Top 12 energy drainers

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 07 October 2009.
Tagged: alcohol, energy, guides, healthy cooking, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, pregnancy, sleep, tips

Top 12 energy drainers

Hit a post-lunch slump every afternoon? Feel exhausted at the end of the day? Too tired to do a workout at the gym? Fatigue and lack of energy are real problems for many people today. Lack of sleep, long working hours, juggling to fit in the demands of work and family plus the competition for leisure time take their toll.

Most people run out of steam because they make poor lifestyle choices.

  • They don't eat the right foods.
  • They overindulge in alcohol, caffeine and the ‘excesses' of life.
  • They believe they're too tired to exercise.
  • They ignore the calming benefits of meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques.
  • And then they drop into bed and expect sleep to descend immediately!

Don't let your food and lifestyle let you down. It's vital to eat well to cope with today's stresses and hectic schedules. Often simple changes to the type of food you eat and the timing of your meals can make a difference.

12 energy drainers

1. Alcohol

One glass relaxes, but too many will make your sleep fragmented and fitful and deplete key energy-releasing B vitamins (notably thiamin and folate) as well as zinc and magnesium. Excess alcohol also inflames the delicate linings of the stomach, pancreas and intestines. Hangovers or throbbing headaches the morning after leave you listless and unproductive.

2. Caffeine

If you feel lethargic without your morning coffee or rely on cappuccinos to ‘keep you going' during the day, you're probably 'addicted' to caffeine. While caffeine boosts alertness and overcomes fatigue, overdoing it can keep you awake and produce irritability, upset stomach, the 'jitters', nervousness and headaches. The more caffeine you drink, the more likely you are to experience these – but you won't detect it unless you have to stop suddenly.

3.  Low quality food

You need to eat to eat well to do your best for another day at the coalface. Supplements won't give you everything that's in food such as the natural antioxidants flavonoids (polyphenols) and carotenoids found in vegetables, herbs, teas and fruit. You need healthy meals to boost your levels of these compounds as well as the essential vitamins and minerals. A varied intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat,eggs and nuts is a must – there's no way around this.

4.  Dieting

Going on extreme low-fat or detox diets slows your metabolic rate and saps your energy. Read why you should avoid fad diets if you want more energy.

5.  Skipping breakfast

No breakfast reduces your ability to concentrate and perform complex mental tasks in the morning. When blood sugars are low, your brain – which relies entirely on glucose as its fuel – can't function at its peak. 

Studies also show that breakfast eaters have healthier diets overall and less problems with weight. Breakfast means you're less likely to fall prey to the mid-morning munchies of high-fat pastries or hot chips! Print out my article on why breakfast really does get you going and try a scrummy nutty muesli recipe from New Idea magazine.

6. Being seriously overweight

Carrying an extra 20 or 30 kilos is tiring and strains lower joints. Make an appointment with an accredited dietitian to have a long-term eating plan personalised for you. Or join a weight loss group where weekly meetings keep you on track.

7. Hooked on chocolate?

Chocolate, lollies and ‘sweet fixes' may give you an immediate boost, but half an hour later, you will find your energy flags again. If you find you need a lift to get through the afternoon, try some of my tips to beat the 3pm energy slump. This also applies if you are premenstrual.

8.  Lack of sleep

Not everyone needs a full eight hours, but if you're skimping on sleep or tossing and turning all night, you won't be at your peak the next day.

Aim to sleep well. Soak in a hot bath with aromatherapy oils, avoid caffeine before bed, steer clear of the late news with the day's worst headlines and sip a glass of hot milk. Milk is high in tryptophan, an amino acid which has a sedating and calming effect. If you want more detail, you may like my suggestions on how to improve your sleep habits.

9. Depression

People who have depression can have trouble staying asleep or sleep too much. Either way they have little energy to get through the day. It is important to see a doctor, as there are treatments now available to deal with this draining ailment.

10. Anaemia

If you're chronically tired, have a blood test to check your haemoglobin and ferritin levels which are marker compounds for your iron status. You may have iron-deficiency anaemia. Feeling tired ALL the time, greater susceptibility to infections, and feeling the cold often are other tell-tale symptoms. Women are more likely to have iron-deficiency anaemia than men.

11. Lack of exercise

Exercise generates a good feeling, even if you don't work out to that endorphin-releasing stage that puts you on a natural high. Even mild exercise like walking is a great de-stresser. It clears the mind and improves sleep - especially if you can get outdoors. Walking is often recommended for the treatment of mild depression. I know it myself. When I exercise, I feel good and life suddenly looks better.

12. Being pregnant

The first three months of pregnancy are often accompanied by tiredness and nausea – yet no-one knows you're expecting yet! Be gentle with yourself and have a nap at lunchtime if you can. The good news is this tiredness usually disappears by the second trimester.

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Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life 2020 Edition is a fresh new update on all the things you've read about or heard in the last year. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!