Ever wondered... "Why Am I Tired All the Time?"
If your asking yourself - why am I so tired all the time?, then your suffering from some form of fatigue.
But what is fatigue?...
... Its where you feel tired and have low energy, while having a lack of motivation, along with physical and mental exhaustion.
Causes of fatigue can be physiological, psychological and physical.
If your feeling extremely tired all of the time however, then you could be suffering from Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
CFS is a debilitating disorder which is estimated to affect up to 2.5 million people in the USA alone, with annual costs of $24 billion (1).
What causes chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown and the symptoms are as follows (1):
- Fatigue impairing a persons ability to work, study or engage in social activities for at least 6 months
- They do not feel refreshed after sleep
- Cognitive impairment
If you suffer from chronic fatigue, then you are well aware of the negative effects and you may be wondering how to treat chronic fatigue.
Diet Tips on How to Treat Chronic Fatigue
You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that our energy comes from the food we eat, so your diet is a vital factor in improving your energy levels.
Whist there haven't been significant studies on the effects of diet on chronic fatigue, (2) however, a specialist in the Stanford Chronic Fatigue clinic, Jose Montoya (MD) asserts that there are links between diet and chronic fatigue. Montoya states:
‘’Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can potentially be impacted by the diet, but we know very little about what could specifically work for everyone.’’
‘’We know that for some, certain food items make their symptoms worse or better and that people should be paying attention to those.”
Even though further research in this area is required, you can still do many things to boost your energy reserves and ensure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet. So without further ado, below are 11 diet tips (supported by Montoya’s findings) which you can use to combat fatigue and pursue your own success (3):
1. Don’t Eat Inflammatory Foods
As there is a link between inflammation and chronic fatigue, an anti-inflammatory diet is recommended by eating foods such as olive oil or fresh fish. By limiting your intake of inflammatory foods such as processed meat, sugar or fried food, you can reduce your inflammation and fatigue (4).
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2. Record Your Symptoms and Food Intake
It can be extremely useful to record your daily symptoms in a journal, you can track how you felt each day and share your findings with your doctor.
Additionally, recording what you eat on a daily basis is important as you (and your doctor) can use both your recorded symptoms and food journal to identify patterns and produce diet plans based on these patterns (4).
3. Keep Hydrated
Even though drinking more water won’t solve your fatigue problem, it’s still important to know that dehydration can make the symptoms significantly worse, so be sure to remain hydrated at all times! (5)
4. Change Your Diet Slowly
If you’re anything like me, then you may be tempted to take the “all-in” approach when facing a new challenge such as changing your diet.
Rather than taking your time and slowly and comfortably finding out what works and what doesn’t, instead you go way overboard and cut out everything that you think may not be good for you.
The problem with this approach is that there is no evidence that a highly restrictive diet improves symptoms. Additionally, you could be cutting out important nutrients, whist making yourself miserable in the process (6).
5. Experiment with Different Foods
A trial and error approach works well here, as some foods will make you feel better or worse depending on your dietary requirements.
For example, some people found that removing high-carb foods, or gluten from their diets helped, whereas others found no benefit in doing so. Find out what works best for you and stick with it.
Generally the best approach is to work with your doctor or dietitian to create a custom diet that is suitable for your dietary requirements, and you can get the ball rolling yourself by paying close attention to how particular foods make you feel (7).
With chronic fatigue, it’s important to listen to your body and see how you feel. When trying something new, its better to make small changes, such as adding more vegetables to your meals each night. Stay with it for a full month before deciding if the change improved your symptoms.
Creating positive habits is a slow process and they are more likely to stick when you take a slow, steady approach.
6. Limit Your Sugar Intake
Sugar sets you up for a fall when you consume it for a quick energy boost. The crash afterwards just makes things a whole lot worse! So instead, why not consider naturally sweet foods which contain protein such as strawberries in unsweetened yogurt.
These can help level out your blood sugar, preventing (or at least diminishing those sudden insulin spikes and crashes).
7. More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are important for your heart and brain health, so don’t be shy and stuff yourself with foods rich in healthy fats such as avocado, walnuts, trout and olive oil.
8. Eat Less and More Often
Eating more regularly can help to maintain steady energy levels, so try eating smaller portions more frequently, with snacks between meals to keep your energy flowing steadily throughout the day.
9. Avoid Very Processed Foods
Foods when heavily processed generally have less nutrients than wholefoods, which is not good news for your energy reserves. Foods such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables are far richer in the nutrients your body needs to achieve and maintain steady levels of energy throughout the day.
10. Plan and Prepare
Planning ahead of time is essential in order to ensure that you get the right food at the right time. On days where you are less fatigued, prepare a weekly meal plan and prime ingredients for the week ahead.
My approach is to create 3 different meal types a week on bulk, cooking a batch of 5 meals of each meal type, then freezing them. Use this approach and you will save a lot of time, money and energy in the long-run!
11. More Vegetables… Much More!
Stuff yourself with non-starchy vegetables with a variety of colours throughout the day.
The reason being that vegetables of different colour provide unique nutritional benefits. For example, yellow vegetables can provide you with important minerals and vitamins such as A, B and B6. Red vegetables on the other hand are full of phytonutrients that serve as antioxidants and can reduce inflammation in your body (8).
If you do often wonder "why am I so tired?" or worse yet, "why am I always tired?" - Then you could have CFS.
Whether you suffer from chronic fatigue or not. A balanced and healthy diet can help to improve your energy levels, so stay positive.
You are what you eat. The quality of the food you eat directly effects your energy levels...
... Just remember, take it one step at a time and don’t be too hasty with dramatic dietary changes, they could do you more harm than good! So if in doubt, always consult your doctor or dietitian.
For more info on foods which can help boost your energy levels, click here to learn more.
- MicrobiomeJournal: 'Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome'
- PubMed: 'Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge'
- Stanford Medicine: 'Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Initiative'
- The British Dietetic Association (BDA) (2016): ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome’
- Research Gate: ‘Hydration and fatigue: What's the Connection’
- The British Dietetic Association (BDA) (2018) ‘Fact Sheet’
- PubMed: ‘Role of dietary modification in alleviating chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms: a systematic review.’
- Liebert Publications: ’Effect of Natural and Synthetic Antioxidants in a Mouse Model of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’, Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol. 5, No. 4 Original Papers.