A bad night of sleep can leave you sluggish and tired the next day. However, if most days you feel like a zombie in the latest dystopian movie, it might be time to revisit your diet. Nutrition and energy go hand in hand, so cleaning up your meals can give you the superpower we’re all after: enough energy to conquer the day!
Why Am I Tired All the Time?
There are five top reasons why you feel more tired than the battery of an old iPhone:
No Sleep No Energy
This one might seem obvious. You don’t get enough rest; you won’t have enough energy. Maybe you had to stay up late working on an important project. Perhaps the kids woke you up a little too early. Maybe you just felt too stressed to sleep. Whatever the reason, not getting enough sleep is a real problem. Sleepiness can lead to all sorts of trouble: leaving the stove on, forgetting important zoom meetings, or even accidents while driving. Sleep isn’t only for beauty – it’s an important part of functioning at optimal levels every day! For information on how to improve sleep, check out our blog: Why Can’t I Sleep?
Energy Sapping Diets
There are two sides to this coin. A poor diet can simply mean you’re not eating enough! Calories are literally energy, so if you’re not eating enough calories, well – what kind of zombie would you like to be cast as? This is a particular struggle for those aiming to lose weight.
Of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, you want to eat fewer calories than you burn every day, but it shouldn’t be so much less that your body isn’t able to function properly. The general recommendation is that women do not eat any less than 1,200 calories a day and men do not eat less than 1,500. However, this varies from person to person depending on gender, age, and lifestyle. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider and follow a well-balanced weight loss plan. A poor diet can also mean you’re not eating well enough. If you’re eating too much junk food and not enough nutritious food, your body just doesn’t have the nutrients to work well. This includes producing enough energy to power through the day. Eating enough and eating enough nutritious food is critical to keeping your energy levels up.
Not Moving Enough
I know I know, when you’re bone-tired, it’s hard to get in exercise. However, research shows that getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can help boost your energy and even improve your mood! If you’re feeling super sluggish during the day, but don’t want to mess up your sleep schedule with a long nap, try to go for a brisk 20-minute walk. This should help improve your energy. Plus, it’s important to get at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday just to maintain your health. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy and make sure to fit that regularly into your schedule!
You’re Too Stressed Out
We can all agree that excess stress is a real downer. A little bit of stress here and there can be a good thing: pushing you to perform better. However, being stressed out all the time to the point of headaches and binge-watching Netflix until three in the morning… definitely not good. Plus, prolonged stress can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.
This is because of the “fight or flight” response triggered when stress prepares your body for emergencies. It winds you up and is a fatiguing process, especially when you have nowhere to fly or anything to fight – like in an office setting. Also, being too stressed can seriously disrupt your sleep schedule, making you more tired and stressed… which makes you more tired and stressed… which is a really awful cycle to be stuck in. Make sure you try creating a schedule with activities that help you destress and unwind every night!
Medical Conditions That May Affect Energy
Sometimes you don’t have much control over the circumstances that are making you tired. Certain underlying medical conditions can cause tiredness and fatigue like anemia, underactive thyroid, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and heart disease just to name a few. If you’ve already cleaned up your sleep, nutrition, and stressors in life but still feel exhausted, it’s recommended that you visit a professional healthcare provider.
Alright, so those are some of the things that deplete your energy levels, but how exactly does nutrition help? Well, it all has to do with how food is converted into energy in the body! It’s a fascinating scientific process starting with munching on food.
Food to Energy Conversion
You sit down to eat your delicious breakfast and catch up on news or maybe TikTok. Once you finish eating though, your body is hard at work converting your meal into energy! Your yummy food makes its way down into your stomach where it’s greeted by acids and enzymes that break it all down. Not the nicest of first meetings, but it’s necessary.
The carbohydrates you consumed are broken down into a type of sugar called glucose, and glucose is the star of the show. The glucose makes its way into the stomach and small intestines where it is dispersed into the bloodstream. Your bloodstream is kind of like the road system for energy in your body. The glucose traveling on it can either be directly shifted to certain areas for energy (like your heart) or it can be stored as fat for later use. You can think of fat storages in your body like warehouses for energy. The body pulls from these warehouses when it runs out of more quickly accessible energy like carbs.
Of course, you want all that glucose to go somewhere. If it stays just in your bloodstream, it raises your blood sugar, and that’s a problem. Insulin is in charge of shuffling around glucose to be used for energy or fat storage. Insulin works kind of like exit ramps on the highway of bloodstream. It gets the glucose to where it needs to go!
