Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. It is a complete lack of motivation and energy. There can be many reasons why you might feel tired, fatigued, or lack energy. Energy levels tend to decline after the age of 50, and a study by Healthspan found that we spend an average of 2 hours and 56 minutes a day feeling drained, however lifestyle choices can make a huge difference to your energy levels. This is especially important as 37% of the British population say that they have the lowest energy levels they’ve ever had due to the pandemic.
So, what is causing the decline in energy and what can we do to restore it?
Do you have a poor diet?
A poor diet which includes lots of highly processed foods can cause fatigue. Certain foods can cause blood sugar spikes which, when these drop, can leave you with a feeling of lethargy no energy. This is often called the mid-afternoon slump.
To prevent this happening, try to eat healthy, nutritious meals regularly throughout the day. It’s better to eat more smaller meals rather than three big meals to avoid a long time between meals. Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet throughout the day including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables (choose colourful fruit especially berries and green leafy veg), carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta (the white varieties cause a spike in blood sugar levels) and protein like fish (mackerel, salmon and tuna), chicken, eggs and pulses. Choose a variety of different foods to make sure that you are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Try to limit highly processed foods, unhealthy snacks and sugar.
Are you carrying excess fat?
Carrying excess fat can put extra strain on your heart which can lead to fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion.
Losing weight (fat loss) using a combination of healthy eating and exercise will lead to you having much more energy.
Make changes slowly. Accept the amount of weight that you need to lose and aim to lose 1 – 2 lbs a week. To lose more than this means that you would have to reduce your calories by too great an amount which will become unsustainable over time and this is when many people give up and pile the weight back on. Look at it like a journey that you’re making on foot where step gets you closer to your desired destination.
How often do you exercise?
Sitting for long periods of time and not taking any exercise will lead to fatigue and feeling sluggish. Exercising isn’t just for fat loss and toning up, although these are fabulous benefits! It also boosts your circulation and helps your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently, boosting endurance and making daily tasks easier.
Starting to exercise or increasing the amount that you do will give you an energy boost, as exercise increases your level of endorphins which gives you a positive feeling. Even if it’s the last thing that you feel like doing, as long as you are able, try to get outside for a walk. Even 10-15 minutes will make a difference, and you will feel so much better for doing it. Start slowly and increase the amount of time that you exercise for – just 30 minutes a day is enough, and our 30-minute circuit is perfect for this.
Make exercising a regular habit, just like brushing your teeth, and reduce tiredness long-term.
Are you suffering from stress?
Stress can be very draining, leaving you fatigued. It can lead to sleepless nights which, in turn, can lead to lack of energy. Stress causes an increase of cortisol which is the primary stress hormone.
Try to reduce stress by reducing the triggers, setting yourself achievable goals, exercising regularly, easting a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and trying relaxation techniques such as meditation. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Ask for help if you need it, try not to cram too many things into the day and make sure to find time to do something just for you such as a nice relaxing bath, listening to some music or an interesting podcast, reading a book, hobbies, a walk or catching up with friends.
Are you sleeping?
Regular lack of sleep or restless nights quickly lead to loss of concentration, tiredness, irritability and fatigue, as well as being extremely detrimental to your health. Make sure that this isn’t because you are simply going to bed too late.
Regularly sleeping for 7-8 hours a night helps to improve your immune system, greatly improving mood, concentration, and tiredness.
Make sure you wind down properly before going to sleep. Turn off any electrical appliances such as ipads and phones at least an hour before you go to bed. Try to read a book instead of watching tv for the last hour to give your brain time to relax. Screens trick the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime as the light from them slows down the production of melatonin which is essential for good quality sleep.
Try a relaxing warm bubble bath, have a warm drink (not coffee), dim the lights and practice a relaxation technique, listen to some relaxing music, meditation or mindfulness.
Are you bored?
Being bored is known to make you feel tired, sluggish and have no energy. People usually prefer doing something to doing nothing so try to find a balance of keeping busy and relaxing, whether that’s doing jobs that need doing such as household chores or DIY, or indulging in something that’s just for you, such as a long walk, reading a book, a bit of retail therapy, cooking a delicious meal, or catching up with friends. Even if you feel too tired to do anything, sometimes getting up and moving can help you relieve the fatigue and actually feel more awake – the hardest part is getting up and going!
How much alcohol do you drink?
Regularly drinking too much alcohol can affect your sleep which, in turn, can cause tiredness and fatigue. Sometimes alcohol can make you tired and you think that it will help you to sleep, but the sleep that you have then is of a much lower quality than when you haven’t had an alcoholic drink.
Try to limit your alcohol intake and make sure that you have several drink free days a week.
How much coffee do you drink?
Drinking too much coffee can make you feel tired. I know that this may seem strange as we all drink coffee to either wake us up or to stop us falling asleep, however, once the caffeine leaves your system, the side effect can leave you feeling tired.
Try to limit your coffee to no more than 2-4 cups a day and try to drink these before midday to get the full benefits. Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults, which is the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee (however, be aware caffeine is in plenty of other foods and drinks too, such as chocolate.)
Do you drink enough water?
You will become dehydrated and your body will not be able to function properly if you do not drink enough fluid. If you are constantly feeling tired and lethargic, try upping your water intake. If you find that you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated!
According to NHS guidelines, you need to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day (I always personally aim for 2L a day, or 3L on days I exercise or if it is particularly warm that day). This can be tea, coffee and sugar-free drinks as well as water. Have a bottle filled with water and sip it throughout the day. If you don’t like water on its own, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to flavour.
There might be a medical reason for feeling fatigued including anxiety, depression and illness. The menopause can also disrupt sleep, along with many other symptoms that can cause fatigue. Please do make sure that you see your doctor if you feel that your fatigue could be due to more than your lifestyle choices.
Loved this blog? Have a look at our blog on easy ways to burn calories without realising here.
Caroline & Hannah xx