Are you dragging yourself through your daily routines? Low energy levels can have a serious impact on your life, your work, and your relationships, but a few changes to your diet and daily routine could make a huge difference.
Eat More Iron
An iron deficiency can make you feel like you're slogging through mud. Women, in particular, are often iron-deficient, and anyone who is trying to eat less saturated fat is probably reducing their iron intake as well. Plant-based foods that are rich in iron include beans, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, and tofu. Working these foods into your daily routine will keep your iron levels up, especially if you can eat them with foods rich in vitamin C to boost the absorption.
Drop Simple Carbs
You've probably noticed that eating sugar on an empty stomach gives you an energy spike followed by a terrible crash. But did you know that your body converts simple carbs like pasta, rice, and white bread into sugar almost instantly and it can have the same effect? Cutting those carbs and eating more fiber instead will keep your energy levels simmering at a much higher level all day.
Learn to Love Water
Staying hydrated will boost your energy levels and improve all of your body's functions. If you're currently wrecking your nutrition with sugary or alcoholic beverages, wean yourself off of them. Sports drinks and juices are marketed as healthy alternatives, but they usually contain more sugar than nutrition, too. If you don't like water, try sparkling water with just a splash of fruit juice.
Avoid Packaged Foods
Advertisers work hard to convince you that their food bars, powders, and drinks will improve your energy and health, but the truth is you're better off eating foods that don't have any packaging or advertising. Your diet should be made up mostly of cooked and raw vegetables, soups, salads, lentils, beans, poultry, and fish. The more you can cleanse packaged food from your life, the healthier and livelier you will feel.
Eating every few hours can help your body maintain energy and reduce fatigue. Instead of adding snacks, though, think about breaking your existing meals in half. Eat half a sandwich for lunch and save the other half for "second lunch." Eat the meat portion of your dinner early and have the salad and vegetables a few hours later. Aim to deliver a steady supply of nutrients and calories throughout the day.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Staring at a phone, computer or e-reader prevents your body's clock from working properly, so be sure to step away from electronics or put them in "blue screen" mode at least an hour before bedtime. Melatonin taken an hour before bedtime helps many people drift off, especially when dealing with schedule changes. If your quality of sleep is poor, you may need to be checked for sleep apnea. Getting enough rest is vital to preventing fatigue.
The last thing you want to do when you're feeling fatigued is exercise, but if you don't break that vicious cycle, your energy levels are guaranteed to keep declining. Expecting too much from yourself sets you up to fail, so try giving yourself very small goals at first. If you can manage 10 minutes on the yoga mat, a slow walk around the block, or dancing in your living room to one song, you'll be on the path to improvement, and you can build from there.
If you've been eating a lot of empty carbs and sugars, or if you've been iron-deficient or dehydrated, these changes should make a profound difference for you in just a few days. If you continue to feel sluggish or lethargic after making these changes, or if you have other symptoms, talk to your doctor about other possible causes.
About Rory Brown:
Rory Brown is a food critic and blogger specializing in healthy diet and lifestyle choices. Beginning in Charleston, SC, he has attracted a large following by offering nuanced takes on fine cuisine with a focus on health. Mr. Brown splits his time between Charleston, Kauai, Sydney, and Lake Como, keeping his finger firmly on the culinary pulse across the globe.
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