Characterized by a general lack of energy, fatigue can become a significant problem in all areas of our lives, whether that’s managing responsibility in the office or trying to juggle a house full of kids. This is because, as well as leaving us feeling like we just want to crawl back into bed and stay there, extreme feelings of fatigue can lead to a range of escalating problems that include –
- Impaired decision-making
- Poor concentration
- Slowed responses
- Muscle weakness
- And more
Each of these can make your days incredibly difficult and, while it’s tempting to blame a lack of sleep for fatigue of this nature, it’s also surprising how often this issue can be traced back to our diets. Whether you sit down to a decent meal with the kids each day or always grab your food on the go, what you eat can have almost as large an impact on energy levels as sleep. Perhaps more worryingly, foods that we most commonly associate with higher levels of energy often end up being the worst culprits for leaving our reserves on empty.
This is a significant problem, but understanding the issue provides you with the best chance to avoid these common mistakes for dietary choices that truly do provide you with the energy that you need. Here, we consider the worst culprits for false energy-boosting claims, and a few smart ways that you can truly eat a diet that provides energy at last.
# 1 – Anything sugary
As parents, we’re all guilty of reaching for a chocolate bar or something else sugary while the kids eat sometimes. After all, there’s always something else to do, and a sugar fix will at least get you through the remainder of the day, right? Wrong.
In reality, sugary foods are some of the worst for draining our energy reserves, even if that sugar comes in the form of supposedly good options like cereals and yogurts. In reality, there’s very little evidence of any real energy benefits off the back of even so-called ‘sugar’ boosts. There is, however, strong evidence to suggest that consuming highly sugary foods can decrease your energy levels by increasing your body’s reliance on other sugary options, facilitating draining cravings that you’ll struggle to satisfy without giving in. Worse, sugary foods that falsely make you feel full can prevent you from eating foods with actual nutritional benefits, making it far more likely that your energy will be run right down by the time the next meal rolls around.
Unfortunately, avoiding fast fixes like these can be easier said than done when you’re a parent which is why, as well as aiming to eat at least three full meals a day where you can, you should stock up on healthy snacks like fruit, rice cakes, crackers, etc. that enable you to reach for something fast, without leaving yourself exhausted in the process.
# 2 – Energy drinks
42.32% of individuals between the ages of 30-49 report consuming energy drinks regularly, often as a way to get going in the morning or to beat the notorious mid-afternoon slump. Unfortunately, despite the misleading name, energy drinks are yet another false savior that can leave us more exhausted than we would be otherwise.
Admittedly, it isn’t all bad, with energy drinks certainly providing an immediate boost that experts have found can enhance concentration and memory by as much as 24%. But those benefits don’t last, and it’s all because of the cocktail of chemical ingredients that manufacturers use to enable those short-lived plus points in the first place.
Following directly on from the sugar discussion, sugar content that can be as high as 52 grams per drink (around ten teaspoons) can especially lead to those same cravings that see your body requiring more and more sugar to function. Equally, high quantities of caffeine (often exceeding daily recommendations of 400mg) can lead to a significant crash, with drinkers experiencing jitters, heart palpitations, and more general feelings of exhaustion.
Admittedly, energy drinks can prove addictive, meaning that replacements aren’t always easy, but easing yourself off with healthy options like green teas that still contain some caffeine (though far less), or even just leaving time for a decent meal, could soon see your energy levels soaring again.
# 3 – Superfoods
In theory, superfoods like blueberries, lentils, and dark leafy greens can boost energy levels when eaten as part of a healthy diet. More recently, however, the definition of ‘superfoods’ has come to refer to foods that burn as many calories to consume as they contain in the first place, such as kale and grapefruit.
Of course, no one’s arguing that these foods aren’t great when eaten alongside full meals, but for individuals solely eating a superfood diet, it’s hardly surprising that energy reserves soon falter. After all, these nutrient-dense options leave very little in the way of energy reserves, despite containing a lot of the things that you need to stay healthy.
Quite obviously, making an effort to incorporate superfoods within your larger diet rather than focusing on them alone is the best way to enjoy their benefits without feeling exhausted from doing so. Unfortunately, this can prevent the weight loss benefits that possibly saw you turning to superfoods in the first place. While that’s by no means a reason to ditch the greens altogether, it may mean that you also prefer to supplement your superfood-heavy diet with weight drops that help you to lose weight fast while also actively boosting your energy. That way, you’ll give your superfood focus a head start, while making sure that you never feel exhausted in the process. The fact that long-term superfood consumption can also boost digestion and thus energy levels makes this especially worthwhile, both for energy now and moving forward.
# 4 – Coffee
Recent years have seen a great deal of research revealing health benefits surrounding coffee, including the ability to offset issues like Alzheimer’s, as well as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. And, of course, most of us assume that the relatively high caffeine content in a cup of coffee can help us to feel more energized.
In reality, however, while coffee with a typical caffeine content of around 40 mg is significantly better for us than the energy drinks we discussed, there are still energy downsides to consumption, especially when we become reliant on those coffee-based boosts. The tolerance that builds from drinking multiple cups of coffee a day can be especially problematic, reducing energy levels in the long term and also leading to draining withdrawal symptoms that can include muscle aches, headaches, and more if you don’t get your fix when you usually would.
Obviously, like superfoods, the health benefits of coffee mean that you might not want to cut this one out altogether on your quest for higher energy. However, experts do recommend drinking no more than four cups per day, and preferably avoiding set coffee routines that leave your body particularly drained at certain points when you would typically put the kettle on.
# 5 – Common carbs
The high-carb content inherent in grains like bread, rice, and pasta can seem like they’ll be positive from an energy perspective. After all, they certainly keep you fuller for longer, as well as containing high levels of fiber traditionally associated with lasting energy. But, processed white carbs aren’t always the energy-boosting pluses that we imagine them to be.
While not necessarily bad for us when consumed within reason, processed carbs lack a lot of what traditionally makes grains so great for keeping us going. For instance, the highly fibrous outer layer of these grains is typically removed during production, while the germ of the grain (rich in B vitamins and other important nutrients that boost energy) is also missing. Not to mention that white bread, in particular, also contains surprisingly high amounts of sugar (sometimes as much as 3g), which you already know can be bad news.
Admittedly, you might not need to ditch white carbs from your diet altogether, and their ability to fill you up can by proxy help with energy. But, common carbs are by no means as beneficial for boosting energy levels as whole grains that contain more complex carbs for the slow release of energy over longer periods. Switching to whole grain options is a great way to enhance energy like this without necessarily noticing the difference until you’re still on your feet and dancing well past the 2 o’clock slump.
Finding the ideal balance of energy can be tough at the best of times, let alone when you have kids running around the house at all hours. In reality, though, it seldom pays to reach for foods that you assume will give you an energy boost in the moment because, most often, their benefits aren’t as straight-cut as you’d assume. Instead, do your research, and implement the changes suggested or other beneficial options to truly boost your energy levels, and your dietary outlook, once and for all.