There are a millions and one ways to be tired. From the run-of-the-mill not getting enough sleep fatigue (binge TV watching is a typical suspect) to the afternoon sugar crash, exhaustion comes in all kinds of flavors. Luckily, fighting fatigue need not be so complex. While getting enough sleep and exercise are energy prerequisites, there are three simple dietary changes you can make that will definitely put a little more zip in your step. Take them for a test drive for the next few days and see if your groove becomes well, a little groovier.
All too often we misread the cues our body sends us, mistaking hunger for thirst and thirst for fatigue. A tall glass of water can be the easy solution—and your first line of defense when things get out of whack. Even slight dehydration can make you feel lethargic. Especially after exercise, when your body is likely to be craving fluids, make sure you indulge in good hydration hygiene. If you get bored with water, seltzer mixed with a little juice, coconut water, or herbal teas make smart choices. Remember that caffeine is dehydrating and sugary sodas actually inhibit the body from absorbing the water it needs.
Nix the sugar fix
Sweet foods give you a spike in blood sugar, which initially may feel like a burst of energy. Inevitably after the spike comes the crash, which tends to feel even worse than the initial drop. The sugar rollercoaster will ultimately exhaust you. A better approach is to keep blood sugar balanced so your energy is constant. Instead of the refined sugar that’s in muffins, candy, cookies, and many cereals, opt for more whole grain options that provide a slow and steady release of fuel. Try a whole-wheat bagel, muffin or even cookie, and feel the difference in your energy level. Even better, bake up some whole grain goodness yourself. Start by substituting buckwheat, millet or oat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin or other flour-based recipes. While you are at it, reduce the recipe’s sugar by a third and voila— you have sustained gratification for your snack attacks on hand.
Eat more protein
When you hit a wall, protein packs a perfect punch. Even small portions of nuts, cheese, or hard-boiled eggs can satiate your hunger and boost energy levels. Get on the healthy jerky bandwagon and carry a bag around in your purse or keep it at your office or in your car. Turkey, salmon, or even beef jerky—look for brands that don’t have a lot of preservatives and additives and nitrates—curb your hunger without the highs and lows that quick carbs can wreak.
Drinking lots of water, steering clear of sugar, introducing more whole grains and adding more protein to your diet will help you stay on a more even keel. As you become more sensitive to the effects of food on your energy levels, you may want to become even more radical, such as cutting way down on caffeine. But for now, keep it simple, practice moderation, and be a savvy snacker. You’ll notice your vitality increase as your baseline moves from depleted to refreshed, grumpy to grateful.