Deciding what to eat when you feel tired seems like an impossible task, especially if you're also feeling a bit under the weather. You know you're hungry and you want something delicious and filling, but you're not sure what to make.
At times like these, it's easy to reach for the easiest option like a takeaway or oven pizza - and sometimes that'll be all you need to feel better - but there are other options if you're feeling tired often and looking to get your energy back before heading to bed for some much-needed sleep.
Whether the heat makes you tired during the summer or you're looking to supplement your diet during a particularly busy period to learn how to sleep better, this is what a nutritionist wants you to know about changing up your diet to improve your energy levels.
What to eat when you feel tired
These foods contain important vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that can help support the proper functioning of your immune system, contribute to the creation of red blood cells, and maintain your blood sugar levels, all of which may help prevent you from feeling tired.
If you're concerned about how often you feel tired or fatigued, always consult your doctor as you may be dealing with a nutrient deficiency.
1. Leafy greens
Spinach may not be everyone's favorite vegetable but if you're feeling run down, then you need to be including more of the green stuff into your daily diet.
"Leafy greens like kale, watercress, and spring greens contain vitamin A, B6, and B9, as well as copper and iron," explains Tanya Borowski (opens in new tab), a nutritionist therapist specializing in functional medicine. "These minerals help support the development of red blood cells, which are the main energy providers of the body as they carry oxygen from your lungs to all tissues throughout your body."
She says, "Red blood cells live for 120 days, so we are constantly creating new ones and specific vitamins and minerals are needed for their production."
2. Whole grains
The good news is, if your go-to meal when you've had a long day contains bread of any kind - and you're willing to make a swap to whole grain - you don't have to compromise at all. "Wholegrains such as oats, brown rice and sourdough, contain B vitamins like B6, B9, and B12," Borowski says. "These are essential for making hemoglobin, the protein abundant in red blood cells."
However, whole grains are also very high in fiber and contain a good amount of protein. When it comes to what to eat when you feel tired, these are essential macronutrients. "Foods that are devoid of quality protein or fiber cause erratic blood sugar levels, spiking high and crashing low within just 70 minutes of eating a meal, and these erratic blood sugar levels cause feelings of fatigue."
"Eggs provide sources of B vitamins, iron, and are an excellent source of protein," Borowski says. They're also a healthy source of vitamin D, which is excellent as "low energy or fatigue is also a common symptom of a vitamin D deficiency."
We all know that vegetables are good for us. They're packed full of vitamins and minerals designed to keep us healthy, but they're also exactly what to eat when you're feeling tired to support a healthy immune system response. "Vegetables provide polyphenols and fiber to power up the microbiome in your gut," says Borowski.
"A healthy balance of gut bacteria is to have diversity, and its diversity is reliant upon fiber and polyphenols, the compounds naturally found in plant foods. Without these, the microbiome does not diversify and we have poorer immune defenses and are less able to resist pathogenic bugs." For those looking to improve their gut health, vegetables are another winning ingredient.
5. Nuts and seeds
"Nuts and seeds provide omega 3 fats, protein and essential minerals like zinc," explains Borowski.
So whether you have them in a fat bomb as your mid-morning snack to perk you up, or sprinkled on your salad at lunchtime, find a way to incorporate these small powerhouses into your eating.
What food makes you tired?
As much as food can pull you out of a slump, it can also push you into one, says Borowski. Foods that don't have enough protein or fiber cause unstable blood sugar levels that spike and crash in just one hour, a study from Humboldt University of Berlin (opens in new tab)reveals. Along with not getting enough sleep, it's this dipping blood sugar that causes the main symptoms of tiredness and fatigue.
To avoid this, you should aim to meet the daily recommended amount of protein (0.8g per kilogram of body weight) and alter the type of carbohydrates that you eat.
"If your carb intake mainly consists of white foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta, you're consuming carbs that don't have fiber or protein to assist with blood sugar control," she says. "Instead, go for wholegrain carbohydrates which are much better for stabilizing blood sugar since they contain protein and fiber that take longer to digest."
- Brown rice
- Whole grain
- Ancient grains like rye, sough dough or spelt
- Beans and pulses
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