Do you have trouble getting going every morning, feel totally drained by mid afternoon, and want to crash on couch as soon as you get home from work? Changes in energy levels and general fatigue may be a warning sign of a more serious problem, so it's important to keep in regular contact with your doctor and chat through your symptoms when think something may be wrong. Stretched for time? Consider on-demand virtual healthcare support.
If you don't have an underlying health issue, and you are getting enough sleep, the answer to your constant lethargy could be as simple as making small changes to your diet and drinking more water throughout the day. Ramping up physical activity always helps too! Discover how simple changes to your daily routine can have a huge impact.For many people, general fatigue and low energy is an ongoing concern. Maintaining good levels starts with healthy sleep habits - did you know that Canada is ranked the 3rd most sleep deprived nation in the developed world? If you aren't sleeping well and want to make a change, check out our sleep guide. Your general energy level has a huge impact your mood, your motivation to make healthy choices throughout the day, your productivity at work, your self-esteem, even your ability to control overeating. Maintaining good energy levels throughout the day also requires eating the right foods at strategic times. The following dietary adjustments can help fend off energy slumps.
Start your day with protein
Meals and snacks that include a healthy source of protein (include plant based protein sources more often) will help you feel a lot more energetic compared to carb-focused meals. That’s because protein stimulates certain brain cells, called orexin cells, to keep us alert. Here are some tips on creating healthy, protein-rich breakfasts. Choose lean meat, fish, poultry, raw unsalted nuts, edamame, hard boiled eggs, part skim cheese, egg white omlettes, tofu, plain Greek yogurt, beans and lentils more often.
Choose the right carbs
Your body - particularly your brain - needs carbohydrates for energy. The problem is, most people don't realize they are consuming carbohydrate portion sizes that are 7-10 times larger than their body needs - multiple times per day. Don't believe us? Check out this carb comparison guide. Carbohydrates are metabolized into blood glucose, the only form of energy that the body can use immediately. Carbohydrate stores (glycogen) in your liver is used to replenish blood glucose, while that in your muscles fuels exercise.
Low glycemic carbohydrates (whole fruit and veggies, whole grains etc.) are digested and converted to blood glucose slowly. As a result, the body gets a balanced and sustained release of energy rather than a quick burst. High glycemic index foods (such as refined sugar and processed carbs) are metabolized quickly giving you a quick energy boost and then causing you to "crash". What's worse, high-glycemic index foods have also been linked to food addiction and other health issues. Looking to boost your health? Try our free 30 day no-refined sugar challenge.
When sitting down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try the "plate method". Fill up half of your plate with veggies (aim for maximum colour variety), fill up 1/4 of your plate with a healthy source of protein, and then fill the remaining 1/4 of your plate with slow-burning carbohydrates and include healthy fats. Look for carbohydrates like whole grain breads made with seeds, 100% bran cereals (the kind without added sugar), steel-cut and large flake oatmeal (not the instant stuff that's packed with additives and sugar), milk, yogurt, kefir, unsweetened soy beverages, whole fruit and berries, unsalted raw nuts, seeds, and beans and lentils. Interested in cutting carbs? Try our healthy low carb living guide.
Don't skip meals and avoid intermittent fasting
Fasting is a growing trend these days but it often backfires. To learn more, click here. Everyone's needs vary, but for most people, eating breakfast - even if it's just something small like a hard boiled egg or a 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt topped with seeds - supports healthy weight management, productivity, and sustainable energy. Studies show that eating a morning meal improves your mood, memory and cognition, and your energy levels. A healthy, protein-rich, sugar-free breakfast is particularly important for school-age children. Here are some easy, healthy, well-balanced breakfast ideas:
- Sugar free all bran cereal with milk, whole fruit and unsalted nuts;
- Steel cut oatmeal topped with ½ cup plain Greek yogurt;
- Overnight oats - try one of our recipes like carrot cake overnight oats
- A homemade smoothie made with milk (or unsweetened soy milk), berries, hemp hearts, chia seeds and ground flax;
- A slice of 100% whole grain toast with scrambled egg whites and sliced tomato.
For more breakfast ideas. Download our free digital recipe book.
Plan out your mid day snacks and do some prep work
To prevent your energy levels from fading, try to go no longer than 3-4 hours without eating during the day. During the evening, have a light wholesome dinner and then take a break from eating until breakfast. Healthy snacking is all about being prepared. Every few days, wash and cut up a bunch of veggies, make some hummus for dipping, and portion out bags of unsalted nuts and seeds for easy grab-and-go bring-to-work options.
Whole fresh foods are always the best snack options but if you are in a pinch, energy bars can be a good on-the-go snack as long as you choose wisely. Look for an enery bar that contains less than 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 5 grams of sugar, and more than 10 grams of protein. Look for products made from whole food ingredients like oats, nuts, and seeds and avoid bars with lots of added sugars or sweeteners (e.g. Elevate Me Bar, Kind Bar, Vega Snack Bars, Simply Protein Bar, Larabar). Remember snacks shouldn't be too heavy - keep your snacks to about 150 to 200 calories (women) and to about 200 to 250 calories (men) and opt for 1-2 snacks per day if needed.
Drink more water!
Most Canadians don't drink enough water. Staying properly hydrated helps your body circulate oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and removes wastes - drinking water is an essential ingredient in the production of energy molecules. Research conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that eve mild dehydration – defined as a 1.5 per cent loss of normal water volume in the body – triggered headaches, caused fatigue, worsened mood and impaired concentration in both men and women. Click here to learn more.
Men need 12 cups (3 litres) of water each day; women need 9 cups (2.2 litres). With the exception of alcoholic beverages, all fluids counts towards meeting water requirements. That includes water, milk, unsweetened juices, even tea and coffee. Click the button below to try our 9 day hydration challenge!
Caffeine might perk you up during the day but it can also keep you awake at night, and what's worse, its diuretic effect can lead to dehydration. Caffeine can disrupt sleep by blocking the body’s production of adenosine, a brain chemical that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Interestingly, caffeine studies suggest that caffeine may also negatively impact fertility in both men and women. Women of childbearing age should limit caffeine intake to 300 milligrams per day; and men should curb their caffeine habit during periods when they are trying to conceive. Other healthy adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams daily - note that one 8-ounce cup of regular coffee has roughly 180 milligrams of caffeine.
If you feel you consume too much caffeine, gradually cut back caffeine over three weeks to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headache and muscle soreness.
Meet your daily iron requirements
An iron deficiency, even without anemia, can cause fatigue, lethargy and difficulty concentrating. If you are worried about your iron stores, contact your doctor to test if you are getting a sufficient amount. Iron rich foods include beef, oysters, clams, turkey, chicken, tuna, pork loin and halibut, soybeans, lentils, baked beans, black beans, firm tofu, cooked spinach, raisins and prune juice. It may be necessary to take an iron supplement - especially if you have certain risk factors or conditions. Want to learn more about your daily micronutrient needs? Check out our 4 week micronutrient challenge.
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