If you find yourself sluggish, low in energy and lacking in motivation lately, it may not be your lack of sleep or high stress level to blame. Although both of these things are likely a factor, it may also be the foods you are eating.
Certain foods are more difficult for the body to digest and require our energy to be diverted internally, leaving less for us to use externally and leaving us feeling exhausted.
Likewise, some foods simply give a false burst of energy, followed by a crash, which leaves you feeling like you are completely burnt out. Take a look at your consumption of these foods and see if they may be to blame for your low energy levels:
- Dairy – Downing a glass of milk in the afternoon, or first thing in the morning may be putting a damper on your energy levels. For many people, milk can be difficult to digest and leads to a clogging of several of the elimination pathways. The result is a digestive system that has to work harder to process the beverage, leaving you more tired. Milk also has a naturally occurring sugar called lactose, which can further contribute to digestive problems, lead to bloating and upset stomach, due to bacterial imbalances in the gut, and for some, can also spike the blood sugar. Choose water or vegetable juice as a better alternative to your dairy beverage, and opt for coconut yogurt with your lunch instead of traditional cow’s milk yogurt.
- Refined carbohydrates and sugar - While these are easy to digest and move through the digestive system very quickly, the result is a quick release of sugar into the bloodstream. This gives you a spike of energy, lasting an hour or two, and then is followed by an energy crash, where you feel sluggish, lazy and simply don’t want to move. This is the cycle that occurs when you eat sugary candies, pastries and sweets and white bread, pasta and rice. The alternative of course, is to eat complex carbohydrates, which release slowly into the blood stream and give you sustained energy, and to simultaneously avoid refined sugars and sugary treats. The result will be a steady supply of energy that only depletes when it is time for you to eat again and your body is low in calories.
- Meat – Consumed in small quantities, only 1-2 times per week, and in an unprocessed form, meat is a healthy option, which is high in iron. Consumed in excess however, it can be very taxing on the digestive system. Furthermore, processed meats, such as sausages and pre made burgers, require the body to use a lot of energy to break them down and remove the protein and in the process produce nitrogenous byproducts. These nitrogens are then circulating through the body and need to be eliminated. They will often be deposited wherever they can go, in areas such as the joints, setting up the early stages of arthritis, but more than that, are simply hard for the body to deal with and will leave you even more tired. To avoid these issues, have red meat infrequently and watch your portion size.
- Bananas – If your solution to a mid-afternoon energy lull is to grab a banana, you may want to re-think your decision. Bananas have high levels of magnesium and potassium, which make your muscles relax. Athletes eat bananas during endurance events to relax their muscles to reduce muscle cramping and replenish electrolytes, but when you aren’t dealing with cramps, the result can be overly relaxed muscles, leading to a tired physical state. Instead, replace your banana with berries, which are higher in fiber and lower in sugar meaning you will get an energy burst that will sustain you for longer, without spiking your blood sugar.