Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing sapping your energy. Little things you do (and don’t do) can exhaust you both mentally and physically, which can make getting through your day a chore. Here, our experts reveal common 10 Reasons Why You’re Always Tired, plus simple lifestyle tweaks that will put the pep back in your step.
This Topic will be run as a two part series. One covering Reason 1-5 and the next will be 6-10
Skipping your workout to save energy actually works against you. In a University of Georgia study, sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for as little as 20 minutes at a time reported feeling less fatigued and more energized after six weeks.
Regular exercise boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently, and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. So next time you’re tempted to crash on the couch, at least go for a brisk walk—you won’t regret it.
Being even slightly dehydrated—as little as 2% of normal fluid loss—takes a toll on energy levels, says Amy Goodson, RD, a dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine.
Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume, explains Goodson, which makes the blood thicker. This requires your heart to pump less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs. To calculate your normal fluid needs, take your weight in pounds, divide in half and drink that number of ounces of fluid a day, Goodson recommends.
Foods loaded with sugar and simple carbs (like the ones you’ll find in a box or at the drive-thru window) rank high on the glycemic index (GI), an indicator of how rapidly carbohydrates increase blood sugar. Constant blood sugar spikes followed by sharp drops cause fatigue over the course of the day, says Goodson. Keep blood sugar steady by having a lean protein along with a whole grain at every meal, says Goodson. Good choices include chicken (baked, not fried) and brown rice, salmon and sweet potato, or salad with chicken and fruit.
4. You’re not consuming enough iron
An iron deficiency can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, weak, and unable to focus. “It makes you tired because less oxygen travels to the muscles and cells,” says Goodson. Boost your iron intake to reduce your risk of anemia: load up on lean beef, kidney beans, tofu, eggs (including the yolk), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and peanut butter, and pair them with foods high in vitamin C (vitamin C improves iron absorption when eaten together), suggests Goodson. Note: an iron deficiency may be due to an underlying health problem, so if you’re experiencing these symptoms of iron deficiency, you should visit your doctor.
The food you eat fuels your body, and when you sleep, your body continues using what you consumed at dinner the night before to keep your blood pumping and oxygen flowing. So, when you wake up in the morning, you need to refuel with breakfast. Skip it, and you’ll feel sluggish. “Eating breakfast is like starting a fire in your body by kickstarting your metabolism,” Goodson says. Goodson recommends a breakfast that includes whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat. Good examples include oatmeal with protein powder and a dab of peanut butter; a smoothie made with fruit, protein powder, low-fat milk, and almond butter; or eggs with two slices of whole-wheat toast and low-fat Greek yogurt.