Feeling tired? You could be deficient of certain vitamins or minerals or falling foul of common energy misconceptions…
Amidst endless to-do lists, long commutes and juggling work and family commitments, it’s no surprise that many of us can experience tiredness and fatigue from time to time. But what if that lack of energy isn’t cured by a balanced diet and some much-needed shuteye?
Whilst certain medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid, diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome can cause tiredness, there are increasingly common nutritional deficiencies which are often overlooked – and may be causing many of us to feel exhausted without us even realising. That, or you may be victim to a number of common energy-based misconceptions and myths…
ENERGY HERO #1 – Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for our bodies to function both physically and mentally, yet so many of us know so little about it and, more worryingly, are unaware if we are deficient.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal food products such as beef, liver, chicken, fish, dairy and eggs. Once consumed it is released from food by our stomach acid, before it combines with a protein called intrinsic factor and is absorbed in the small intestine. From here, it works on providing you with healthy red blood cells, providing normal energy metabolism, and ensuring the brain and nervous system are working effectively.
Contributing to the normal function of the nervous and immune systems, low levels of vitamin B12 can cause a whole host of symptoms including low mood, irritability, fatigue, clumsiness, poor memory function, pins and needles in the hands and feet… the list goes on.
Whilst its supply is clearly crucial to us, vitamin B12 has been found to be notoriously difficult to absorb through the diet alone – especially for those who follow a plant-based diet.
ENERGY HERO #2 – Iron
Just as critical to human life, iron plays a central role in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. In addition to this, iron functions in several key enzymes involved in energy production and metabolism.
Despite the importance of sufficient iron consumption, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the UK and worldwide. Those most at risk are infants under the age of two, teenage girls, women of childbearing age, pregnant women and the elderly. Inadequate dietary intake of iron is also extremely common in vegans and vegetarians.
Symptoms such as tiredness, lack of energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and having paler skin than normal could all be signs of iron deficiency.
ARE YOU A VICTIM OF THE USUAL ENERGY MYTHS?
MYTH #1: Caffeine is King
Caffeine is a popular choice for a quick energy hit and caffeinated drinks will certainly provide a temporary boost, however they are also one of the factors sabotaging our energy levels. Protecting us from several diseases, caffeine does have its health benefits, but drinking it daily will slowly degrade energy over time and it can also impair mood, disturb sleep and increase blood pressure.
MYTH #2: Increased Exercise = Increased Energy
Exercise has a never-ending list of health benefits and we should all incorporate regular exercise into our weekly schedule, however daily intensive exercise may not have the intended impact on your energy levels.
Over-exercising can cause an energy imbalance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended during exercise. Experiencing an energy deficit for prolonged time periods can cause many health issues as well as leading to injury, exhaustion and hormonal imbalance.
MYTH #3: You Can Train Yourself to Get by on Little Sleep
We spend a third of our lives sleeping. Some may see this as a ‘waste’ when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, but while the ‘sleepless elite’, such as Margaret Thatcher, Martha Stewart and designer Tom Ford, claim to slumber for four hours or less a night, it’s a common myth that we can learn to get by on little sleep with no negative side effects.
The time we spend asleep should not be deemed a ‘waste’, it’s during this valuable down-time that our body repairs cells and creates new ones so that we can run at an optimum level. It’s also vital for mental and physical health and for our quality of life.
In fact, a lack of sleep for an extended period of time can have an adverse effect, often being associated with reduced concentration and energy levels as well as an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
MYTH #4: Detox Diets Improve Energy Levels
Detox diets are generally short-term dietary interventions designed to eliminate ‘toxic waste’ from your body in order to stay healthy and they’re often touted as energy-boosting.
While ‘detoxing’ encourages positive habits such as eating more fruits and vegetables, there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness and these low-calorie diets can often make you feel more tired and can even cause nutritional deficiencies.
For the vast majority of people, an active lifestyle and a healthy, balanced diet based on starchy carbohydrates with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, plus some lean sources of protein, is the best way to protect health.