Feeling Sluggish? The Culprits & How to Naturally Boost Energy
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of many conditions. It is most likely the most common complaint from women to their doctors. The majority of the time the fatigue is blamed on high stress levels or lack of sleep. Women are usually told they are simply tired because of their busy schedules taking care of their kids and homes while working full-time jobs. Although this may be true, fatigue can be a sign of other physical problems and should be addressed rather than ignored and blamed on life’s stresses. When researching about fatigue, you will find more articles about women, but men probably experience this symptom just as much but are less likely to talk about it. It is important to find ways to improve your energy levels, but even more important to understand why you are feeling sluggish and tired on a consistent basis to begin with.
Of course, athletes are more prone to dehydration during long outdoor events, but this cause of fatigue can be the reason you may be tired all day. Even when not working out, not taking in enough fluids results in low blood volume. This causes the heart to work harder to push oxygen to the muscles and brain. Studies show that losing 1.5% or more of water weight from the body will cause symptoms of fatigue, so for those not drinking enough water throughout the day, this can happen pretty quickly. Fluid recommendations are different for everyone and are based on how much activity you do throughout the day, as well as the climate you are exposed to. The rule of thumb is to sip water often so that you will have to pee at least every three hours.
B12 or Iron Deficiency
Low levels of B12 in the body causes less oxygen to be transported through your blood since B12’s role is to produce and maintain the amount and functioning of red blood cells. This will eventually lead to iron deficiency anemia and cause fatigue among other symptoms. Before attempting to supplement with iron, it is important to check your true iron levels. High iron levels in the body can actually cause fatigue as well. The body has to work hard and use up a good amount of energy to get rid of the excess iron, making you even more tired.
High Stress Levels
Most of us know that chronic stress makes us tired day in and day out. Cortisol, the commonly known stress hormone, is naturally higher in the first half of the day helping us stay alert, and then it decreases towards the end of the day to relax our bodies to be ready for sleep. In people who are chronically stressed, this cycle gets disrupted and cortisol levels remain extremely high all the time affecting your sleep. Runners and other endurance athletes who train for several hours at one time are also at risk for consistently high cortisol levels. It is important to lower training levels if you feel overly fatigued and unable to sleep well. Shutting off all aspects of your life that are stressing you out such as work one or two hours before bedtime will also help decrease stress when it is time for sleep.
Lack of Exercise
Physical activity assists with red blood cell function and oxygen transport. This oxygenation is required for proper brain function as it is with muscles. When not getting in the recommended amount of exercise, which is 150 minutes per week, feeling sluggish on a daily basis is the result. An unhealthy diet full of too much sugar and carbohydrates will lead to even more drops in energy levels. Even further, this lack of exercise over time will cause deconditioning and loss of muscle mass which makes every activity even more energy consuming. Although lack of time is usually to blame on low activity levels, it is important to prioritize exercise most days of the week. Taking even 20 minutes a day to go for a walk or run or squeezing in some exercises before or after dinner will help you meet these exercise recommendations.
Natural Energy Boosters
Heading straight for those sugar-loaded energy drinks or an extra shot or two of espresso mid-day may be the quickest solution to that sluggish feeling, but the crash after a few hours will only make you feel more tired than you were before. After evaluating the cause of your low energy levels, it is best to find the most natural ways to boost your energy that won’t leave you worse off.
- Develop ideal sleep quality. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on the weekends. This helps your body naturally get into the habit of feeling sleepy when you need it to be.
- Shut off all bright lights at least one hour before heading to bed. This includes the television, computer, and cell phone. Make sure not to do work-related tasks before bed either. Instead, try reading or other relaxing activities before bed with the use of a yellow light.
- Lower sugar intake. Athletes, especially long distance runners may need a high carbohydrate diet, but having too much at one meal will weigh you down. Divide your carb requirements throughout 5 to 6 meals per day. Too many simple carbs and sugars will spike our blood sugar levels but the quick crash will result in lethargy.
Following these tips and making sure you are not low on any vitamins or minerals will surely have you feeling more energetic. Managing stress will most likely be the hardest cause to fix, but small changes on a daily or weekly basis are the key to long-term success. Athletes should alter their training schedules if feeling overly tired, as overtraining syndrome is a real problem and can lead to injuries and burnout.