As we move into the routine of a new year, for busy peeps juggling the demands of the day can leave us feeling……very tired. So, here are a few of the key reasons your fatigue may be holding you back from being your best.
You are not getting enough iron
There are a number of key nutrients that are crucial for optimal energy production and regulation in the body, especially for women, and iron is one of them. It is not uncommon to see low iron and zinc blood levels in women who are training at high intensity week in, week out, especially for those who do not eat red meat 3-4 times each week. 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. For women who may be sporadic red meat eaters, and eat steak or lamb occasionally, while there is some iron in white meats and fish, it is 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 allow the body to absorb what it needs. 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. Remember we do not need a large serve of red meat, we just need it regularly. 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 but always keep an eye on your levels, especially if you do feel fatigued.
You are 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 include 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 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.
You are 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.
You are not eating enough fresh food
When energy demands and stress is high, it makes sense to include as many nutrient and energy rich foods into your diet as you can. Often as active women try and keep lean, they consciously drop carbohydrates from their diet but it should be remembered that wholegrain carbs are a rich source of both essential nutrients required for energy production, including the B group vitamins. If you have been feeling tired, make sure that you are including at least one serve of wholegrain carbs in each of your meals and snacks. This may be as simple as including a slice of toast or piece of fruit with your breakfast, a small serve of beans with your lunch and some sweet potato or brown rice with your dinner, but even in small amounts, regularly consuming wholegrain carbohydrates will keep your energy levels well regulated as opposed to ‘running on empty’.