5 WAYS TO FIGHT FATIGUE
By Erica Jeung, Certified Sports Nutritionist and Principal at BumpVitamins.com
Are you always tired?
Fatigue… it is something all of us feel (some of us a lot more often than others). Everyone probably knows what fatigue feels like to them, but the Mayo Clinic describes fatigue as, “Feeling overly tired, with low energy and a strong desire to sleep that interferes with normal daily activities.” Fatigue can occur from an underlying illness, lack of sleep, mental/emotional exertion, physical exertion/overuse, eating too much food, not eating enough food, or simply as a result of aging.
As a mom of two kids under two years old, who works full-time, I feel fatigued throughout my day and I’m sure most moms and dads are right there with me. My typical day starts at 5:00 AM when my 8-month-old baby boy wakes up, and my day doesn’t just end when the kids go to bed at 7:00 PM. After bedtime is when everything else starts. Fun stuff like laundry, cleaning, sanitizing, organizing, meal prep, working out, writing articles, studying, and anything else that I need to get done that cannot be done when I am at work or taking care of the kids. I know some of you feel me out there. Life itself can be exhausting!
So what can you do to help fight fatigue so you can be the super-mom, super-dad, or whatever kind of super-person that you need to be each day? Here are five helpful tips to boost your energy levels and kick fatigue’s butt.
1) Get up and get moving! The worst thing for fatigue is stagnant energy. You gotta get up and get moving. A full 30-minute workout that increases your heart rate is best, but if you are short on time try doing five sun salutes, or for something a little more intense try 50 burpees. And if yoga and burpees aren’t your things, then go for a 10-minute jog. Movement keeps the energy flowing and even though you might think exercise will make you feel more tired, quite the opposite happens… because when you exercise your brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released by the brain that help reduce stress, increase energy, increase pleasure, and reduce pain. Pretty magical stuff… am I right?!
2) Enjoy some sun. The sun feeds plants and it can also feed your energy levels too. Sit in the sun, go for a walk, or play with your dog or your kids in the yard. Getting adequate sun each day, especially when you feel fatigue set in, helps boost energy levels and mood. Sunlight increases serotonin levels in the brain which contributes to a sense of well-being, happiness, and increased energy levels. The sun also creates vitamin D in your body, an essential vitamin that helps the body absorb essential minerals like calcium and magnesium. A lack of vitamin D can actually cause fatigue, so yet another reason to make sure you are getting some sun each day. But of course, don’t sit in the sun too long. Prolonged exposure to the sun without sunscreen and protective clothing can lead to skin cancer.
3) Skip the caffeine and chug some water. If you’re always tired, it’s tempting to go straight to the coffee pot or vending machine for an energy drink to get the boost you crave, however, it is not the best thing for your body. Artificially stimulating your nervous system when you are fatigued can cause a lot more problems than fatigue. Caffeine should only be used by healthy individuals in moderation. And while the Mayo Clinic advises that up to 400 mg, which is equivalent to 4 cups of coffee or 2 energy shot drinks, is safe for healthy adults to drink each day, I recommend only drinking 1-2 cups of coffee or tea a day, and staying away from energy drinks altogether. Instead, keep a reusable water bottle with you and drink water all day long. Fatigue can be caused by dehydration and caffeine can make things worse. Keeping your body hydrated will help your brain function better too. A solid goal is to drink 1 gallon of water a day. And if that is unattainable and you don’t want to pee all day, try for 80-100 oz.
4) Get adequate sleep. The most obvious cure for fatigue is to get more rest, however, sometimes that isn’t always possible. Especially if you are a new parent or work long work hours. We all know the doctor’s recommendation of getting 8 hours of sleep each night, but if you can’t make 7-8 hours happen every night, try for a quick mid-day nap. Adult naps are even doctor recommended. The Sleep Foundation lists the benefits of napping as; reducing sleepiness, improving learning, aiding memory function, and regulating emotions. The key to a successful adult nap is keeping the nap short. I’m talking 20-30 minutes short. Try and nap in a dark, relaxing place and set your alarm for 30 minutes. Close your eyes and relax. It might be hard to nap at first, and some people find naps impossible. So give it a try and see if you can add a nap to your routine to boost your energy levels.
5) Nourish your body. Proper nutrition can help you look better and feel better too. Eating high-energy foods throughout the day will help fuel your body. Fruits are a great source of natural sugars, vitamins, and minerals that can help boost energy levels naturally. Apples, bananas, oranges, mango, and all the berries are great snacks to help you get rid of fatigue. You may also think about adding in a multivitamin or a B-Complex. B vitamins are essential and also play important roles in converting the foods we eat into glucose which fuels the cells and in turn the body. Stay away from cookies, donuts, chips, and other fatty or high-sugar junk foods. They might sound good at the time, but they take more energy to digest which can further your fatigue. They also lack vitamins and minerals and are usually packed with artificial flavors, sugars, and preservatives.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. All too often we don’t listen to our body, and we continue to push ourselves to the limit when all our body needs is rest. It’s easy to chalk up fatigue to not getting enough sleep, not eating enough food, waking up too early, or trying to do too much in a day. Sometimes we need to stop making excuses for our body asking for sleep and start listening. Fatigue can sometimes indicate an underlying illness is present, and if we listen, we can fight off viruses and other diseases before they get too far along. If you’re experiencing fatigue often and if rest and all of the recommendations above are not helping, it is wise to see your healthcare provider and ensure there isn’t something else going on.
In my personal experience, I have felt fatigued many times. Most of the time it is from doing too much for others and not taking time for myself. Being a parent, partner, daughter, employee, friend, student, and resident purveyor of clean clothes can be straight-up exhausting. Don’t ignore your body, take care of yourself, nourish yourself, take a nap, play with your dog, go for a walk, workout, and don’t forget to take your vitamins!