What’s Stealing Your Energy?
Not sure what’s causing your fatigue? Here are some common energy zappers that may be to blame – and tips on how to overcome them.
Being a couch potato
Sitting in one position for long periods of time can sap your energy, even if you’re watching the TV or using the computer. Your body equates the stillness with going to sleep.
Try:stretching often, getting up and walking around away from your desk or sofa. Frequent breaks will help keep you alert.
A lot of your energy goes on keeping you upright. Your spine can be put out of alignment by bad posture, such as:
- hunching forwards
- slumping in your seat
- cradling your phone
The more out of balance your spine is, the more your muscles have to work to compensate.
Try:whether you’re moving, sitting or standing still, try to make sure that your head is in line with your body – not sticking out in front of it. Aim for your ears to be directly over your shoulders.
While losing excess weight will boost your energy, going on a crash diet isn’t helpful.
Very-low-calorie diets, especially ones that give you fewer than 850 calories a day, will make you feel even more tired and can cause nutritional deficiencies.
Try:losing weight by eating healthily, cutting out junk and sugary foods, and reducing your portion size.
Aim to lose no more than 1kg or 2lb a week.
Sugary breakfast cereals
Sugary breakfasts will give you a quick surge of energy as your blood sugar levels peak. They include:
- processed cereals
- toast with sugary spreads
But your sugar levels will slump just as quickly a couple of hours later. The result? You crash as you run out of energy.
Try: getting a steady release of energy all morning long by eating a breakfast that’s based on unrefined starch. For example:
- home-made porridge with semi-skimmed milk and chopped banana
- wholemeal cereal topped with sliced fresh or dried fruit
- an egg with wholewheat or granary toast
Try to choose breakfast cereals that are wholegrain and low in salt and sugar.
If you’re fretting about something all day long, your heart rate and blood pressure rise, and your muscles tighten, leading to fatigue and aches.
Try:setting aside some time to concentrate on your worries. Try to think of positive solutions, then put the worries out of your mind.
Exercising too much
Regular exercise is good for you, but working out intensively every day may not be good for your energy levels, especially if you’re a beginner or trying to get back in shape.
Try:taking a day off between strenuous bouts of exercise. However, don’t leave more than 2 or 3 days between sessions, or you might fall out of the regular exercise habit.
Many people turn to energy drinks for a quick boost, particularly if they skip breakfast. However, these drinks contain high levels of caffeine and may also be high in sugar. They should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 16. A small 250ml can contains about 80mg of caffeine, which is similar to 3 cans of cola or a mug of instant coffee.
Some of the smaller “energy shots” can contain up to 160mg of caffeine in a 60ml bottle.
These drinks will certainly give you a temporary energy boost, but this is short-lived and can lead to other problems. Too much caffeine can:
- make you irritable
- make you feel wound up
- disturb your sleep
- increase blood pressure
Try:drinking plain water – it’s a better choice, particularly if you’re mildly dehydrated.
Many people feel tired and sluggish during winter.
As the days become shorter, your sleep and waking cycles become disrupted.
Less sunlight also means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy.
Try:getting outdoors into natural daylight as much as possible and doing daily exercise, such as a brisk walk. Eating the right foods for energy helps too. Try starchy foods, like wholegrain bread and pasta, and potatoes.
Starchy foods provide a slow and steady release of energy.
For more information about energy, fatigue, and sleep, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Sleep Society. https://css-scs.ca/
- National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
- Sleep Apnea. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/sleep-apnea.html
- Resources and prevention strategies to manage Fatigue in the workplace. Public Services Health and Safety Association. https://www.pshsa.ca/fatigue/
- Fatigue Answer Sheet. Canadian Occupational Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.html