The Pancreas, Insulin, and Cell Energy
The pancreas is where insulin is made. Inside your pancreas are something called beta cells. They scan your bloodstream for glucose every few seconds, so they know how much insulin is needed at the time. They’re like the factory runners of insulin in the pancreas. When you eat carbs, the glucose in your bloodstream increases, and the beta cells run around telling your pancreas to pump out more insulin. Insulin is important because it’s the key that opens up cells so that the glucose traveling around can actually get inside the cells and provide energy! The beta cells back in the pancreas can actually tell when all the glucose has found a home inside a cell and it tells the pancreas to slow down the insulin production.
Insulin also helps your cells store away the glucose they don’t need for later use. All that extra glucose is turned into a bigger sugar package called glycogen. This is then shipped off to the liver and muscles. Insulin also helps store some of that extra glycogen into fat stores. Fat can be a powerful energy source and it’s important in the creation of hormones and protection of nerves!
This whole rise and fall of insulin and blood sugar happens many times every day. Depending on what you eat, and how much, your body knows how much insulin to produce if the pancreas is working properly. For those who suffer from Diabetes, their pancreas needs a little help in the production of insulin to manage blood glucose levels. Managing these insulin levels properly, producing just the right amount to keep your blood sugar balanced, is how your body keeps itself energized to do all the awesome stuff you do every day!
So… How Should I Eat to Get Energy?
The truth is to get the most energy out of your nutrition you need to eat a well-balanced diet. This means getting enough carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from nutritious sources. For example, most of your carbohydrates should come from fruits and veggies. Some should be from unrefined whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa. Your proteins can come from lean meats like fish and poultry and also legumes such as beans and lentils. Finally, the fats should come mostly in the form of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. You can find these in nuts, seeds, and healthy oils like olive oil.
All foods are broken down into energy, but some are more efficient than others. Proteins and fats take a while to break down which means that they increase your insulin levels steadily over a longer period of time. That translates into more energy. Complex carbohydrates work like this too: sustaining your energy for longer. However, simple carbohydrates, like refined grains and cereals, cause a spike in insulin (therefore energy) and then quickly diminish. Ever had some ice cream and felt wired for an hour before feeling tired and sluggish? Well, it’s called a sugar crash for a reason. After the initial jumpstart of refined sugars – comes the energy crash.
A good way to keep your energy levels high is to consume smaller nutritious meals during the day. For example, having breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, and dinner. This might be some oatmeal in the morning, a piece of fruit in the midafternoon, fish for lunch, another piece of fruit or some veggies, and then a salad for dinner. That’s just an example, but it goes to show how you can spread out nutritious food throughout the day for continuous fuel. You don’t need a full five meals a day either! Just a banana or a small handful of nuts for a snack will be enough for your body to sustain its energy levels.
Nutrition Energy Sappers
Eating Large Meals
Of course, the amount of food you need varies depending on lots of things. However, if you’re eating large meals instead of smaller, more frequent ones, you may notice a slump in energy afterwards. This is just the result of the insulin seesaw you go through every day. When insulin levels start to drop, so do your energy levels.
Not Fueling Enough for Energy
As mentioned previously, not eating enough is a sure way to set yourself up for zombie-like cruising through the day. Your body is simply not receiving enough food to convert into energy.
Getting A Little Too Cozy with the Cup of Joe
I know a cup of coffee feels like the only way to start the day. However, coffee works much in the same way as candy: it gives you a quick boost and then the sluggishness kicks in again. If you just can’t give up that morning cup of joe, make sure you’re pairing with a well-rounded breakfast to keep your energy levels up. You’ll also want to keep your caffeine consumption to no later than two in the afternoon as, even though the initial boost of energy may fade, caffeine can still interrupt sleep. The more sensitive you are to caffeine, the earlier you’ll want to cut yourself off.
Ever had a mimosa for brunch and immediately felt you needed a nap after? Alcohol is a sedative, which means it will slow you down and make you drowsy. Make sure you’re following medical guidelines for alcohol consumption and avoid having it during the day if you have things to do – especially driving!
Skimping on Water!
Your body uses water to get nutrients to where they need to go. If you don’t have enough water, it can’t do that, which means you’ll start feeling fatigued and sluggish. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated – even when you’re not thirsty!
Foods for Energy
All that being said, there are certain foods that will help keep your energy running throughout the day! Here are just a few:
The are energy all stars. They’re packed with complex carbs, potassium, and vitamin B6. These are key components in helping you stay energized through the day!
Fish like salmon and tuna are also great to add to your diet since they are rich in protein, important fatty acids, and B vitamins.
- Research shows that the Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fatty fish help reduce inflammation. This inflammation is a common cause for feeling tired and sluggish.
