We know all food provides the body with energy (calories), but this energy can vary greatly. But if you’re constantly feeling exhausted by 3pm? Here's how to use nutrition to beat fatigue.
Generally speaking, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts/seeds, eggs, legumes and lean sources of meat or fish all provide nourishing sources of energy as they are void of refined sugar and you skip having to read the ingredients list. Be sure to include these foods in your weekly menu plan.
There's no reason to be afraid of carbs. In fact, if you're avoiding them completely, that could be why you're feeling flat in the first place. Since carbohydrates are the body's (and brain’s) main energy source, use them to your advantage. Think brown rice, quinoa, barley and rolled oats.
Choosing these quality carbohydrates most of the time will ensure you’re getting the fuel you need to keep up with your busy schedule and regular workouts, while avoiding the sugar cravings. It’s recommended to include 3-4 serves of high-fibre options a day. One serve equals one slice of whole grain bread, ½ cup rice or quinoa, oats, 3 wholegrain or high fibre crisp breads.
If you sat down to design the easiest long-lasting energy snack, you’d be hard pressed to beat a banana. Not only are they portable, they’re bursting with goodness which is the reason why you’ll often find elite athletes munching on one before or after exercise. One banana provides 15% of your daily vitamin B6 needs to help unlock energy and help fine tune the nervous system; along with potassium to help restore tired muscles. Bananas also have a high satiety index, which means they are very filling for the amount of kilojoules they provide.
It was once thought that eggs raise cholesterol, but after a recent review of the evidence, the Heart Foundation has removed all restrictions on how many eggs you can eat. Each time you crack open an egg, you’re receiving the goodness of 11 different vitamins and nutrients, including high-quality protein (to help quell hunger and build muscle), omega-3 fatty acids (for improved cognition) and iron (to help carry oxygen around the body). Plus, the egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, making it a convenient way to up your intake without having to sit out in the sun. Swap out cereals a few days a week for eggs at breakfast.
Sure nuts are packed with fat, containing as many kilojoules as a small packet of potato chips. However, research confirms that you can happily snack on modest amounts of nuts without expanding your waistline, while still satisfying hunger. Why? Nuts are so high in fibre, they pass through the body without being completely broken down. What’s more, their high fat and protein content can act to satisfy hunger, reducing the likelihood on snacking on sweets and high-fat processed snacks. Aim for a handful (30g) of nuts everyday.
Yoghurt has long worn a health halo, and rightly so: it contains a balanced blend of slow-digesting carbs and hunger-busting protein: two nutrients that keep tummy rumbles at bay. Along with its bone-boosting calcium and gut-friendly probiotics to boost digestive balance and maintain a healthy gut flora. When your gut is working right, it can better absorb all of the energy-unlocking nutrients your body needs from your diet. To save on kilojoules — and unnecessary added sugar— choose plain yoghurt and add fresh fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon for sweetness, or add to smoothies.
Besides being an inexpensive source of plant-based protein, legumes including lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, lupins and broad beans are a good source of nutrients and help boost energy levels. The fibre and carbs in legumes promote slow stomach emptying and more controlled increases in blood sugar levels. Swap out meat-based patties for plant-based legume varieties when your next burger craving hits, or ditch the salty chips for roasted fa-va beans for a more nourishing snack.
They are a nutritious source of energy for those looking for an extra boost. One serve (1/2 cup) dishes up 15% of your daily B vitamin (niacin) needed for energy release and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. They are also a source of potassium and magnesium, which is needed for healthy nerve and muscle functioning. Peel a sweet potato and run it through a spiraliser to make sweet potato noodles, or try popping a slice of sweet potato in the toaster and add your favourite toppings for a nutritional and delicious breakfast with a twist.
Disclaimer: there are many factors that lead to constant tiredness, however always consult your doctor first to rule out any underlying causes of regular fatigue.