Feeling fatigued can seem like a battle you can’t overcome. You get enough sleep, yet somehow you find yourself dragging through the day like you’re trying to escape quicksand. You want to break free from the downward spiral that’s slowly swallowing up all of your energy, but you just can’t help feeling groggy and achy, dozing off at your desk and skipping valuable workouts.
While fatigue can be a sign of health issues including psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress, or medical conditions such as anemia, thyroid problems, diabetes or obesity, food can also play a role. Read on to find out which healthy foods make you feel more alert, fight fatigue, and give you the power you need to get through your day (and the ones that do the opposite!):
The Best Foods to Fight Fatigue:
- Chia Seeds:
Did you know that the Aztecs and Mayans ate chia seeds to aid in improving their performance and endurance? Turns out they provide just the right ratio of protein, fats and fiber, making them an incredible energy booster that keeps blood sugar stable. They’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which work to fight inflammation, and the antioxidant quercetin, which is known to aid in both athletic performance as well as recovery.
We’re all aware that staying hydrated is essential to our wellbeing, but did you know that dehydration can be one of the biggest reasons associated with your fatigue? Lack of water leads to a decrease in energy, alertness and concentration. One study even found that when athletes limited their fluid intake for 15 hours, more than 90 percent felt tired and experienced lapses in memory and difficulty concentrating.
Packed with nutrients, nuts are a great midday snack for warding off fatigue. Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts, for example, are rich in magnesium, which has been shown to fight muscle fatigue. All nuts are a great source of protein that the body can convert into long-lasting energy. They’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a superior energy source, since these healthy fats both lower the glycemic index of foods and provide a slow-burning fuel for the body.
One of the best ways to get a good source of energy is through complex carbohydrates, since they take longer to digest and to make their way into the bloodstream than simple carbs. Whole grains like oatmeal allow for a steady source of energy that staves off blood sugar crashes. Also high in fiber, oatmeal will keep you full through the morning, alleviating the desire to reach for snacks excessively, which can lead to weight gain — a known reason for fatigue. Oatmeal is also full of energy-boosting nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B1.
Bananas are rich in a variety of nutrients. They’re full of fiber, which slows down the release of sugar in the bloodstream, and provide a great source of magnesium and B vitamins, which stabilize blood sugar and help to relax you, which your body needs in order not to burn up all its energy at once. They also provide natural sugars including sucrose, fructose and glucose, providing you with energy boosts that are much healthier for you than a sugar-high from processed foods like candy.
Related: Do Bananas Make You Fat?
The Worst Foods to Fight Fatigue:
- Energy Drinks
While their name sounds inviting for getting through the midday slump, energy drinks do quite the contrary to what they seem to suggest. Packed with caffeine and sugar, they do your body more harm than good. Many energy drinks have controversial doses of caffeine, which is a diuretic that can lead to dehydration. The added sugars of many beverages on the market can also increase blood sugar levels, which can result in fatigue.
- White Bread
Unlike oatmeal and other foods rich in complex carbs, white bread is full of simple carbs, which do the opposite for your energy levels. Simple carbs give your body energy quickly because they enter your bloodstream faster and easier due to their simple chemical structure. The result of this, however, is a spike in blood sugar and insulin secretion from the pancreas, leaving you feeling fatigued from the crash that quickly follows.
- Junk Food
Many of us refer to sugary, processed, and high-fat foods as “junk food” because they provide little to no nutritional value to our body, and leave us feeling more sluggish than anything else. In fact, research conducted at UCLA found that such foods hinder ambition, cause tiredness and lower performance. They’re also linked to weight gain, which is reason enough to avoid consuming these foods.
If you’re trying to boost your energy levels, sweet treats like candy are the last place you should look. Because they are so high in sugar, when you ingest them, your body releases insulin, which then allows an over-consumption of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain. This gives you that original sugar rush that’s been discussed previously, and then the inevitable crash, where you’re left feeling wiped out and ready for a long nap.