Do you feel like you need loads of energy to get through the day? I sure do! Work life, family life, personal wants and needs – so much going on, so much to do, and so little time! Consistent fatigue and low energy seem to be daily battles – but why? Why does it feel like we had bursts of energy throughout the whole day when we were younger and now we feel flat out beat on the daily?
When you’re feeling low on energy and are lagging, there could be several reasons for your symptoms:
1. Chronic Stress
I think we can all agree there’s a time and place for stress to kick in, but feeling it daily is definitely not good for us! Our natural stress response system reacts when we encounter any type of stress, whether it be to complete an emergent task or to fight/flee in a dangerous situation – it kicks in the same for every stressor.
When our stress response is activated, the main “stress hormone” cortisol is secreted along with adrenaline/epinephrine. Cortisol has many roles in the body, but in the midst of a stressful situation, it mainly:
- Increases glucose (blood sugar) in the body to provide a surge of energy
- Inhibits insulin to favor the immediate use of glucose in the blood for energy
- Narrows arteries for adrenaline to increase heart rate and blood pressure
- Curbs nonessential functions like the reproductive system, digestive system, immune system, metabolism, and growth processes
Once the stressor is addressed/resolved, hormone levels and normal bodily functions return to normal. Our natural stress response is supposed to be infrequently triggered and short-lived, but our fast-paced lifestyles create DAILY stressors that we are not keeping in check.
So guess what happens?
BUILD-UP OF DAILY STRESSORS → STRESS RESPONSE GOES WILD → CHRONIC STRESS → BODY PUMPS OUT UNNECESSARY LOADS OF CORTISOL
The build-up of our day to day, week to week, and month to month stressors kicks our stress response system into overdrive resulting in chronic stress and high levels of cortisol in the body.
High levels of cortisol not only wears you down big time, but can wreak havoc on your whole health! Severe fatigue, depression, anxiety, frequent headaches, irritability, poor memory, trouble sleeping, digestive problems, weight gain, muscle weakness, and high blood pressure are all symptoms of overexposure to cortisol and a wacked out stress response in general.
Daily stress management is a key player in managing your health and should not be overlooked!
Depression can be caused by a combination of reasons related to environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors and there are different types of depression specifically unique to women.
Physical and hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum, and perimenopause can all singly promote varying degrees and symptoms of depression.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is characterized by experiencing the following types of symptoms for at least 2 weeks:
- Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or even guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling low on energy and fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Problems sleeping or sleeping longer than usual
- Loss of desire to partake in previously enjoyed activities
- Appetite changes resulting in unintentional weight gain or weight loss
Although depression is different for everyone, experiencing a significant decline in energy is a very common symptom. Depression can also be misdiagnosed as it shares many symptoms of other medical issues like chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid dysfunction, and even vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
3. Thyroid Dysfunction
Your thyroid plays a huge role in your health as it regulates heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature. While a hyperactive thyroid can burn you out, promote anxiety, and cause weight loss, an underactive thyroid can make you feel sluggish, promote depression, and cause weight gain. A dysfunctional thyroid can take a heavy toll on your energy level, but thankfully there are treatments available to set your thyroid straight and get you feeling better!
4. Sedentary Lifestyle
Increase your energy level and curb your fatigue through daily physical activity! We’ve all been there when we know we should exercise for the lengthy list of benefits, but have ZERO desire to do so… however, I CHALLENGE YOU to get up and do something, especially on the days you really want to pass! According to the American Council on Exercise, partaking in some type of physical activity for just 20 minutes at least 3 days per week for at least 6 weeks straight, can increase your overall daily energy level.
Haven’t exercised in a while? Or even in a looong while? THAT’S OKAY! No matter how long it’s been, exercise will increase blood flow to your muscles and throughout your body, giving you a boost of energy – as long as you don’t overdo it!
5. Inadequate Sleep
It’s no secret that interrupted sleep and sleep deprivation causes everyone’s energy level to take a dive! Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep helps restore our immune system, various hormone levels (including those related to appetite), and body temperature regulation mechanisms – all of which affect our daily energy level.
If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night, check out these pro-sleep habits, foods, and beverages that can help you get the quality sleep you deserve!
6. Poor Diet & Dehydration
A healthful, nutrient-dense diet can resolve various health issues, including that relentless fatigue! It’s important to note there is no single vitamin, mineral, food, herb, spice, or supplement that will magically cure everything that ails you, but choosing foods and beverages jam-packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and consuming them frequently throughout the day can definitely boost your daily energy level! Although your body converts everything you consume into energy, you can FEEL how certain foods affect you – and you know you FEEL GOOD when you eat well!
And believe it or not, you can also fight fatigue by staying hydrated! Up to 60% of our body is made up of water to carry out essential bodily functions like transport nutrients, excrete waste through urination and bowel movements, sweat, and simply breathe. If we do not frequently replenish our stores through beverages like water or tea and water-filled foods like fruits, vegetables, and healthy soups, our body can’t keep up with providing the daily energy we need.
The kicker is when we feel low on energy, we typically crave something sweet or salty to get a boost; but foods high in fat, sugar, and calories can make us feel even more bogged down because it’s taking so much energy to digest!
