It probably comes as no surprise that being tired is just about the worst way to feel. Not only does it leave us dragging through the day, but can also be a major cause of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Unfortunately, a lot of the things we do to fight fatigue are the very things that could lead to making us more tired, thus getting stuck in a seemingly endless cycle. Check out the following five things you’re doing that are making you more tired, and how to stop.
Not Eating Enough
We get it: you are busy. Unfortunately, the fast-paced and stressful society in which we live doesn’t only encourage overeating; for many people, it causes us to under-eat. Under-eating a main factor in tiredness, and it also can lead to weight gain or an inability to lose weight, contrary to popular belief.
Not eating enough or going too long between meals or snacks can make you feel tired and moody, as it causes hypoglycemia, AKA low blood sugar. Studies show that not eating enough (especially when combined with exercise) is a main culprit in low blood sugar, which makes us feel tired, crabby, weak, and unable to think straight (foggy-brain syndrome).
Other symptoms of chronic under-eating include unpredictable moods, an inability to fall or stay asleep at night, trouble getting pregnant, and constipation. To avoid these obviously unpleasant symptoms, make sure you are eating regular meals and snacks, all of which contain healthy fat, adequate protein, and a serving of complex carbohydrates.
Yes, carbs are delicious; but they are also addictive and can cause weight gain, fatigue, sluggishness, and sugar cravings. Carbohydrates are not evil, but they should be eaten appropriately as part of a balanced diet, and always alongside healthy protein and fat.
Overeating carbs, especially refined carbs and sugar, creates an insulin spike followed by a crash. That crash is usually experienced by feeling tired, shaky, crabby, and craving more carbs or sugar — the vicious cycle of the sugar crash.
To avoid this, try to eat carbohydrate-rich foods along with a healthy protein and/or fat. For example, pair your fruit with a small handful of nuts and seeds; keep your serving size of grains and beans to 1/2 cup (cooked) and eat them with 3-4 oz. of chicken or fish; and avoid refined carbs — white breads, pastas, and commercial baked goods — all together.
Too Much Caffeine
The question as to whether caffeine is harmful really depends on the individual and their specific level of sensitivity. A person’s degree of sensitivity depends on their genetic make-up — specifically, the activity of a certain enzyme responsible for caffeine metabolism. For some, it is best avoided or consumed in very small amounts; and for others, it won’t be so problematic.
If you’re really interested to know, you can do caffeine metabolism testing, which will look at your specific level of sensitivity. Genomic Express Lab offers a test exclusively looking at caffeine metabolism, which costs $99.
Caffeine is a stimulant, as it prompts our adrenal glands to secrete the hormone adrenaline. Our adrenal glands are responsible for producing our bodies’ stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. For some coffee drinkers, this probably won’t cause any problems; but for those that suffer from symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, or a slow metabolism, you can experience negative side effects such as nervousness or even increased risk of heart attack, according to studies.
Two main reasons too much coffee and caffeine will make you tired is that they dehydrate you and also cause a sugar crash, if you sweeten it or are drinking sugary, caffeinated beverages. To avoid this, limit your caffeine consumption to non-sweetened drinks (no sodas and use stevia to sweeten your coffee), and drink it in moderation — a cup or two per day.
Vitamin D Deficiency
It is well documented that vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue.
Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common, even in sunny parts of the world where the population could easily be getting enough from sunlight alone. However, in many tropical cultures, it is common to purposefully avoid the sun; and in parts of the globe further from the equator, the problem exists of there simply not being enough sunlight throughout the year.
While is it important to avoid burning, exposing as much skin to direct sunlight as possible for 10-30 minutes per day can provide adequate levels of vitamin D. Application of sunscreen also blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, so consider spending these 10-30 minutes without, as long as it’s possible without burning. If spending a longer period in the sunlight, simply apply sunscreen after your skin has been allowed this small window of direct exposure.
It can be tough to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone, which is why you might need to discuss supplementation with your doctor; but the foods highest in vitamin D include cod liver oil, wild salmon, tuna, beef liver, whole eggs, and sardines, in that order.
We’ve probably all had the experience of spending too much time sitting and ending up tired. Unfortunately, many people experience this every day while sitting at their desk. When we are sedentary for long periods of time, the brain receives less fresh blood and oxygen, which not only causes fatigue, but also leads to lowered production of mood-enhancing chemicals.
Try setting a timer, or search through the many activity break apps now available, to remind yourself to stand every hour and stretch or take a short walk, even if just for five or 10 minutes.
Being sure to keep these five things in mind every day will not only help to prevent and improve fatigue, but will also support optimal health and overall well-being. Life is too short to feel so tired.