A lot of us have heard many testimonials that following a successful nutritional programme, their energy levels soared through the roof. Consequently, this is one of the biggest reasons people undergo a change in nutrition, so they can feel more energetic, vibrant and keep up with a busy lifestyle much easier. It can therefore feel very unexpected and like a betrayal when we remain in haze of exhaustion.
So what is the reason for this dip in energy levels when eating healthier foods is supposed to make us feel much better? This calls for us to troubleshoot the food we are eating and check that we are not accidentally shooting ourselves in the foot with our efforts to eat much better.
In the initial 2-3 week phase of adopting a new dietary lifestyle, the most likely culprit of fatigue is the transitional phase. Big changes to diet can be quite mentally and physically exhausting as you get used to a completely new way of looking at food. Breaking previous habits can take a lot out of you and requires a lot of effort and willpower to not return to those habits.
Consequently, the brain is working a lot harder than normal and so it is of no surprise that you may feel much more tired.
Be patient. When we are tired it can feel like it will last for an eternity, but remember this only a transition period. It will pass as your body is trying very hard to try and adapt to this new lifestyle. Once the new habits are made, the mental strain it previously took will not be so strenuous and so will be much easier to manage, leaving you with much more mental and physical energy. Just give it time.
Not Enough Carbs
What about if I come through that transition period and still feel exhausted? This may be a case where you are not eating enough carbs.
But aren’t we meant to steer clear of carbs? Yes, carbs should not be your main source of calories throughout each day, but it doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate them.
However, figuring the correct amount of carbs to eat can be quite tricky, as we know the consequences of having too many of the wrong sort of carbs in our diet, but it can be an issue if we don’t get enough. This is especially true if you are working out often during the week, as carbs are the body’s favourite fuel and when it is not fuelled properly the muscles don’t work as well.
Therefore, if you take part in high-intensity activity often, then it can be important to introduce some safe starches (e.g. sweet potato, pumpkin, etc.) into your post-workout meal as it will help you feel better and recover the muscles faster.
Eat more carbs. Good carb sources are potatoes, sweet potatoes, banana, and plantains.
Not Enough Calories
Sometimes we can get very caught up with trying to eat as little as possible when we are trying to lose weight. This is because we can resort back to the simple theory that if we take in less calories than we burn, then we will lose weight. Simple. However, we do need enough food to supply our body’s essential needs.
Food is our energy, and so if we do not eat enough you will feel exhausted and run down all the time until you get adequate energy to perk you up.
You may feel that you eat a lot of food, but a large pile of vegetables may be very nutritious but does not have many calories. So it may be important that along with your vegetables you may need to increase the portion size of your meat and fat. Here is an example of 2000 calories worth of food, and see if you eat anywhere close to this each day?
• Breakfast: 4-egg omelette (with whatever non-starchy vegetables you like), cooked in 1 tbsp. coconut oil; 2 slices of pan-fried bacon.
• Lunch: 1 whole avocado; salad with 6 ounces of salmon (about half a can) and whatever non-starchy vegetables you like plus 1 tbsp. olive oil in the dressing.
• Dinner: 1 serving of barbecued sirloin with Dijon mustard; 1 large sweet potato with 1 tbsp. butter; 1 cup spinach sautéed in 1 tbsp. coconut oil.
• Dessert: 1 cup strawberries drizzled with 2 tbsp. coconut milk.
If one of these meals looks like you daily intake, then it may be time to consider eating more calories. This may be best by first counting calories to make sure you are getting enough food, but soon enough your body will start to give accurate hunger and fullness signals.
This is true even when trying to lose weight, as a massive calorie deficit is not needed for weight loss. In fact, it is better to take it slow and steady, whilst feeling energetic and amazing throughout the process.
Not Enough Fat
Carbs may be our best-friend when it comes to energy, but fat is a close second. The main reason why a lot of people fall in to the trap of not eating enough calories is because they are still afraid of fat. Many people will take out those energy-dense carbs, but refuse to replace those carbs with the healthy fats, resulting in them being exhausted and hungry all the time.
However, there is no reason to fear fats, as they are crucial for many physiological processes in our bodies.
Eat more fat. Butter, fatty cuts of meat and animal fats are all good for you.
One fat that is especially good is coconut oil. Coconut oil contains an abundance of a specific type of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCT’s are digested and absorbed very quickly, and so act like and almost instant energy hit. So if you are ever looking for that instant energy boost, try some coconut oil.
There you go!