So, push those unhealthy cravings aside and reach for foods that will truly give you that lasting energy you’re looking for!
Not sure what to choose? Check out the variety of foods below to add to your diet and power up your body’s performance!
Oatmeal is one of the easiest and most delicious foods ever – for literally any meal or snack! Oatmeal is a great source of energy because it’s a healthy carbohydrate, contains a good amount of fiber, and even some protein to keep your energy levels up and your tummy satisfied for hours.
The fun thing about oatmeal – it is personalized energy! It’s a food that you can add a variety of ingredients to or use in several different recipes like chocolate oatmeal no bake bars, energy bites, or a variety of recipes like homemade muesli, butternut squash-oat gratin, mushroom ris-oato, oat-crusted chicken tenders, and oat-stuffed baked pears!
Whether your choice is steel-cut, old-fashioned, or quick-cooking oats, they share the same health benefits in providing energy, lowering cholesterol, and not sky-rocketing your blood sugar. Steel-cut oats are the least processed and quick-cooking are the most processed, meaning the main differences are in texture and time it takes for them to cook.
Pop over to the stove to make your oatmeal base:
- Measure ½ cup of oats and 1 cup organic milk, water, or dairy-free option of your choice
- In a small saucepan, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to low, and add oats
- Stir frequently and thicken oatmeal to desired consistency, ~5-10 minutes depending on the type of oats you choose
- Add optional ingredients like ground flaxseed, chia seeds, chopped pecans, chopped dates, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, organic peanut butter (Santa Cruz is my fav!), fresh or dried fruit like blueberries or banana, or a small bit of maple syrup or honey for added texture and flavor
**If you are looking for some cold oatmeal on-the-go, try overnight oats! Use steel-cut or old-fashioned oats so it’s not soggy in the morning! Mix your ingredients in a mason jar or pyrex glass container, store overnight, and add your optional ingredients on your way out the door!
The average sized egg is about 50 grams and according to this study, the nutritional composition of 100 grams or about 2 eggs, provides ~160 calories and ~12 grams of protein. Although eggs have gotten a bad rap about their cholesterol content, research has found cholesterol in eggs has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease. They are an excellent source of every essential amino acid and several B Vitamins which enable the body to produce energy, promote a healthy metabolism, and build and maintain muscle! Eggs may even contribute to disease prevention and immunity in the body due to its bioactive components.
You can whip up some eggs (organic free range) in so many ways:
- scrambled eggs – enjoy plain or add fresh herbs
- hard-boiled eggs
- tasty omelet or frittata – add onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, chopped broccoli – the additions are endless!
Yogurt is not only an easy thing to snack on, but it also provides your body with a boost from its natural sugars and protein! However, the type of yogurt you choose matters. Make sure your choice is low in added sugar, contains live cultures or probiotics, and a good amount of protein. You lose some protein with dairy-free yogurt (I’ll sometimes choose coconut milk yogurt), but it’s still a healthy, energy-boosting option! Any type of low-sugar yogurt with live cultures or probiotics promotes good bacteria growth in the gut, can be a weight-loss friendly snack, and contains less lactose than milk – making it typically consumable even for those sensitive to lactose.
Want a little more than just yogurt? Try topping with: Homemade granola, fruit, almonds, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or even bits of your favorite dark chocolate – which contains some caffeine as a bonus!
Shrimp may be small in size, but what it can offer is huge! Shrimp is not only high in protein for sustainable energy, but provides several vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B12 and iodine. Vitamin B12 can increase your energy level, is crucial for your nervous system, and is only found in animal products. Iodine is necessary for your thyroid gland, which as you previously read, plays a huge role in your energy level!
This Mediterranean, nutrient-dense dip is often overlooked. Our American diet typically lacks legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and hummus is a great way to get them in! It is jam-packed with healthy carbohydrates like oatmeal is and contains healthy fats, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals to keep you going! Research even suggests hummus may help manage blood sugar, insulin levels, and be protective against cardiovascular disease.
- Snack on this with some whole wheat pita (or try a Gluten Free option), fresh carrots, celery, or cucumber!
Strawberries are a sweet treat to get some energy at a low-calorie cost! About 8 strawberries are only 50 calories and are loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants to fight Diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, heart disease is a common cause of death for women, who are more likely to die from a heart attack than men. Strawberries and other berries as well, may reduce that risk by increasing blood flow and counteracting against plaque build-up.
- Snack on them raw or add them to oatmeal, yogurt, acai bowls, and smoothies!
7. Plain popcorn:
Can you believe your eyes? Yes, popcorn! It may be rich in carbohydrates, but plain popped organic popcorn is a good source of energy, fiber, and protein to give you a bump of energy and satisfy your craving for something “unhealthy!”
Just 2 Tablespoons of kernels will make about 4.5 cups of plain popped popcorn and provide ~140 calories, ~5 grams of fiber, and ~4 grams of protein, depending on the brand you choose. I suggest getting whole kernels and popping your own in a pan. Microwave popcorn is not recommended. This is definitely a go-to for those seeking a low-calorie, but fulfilling snack!
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Yours in health and wellness,