Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

Is your diet making you tired?

With so many of us living a life in which every minute seems to be scheduled, it is no wonder that we also find ourselves living in a constant state of fatigue. Long working days and even longer commutes, family gatherings and social events are just some of the commitments that demand our time and that is before we even consider the need to schedule in our weekly exercise sessions. When you are feeling tired, while regular rest and relaxation along with a slightly less scheduled diary may seem the logical answer, it may also be worth asking yourself if your daily dietary choices could be to blame.

Are you getting enough iron?

There are a number of key nutrients that are crucial for optimal energy production, especially for women, and iron is one of them. Red blood cells required to deliver oxygen to the working muscle also require iron to do their job, and hence a poor intake of dietary iron can put this transport system under pressure.

Sporadic red meat eaters who consume red meat only occasionally tend to be at highest risk as while there is some iron in white meats and fish, the amounts are relatively low compared to red meat. For this reason, if you do eat red meat, you need to make sure you are enjoying it in small amounts regularly. To bump up your red meat intake, add a little lean beef or lean lamb fillet to your salads, enjoy mince dishes with some vegetables or pasta or choose steak every so often when eating out rather than fish or chicken.

For the vegetarians, low iron levels tends to be less of an issue, as vegetarians are likely to have adapted to absorbing iron from the non-meat food sources in the diet.

Are you eating too much processed food?

For busy people on the run, grabbing a quick meal replacement or protein bar in place of a meal or snack is not an issue but if your diet is based solely around processed foods and supplements, you will not be doing your energy or immune system any favours.

Fresh foods including fruits, grains, vegetables and seeds offer numerous nutritional benefits over any processed foods, which means you need these foods every single day to keep your training body at its best. As a general rule of thumb, the brighter the fresh food, the better it will be for you and we need at least 2-3 cups of brightly coloured vegetables and a couple of pieces of fruit every single day.

Easy yet convenient ways to get your vitamin hit each day include grabbing a fresh juice rather than a coffee, keeping quick cook vegetable packs at work and at home for quick dinners and try snacking on fresh carrots and other cut up vegetables on a daily basis. Enjoying a fresh vegetable based juice is also a great way to get a daily hit of key vitamins without the calories of fruit based juices.

Are you overdoing the stimulants?

The ironic thing about consuming caffeine and other “energy” type drinks to help increase energy is that they are just as likely to leave you feeling even worse than before you consumed them. The reason for this is that even though stimulants, whether they are in the form of caffeine or sugar, will give you an initial “hit”, they will also see a subsequent “drop” once the stimulant has been metabolized. For this reason, using caffeine in small amounts regularly and avoiding all sugar based drinks is a much better option than relying on them for an energy hit in times of trouble. Ideally large volumes of water, some herbal tea and a couple of cups of tea or coffee each day are the best types of fluid for you to ingest to keep you optimally hydrated and your energy systems at their best.

Are your carbs too low?

Carbs have been deemed taboo on many a weight loss diet and while our carb requirements may have reduced in line with a more sedentary lifestyle, there is still a minimum amount of carbohydrate the muscles requires to function optimally. This means if you exercise regularly, and are consuming fewer than 80-100g of total carbohydrate each day, your cells may literally be ‘running on empty’, somewhat explaining your fatigue.

The average person will need 20-30g of total carbohydrate at each meal and if you do prefer a lower carb style of eating later in the day, make sure you have a carbohydrate rich snack such as fruit, yoghurt or a cracker before exercising the next day.