The feeling of exhaustion and tiredness is something we all have experienced, some of us have had it more often than we would like to admit. We normally attribute it to not getting a good sleep or working late or being stressed out. True, these do cause exhaustion but if we take a closer look, it may be a little more than these common reasons. Our body is an environment and all its processes are interlinked. We all are aware of the brain and its connection to our digestive system. Similarly, if our processes, or may be just one of them, goes off the path, it leads to a cascade of events that causes an overall lack of energy and the feeling of being "low".
Common issues that might be causing this feeling of no energy or a feeling of tiredness can be any of the understated:
- An underlying medical problem may be causing this feeling. Getting a doctor's appointment for ruling out any serious problem will help here. Sometimes, the problem may be in the sub clinical space, but your doctor's advice can help find out about it. He/she may suggest some tests to rule out nutritional deficiencies or hormonal disruptions.
- A 24/7 lifestyle can play havoc with the body. WFH, which means working through the night, night shifts, social media addiction or just the urge to be in touch with all that is going around will come back to bite you. Pacing out your activities, taking time off and following the body's circadian clock, which is connected to the solar movements, will help.
- Stress is another common factor in our lives. Today we all are stressed out because of the pandemic, the inherent fear of the infection coupled with the restriction of movement and a loss of "normal" life are all taking a toll. We are exhausted mentally and physically, but now is the time to look within and come up with our will power and energy and be ready to bounce back. If required, speaking with a life coach isn't a bad idea.
- Last and not the least, food that you eat or don't eat can also lead to exhaustion. Eating the wrong foods which are high in sugars, fats, in addition to eating at wrong times and also a lack of physical activity - all add up to drain you out. As the body doesn't get nutrients to function optimally, its reserves may drain out leading to malnutrition, which then may lead to anemia, upset digestion, poor absorption and hence, tiredness.
The Nutritional Strategy to apply here is taking simple steps that can help turnaround your body's systems.
1. Never ever skip breakfast: One meal that a lot of us feel is the least important is actually the cornerstone of good health. Eating a good breakfast gives you the energy to start the day after almost 12 hours of fasting. While planning the meal, ensure it has the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats to get you going. Eat within 2 hours of waking up.
2. Don't miss out on the fruits. Whole seasonal fruits are a great in-between-meals snack. They provide simple carbs along with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They hydrate and refresh the energy stores.
3. Make sure all your meals have all three macronutrients -
Carbohydrates, no matter how ill reputed they have become in recent times, are the preferred source of energy for our body. Choosing the right one is the key. Choose whole grains and legumes - they contain complex carbs and lots of fiber, which ensure sustained energy over a longer period of time as they are digested slowly. When we eat a refined carb or simple sugar source like chocolate, the blood sugar spikes, insulin is released, and the sugar is assimilated almost instantly. The insulin level takes longer to come down so this causes hunger cravings and a "crash" of energy.
Proteins are essential for our body to exist and function; make sure each meal has one serving of protein. Vegetarians can include besan, dal, paneer, tofu, nuts and seeds, milk and yogurt. Non-vegetarians can add egg, chicken and mutton in addition. Proteins are the building blocks for our cells, DNA, hormones, immunity and blood.
Fats are also essential. In addition to energy they add satiety and flavour to our meals. Choosing healthy plant source of unsaturated oils instead of saturated fats is healthy. Controlling the quantity is the key to healthy eating.
Hydrate well. Even 5% dehydration can exhaust you. 35mls/ kg body weight is the thumb rule for an individual without any underlying co-morbidity. Drink plain water, it is best for hydration. Sugar free drinks like fresh lemon water, fresh coconut water, green tea, chaas, fresh bael sherbet are all healthy. Sugary aerated drinks, juices and commercially-prepared sherbets just add empty calories that drain you out rather than energising.
4. Add exercising to complete the circle of wellness. 30-45 mins with the heart rate raised, or step counting which means a minimum of 10,000 steps are good. If you are starting out, add 500 steps every alternate day.
I would again like to emphasise that our body is a single environment, you need to approach it holistically to alleviate your tiredness. One thing alone won't work. Stop stressing that you are stressed and hence tired, take your life in your own hands and create a healthy space within and around you.
Stay healthy, stay safe.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.