- The vitamin B12 and the folate in these foods also produce red blood cells and help iron work better in your body. These two things are important in keeping your energy levels up too!
This grain is super nutritious and, since it is less processed than white rice, retains more of its nutritional value like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Just one serving of brown rice includes a lot of the manganese requirement for a day, which is a mineral that helps you break down carbs and proteins therefore generating energy!
- Since brown rice is a whole grain, it has a lower glycemic index than white rice. This means it raises your insulin levels more slowly and therefore provides longer energy throughout the day.
These veggies are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, manganese, and Vitamin A. They are also digested slowly and therefore provide continuous energy!
They’re a breakfast staple for a reason! Eggs are packed with delicious protein, which is also broken down slowly and therefore provides energy for a steady period of time. Plus, they are rich in leucine. This is an amino acid responsible for helping cells take in more glucose, which makes them create more energy!
They may not really keep the dentist away, but they are great for your health! They’re rich in carbs and fiber, and packed with antioxidants which help extend how long it takes to break down carbs! Since it takes longer to break them down, the energy boost they provide is stretched out during the day.
Yes – water can give you energy. It helps regulate cellular function which includes how they produce energy! If you’re dehydrated, your whole body slows all systems, making you feel like taking a three-hour nap. Make sure to drink water frequently throughout the day, even when you’re not thirsty!
Maybe we can’t go crazy and have a couple bars of delicious chocolate every day, BUT you can give yourself a small dark chocolate treat every once in a while, to boost energy. Dark chocolate is full of cocoa which helps increase the blood flow through your body. This makes it easier for oxygen to be delivered to your brain and muscles and therefore improves their function. This is especially true during exercise when you’re using those muscles a lot! Plus, the antioxidants in cocoa can help reduce your mental fog and give you a little mood boost too! Of course, cocoa also has theobromine and caffeine which are known to increase energy levels.
This is one of my favorites. Quinoa is actually a seed! It’s high in protein, carbs, and dietary fiber plus it carries a powerful punch of vitamins and minerals. It does have a fairly large amount of carbs, but they are low on the glycemic index, which means that the insulin boost comes slow and steady. That translates into slow and steady energy! Also, quinoa is rich in manganese, magnesium, and folate which are important for cellular function and energy.
Okay, this is one ties with quinoa for one of my favorites. However, oatmeal is a whole grain cereal not a seed. It’s packed with fiber which slows the absorption of sugar in the blood and therefore provides a steady energy increase. Plus, oats have a lot of vitamins and minerals which are important in energy production like B vitamins, iron, and manganese.
We all pay extra for guac for a reason. Besides being unfairly delicious, avocados are a superfood because of their nutritional content. They are rich in healthy fats, B vitamins, and fiber. Most of the healthy fats in this super fruit are mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They keep blood fat levels healthy and help you absorb nutrients better! This healthy fat can also be stored in the body and used later for energy.
Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils – you name it. They’re delicious, and a great choice for boosting energy. They contain a lot of carbs, fiber, and protein. They are also digested slowly and that helps maintain your blood sugar levels steady. As we’ve learned, that means steady energy! Plus, the antioxidants in beans help reduce inflammation which is a known source of fatigue.
How FK Can Help Boost Your Energy!
With all that information you might feel a little overwhelmed on how to put it all together. The good news is – we can do it for you! Putting together delicious meal plans for optimal health and energy is our specialty! If you join our FK Online Meal Plan family, we can do all the nutrition planning for you. All you have to do is get ready for the powerful transformation that comes with eating well.
We offer three different online meal plans:
The best part is each of these can be customized! Once you’ve decided on your meal plan, you’ll have the opportunity to input your current health status and what your goals are. We take all of this information and create a program that works for you. FK Online Meal Plans are sent to customers via email. We do not send out the actual meals, but we give you an in-depth guide to help you through the process! Your customized meal plan will include a calendar view of meals with the nutritional content, so you know exactly what you’re getting each day! Plus, you’ll have step-by-step preparation instructions, ingredient lists, shopping lists, and everything you need to transform your health right from the comfort of your kitchen!
You can be on your way to more energy and better health today. Join our FK family and see how we can help transform your life!
NOTE: Fran’s Kitchen offers two different meal plan services. Our Delivery Meal Plans are delivered to customers on an agreed upon schedule. Our ONLINE MEAL PLANS are NOT delivered. These online meal plans are sent to customers via email to be cooked, followed, and enjoyed from the comfort of their own kitchens! Please be mindful of these differences when registering for Fran’s Kitchen services. Thank you!