There are a whole bunch of symptoms you may have that indicate you have low energy and are tired and fatigued. And many of these are very common amongst Singaporeans. Particularly since we're working longer hours over the covid-19 period. Which of these symptoms do you have?
- can’t get out of bed
- craving coffee, coke and caffeine
- craving sugary snacks, high carb foods (weight gain)
- the afternoon slump
- headaches, dizziness
- sore/aching muscles
- moodiness such as irritability
- impaired immune system (more sick days)
- poor concentration
- low motivation
And not addressing these issues can lead to further complications in our lives such as:
- relationship issues
- lack of confidence
- unproductive at work
- lack of confidence & empowerment
- not enough energy to play with the kids
- not doing the things we love
It's all very well for our doctors and the media to tell us to "go to bed earlier" or "eat healthy" but what does that mean? And how do we do that when we're so busy? Most of this advice is useless and unproductive - particularly as change requires energy and that's something that you're low on if you are chronically fatigued and wake up tired all the time.
There are 4 simple concepts to understand when dealing with fatigue from a nutritional standpoint.
If you've been in a calorie deficit for a long period of time (many months to years) then your body will think you're in a state of semi-starvation. And whilst you may lose some weight initially, eventually, after a couple of months weight loss will stall. This is because your thyroid, the organ in your throat that controls your metabolism, will lower it to meet your new calorific needs. So lets you you need 1500 kcal a day but you only consume 1000. Initially you'll lose a bit of weight and then ultimately your thyroid will just lower your metabolism and make you feel sleepy - it doesn't want you exercising or doing anything too demanding because it doesn't feel you have enough calories on board!
If you haven't been eating much, skip breakfast and then tuck into a large lunch you might have that mid-afternoon food coma! That's when you're sitting at your desk and you can't really concentrate on work because you feel sleepy. Why? It takes 25% of your body's total energy to fuel all the organs of your digestive organs (mouth, esophagus, stomach, gall bladder, pancreas, live, kidneys, small intestine, large intestine and colon) so suddenly all your energy rushes from your brain to your gastrointestinal tract to process all the food. Intermittent fasters can look away now but rather than skipping breakfast and eating 600 kcal at lunch it would be better to eat 300 calories at breakfast and 300 at lunch if you're struggling with energy imbalances.
Sugar roller coaster
Pasta, pizza, noodles, bread, cereals, sugary drinks, cakes, biscuits, sweets, large portions of white rice (possibly) are all going to set you up for an insulin spike and a blood sugar roller coaster. If you overeat carbohydrates for your body type (and this is a very individual thing) then your pancreas is going to produce a ton of insulin in order to shuttle all that glucose off into cells. And then afterwards it's worked so hard its knackered and will take a rest. And now you don't have enough insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar so around 3 to 4pm you have a blood sugar crash food coma! We have written here, here, and here about how to monitor blood glucose levels and how to manage excess carbohydrate consumption. Essential reading whether you're diabetic or not.
Hidden allergies, food intolerances and unhealthy food can trigger inflammation in the body which can cause blocked causes, brain fog and fatigue. Every time you eat food that doesn't agree with you the immune system is mobilised to flight the invading pathogens. Also eating too much sugar, refined carbs and processed food can feed resident fungal such as candida and lead to fungal infections (too much fungi) which can also contribute to brain fog and fatigue.
Both overtraining (exercising too much) and undertraining (not doing enough) can contribute to fatigue and feeling tired all the time.
Overtraining can lead to mood swings, stress and fatigue. If you're training hard you may feel great after exercising due to the release of happy brain chemicals such as endorphins. However if you feel stressed, have a jumpy mind, craving for coffee and sweet things or tired at other parts of the day that's a good indication that you're training too hard. Our bodies' deal with both emotional stress and physical stress in exactly the same way and most professionals working in Singapore do not have the adrenals to handle a lot of physical stress along with work, family and lifestyle stressors. Body building (the most commonly prescribe gym activity), HIIT, CrossFit, MMA, boxing and chronic cardio such as running or cycling for long periods can all lead to overtraining symptoms.
And if you're looking to lose weight, and your weight loss has plateued, and you're still training a lot. The you're definitely doing it wrong! There are better ways to lose weight.
Everything that's alive moves. And everything that's dead does not. The more you move, the more you remind your body you're alive. The less you move the more you progress towards the ultimately sedentary state - the big sleep! And yes walking = movement. If you look at centenarian societies around the world they all move a hell of a lot, Walking to markets, walking to neighbour's houses to deliver food, walking to school, walking to work, walking by working the farm and walking for fun. Did they go to the gym? Nope! Did they walk a lot? Yes!
Also they got a balanced amount of functional movement in, such as squatting to plant seeds, bending to till the land, pushing and pulling to build shelters and various other functional movements requiring strength and strength-endurance. A personalised corrective exercise training programme that fits around your life and is tailored to your needs and energy levels will really help.
Going for a brisk walk in the morning, before breakfast, is one of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to clear the cobwebs from your brain and set your day right so you're less likely to feel fatigued and tired during the day.
And the last part of curing fatigue, low energy, energy swings and feeling tired all the time is of course getting a good night's sleep. Not just in terms of quantity (how long you spent in bed) but also quality (how deep and restorative was your sleep).
There are 3 reasons why we need sleep:
- To physically repair - rebuild muscles and tissue from exercising. replacing hormones, cleaning out our organs and of course going after cancerous cells and damaged cells
- To mentally repair
- And of course to recharge our energy batteries ready for another day
Sabotaging your sleep so you can watch "just one more" Netflix show is not doing yourself any favours. We get it, you've spent all day working, got the kids off to bed, now you want to reward yourself with some well deserved "me time". However studies show that sacrificing sleep in the evening is not made up by adding it on in the morning so you may find that adding in that "me time" in the morning may actually work better for you. We have tons of tips on getting a good night's sleep here.
Late night eating, lack of exercise, exercises late at night, light pollution, alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods, emotional stress (worrying about work, money, relationships, health) and working late at night have all been scientifically proven to affect your sleep quality. So even if you are getting 8 hours a night the quality of that might be severely impaired so you're not getting that fully restorative deep REM sleep.
There are other factors that contribute to chronic fatigue, energy swings and feeling tired all the time as well such as:
- internal and external environmental toxicity
- fungal, bacteria and parasite infections
- inverted breathing mechanics (shallow chest breathing)
- insufficient sunlight and low vitamin D
But nutrition, exercise and sleep are the most common and working on these 3 factors will go a long way to getting you feeling awesome again. If you're not sure where to start then the best, and easiest, is just to start eating more - just make sure it's healthy! Not sure what's the right diet for you? No worries we got you covered here too.
To your health, happiness and longevity,
The Levitise Team
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