It is 3pm and your afternoon slump rears is ugly head again. You get up to pour your fourth cup of coffee for the day and continue to fight those nagging afternoon cravings. Have you felt frustrated with your lack of energy levels? No matter how many hours of sleep you get, you still feel tired, unmotivated, and sluggish for your daily activities and workout. According to a recent survey released by the National Sleep Foundation, millions of Americans report feeling sleepy multiple days per week.(1)
Women reported being tired a little more often than men, with female respondents saying they’re tired 3.4 days per week on average. Men, on the other hand, were tired 2.7 days per week on average.
According to the survey, 62% of the respondents shook off their sleepiness through popular fatigue hacks such as eating sugary snacks, taking naps and drinking caffeinated drinks. Although this may seem like an easy fix, in most cases it is short lived and can result in a never ending cycle of unwanted weight gain. If you know you are getting adequate rest at night and are still feeling exhausted, check yourself for these nutrition red flags.
You are not eating enough calories. This point may seem obvious, but depending on your activity level, you may be under fueling for your individual calorie needs. Whether this is undereating for the entire day or going too long without eating in between meals, this may be the culprit. Work with a Registered Dietitian to ensure your calorie goals are being met and set aside time throughout the week to ensure you have nutritious meals on hand every 3-5 hours when hunger strikes.
Your diet is made up of mostly refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source. This macronutrient is readily available for quick energy and has a place in our diet for brain functioning and physical activity. However there is a difference between refined carbohydrates and plant-based carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates include packaged snack foods, baked goods, and fiber stripped grains. These foods are likely to create a spike in blood sugar leaving us feeling sluggish and hungry minutes later. Opt to include more plant-derived carbohydrates such as fruit, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. Combine this with a lean protein to balance blood sugar and leave you feeling fueled for hours.
You are not getting enough iron. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, affecting more than 25% of people worldwide. (2) Iron deficiency anemia is described as diminished red blood cell production due to low iron stores in the body. Fatigue is a symptom of iron deficiency anemia and affects vegans, vegetarians, and women of childbearing age who regularly menstruate. Good sources of iron include red meat, shellfish, sardines, beans, seeds, and dark leafy greens. Enhance iron absorption by combining with vitamin C.
An abundant variety of foods can help boost your energy. Whether they’re packed with carbs for readily available energy, or fiber and protein for a slower release of energy, making sure you are adequately hydrated and getting the correct amount of nutrients can help increase your power and stamina. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are involved in the production of energy within your cells, and they all provide many other health benefits. If you want more energy, checking yourself for these nutritional red flags is a great place to start.