. Stay hydrated
One of the key signs of dehydration is feelings of fatigue. Inadequate fluid intake can make you feel sleepy, lethargic and headachy while also negatively affecting your decision making. Keep hydrated throughout the day by drinking water regularly. If you’re in hot and humid environments, you may benefit from adding an electrolyte tablet like Hydralyte to your water to replace minerals lost in sweat and assist with rehydration4.
6. Limit alcohol
Is your lunch time tipple leaving you sleepy throughout the afternoon? Alcohol might seem like it lifts mood, but it actually has quite a strong sedative affect, particularly when consumed during day. So, while it can be nice to enjoy just one lunchtime vino, it’s best to avoid it if you need to stay focused, alert and meet a deadline that afternoon. The other thing to remember is while alcohol might help you fall asleep quicker, your sleep quality isn’t as good. To help optimise your energy levels, be selective of when you drink alcohol.
7. Make sure you’re getting enough iron
Iron is an essential mineral that works with haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Inadequate iron leads to feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Red meat is the best source of iron, with fish, whole grains, legumes and nuts also containing iron. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron so add broccoli to your stir-fry or berries to your breakfast cereal to maximise your iron levels.
1. Minguez J, Gomez-Abellan P & Garaulet M. Timing of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Effects on obesity and metabolic risk. Nutrients 2019;11:2624.
2. Stuart K, Field Am Raju J & Ramachanbdran S. Postprandial reactive hypoglycaemia: varying presentation patterns on extended glucose tolerance tests and possible therapeutic approaches. Case Rep Med 2013;2013:273957.
3. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J & Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med 2013;9(11):1195-1200.
4. American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka M, Burke L et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007 Feb;39(2):377-390.