"If you're feeling fatigued, you're not alone," says Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. "Nearly 40 percent of people in one study said they felt fatigued a lot of the time."
While you should always have serious health problems ruled out by your doctor, most of the time fatigue isn't caused by anything serious, says Teitelbaum. "It's caused by lifestyle problems."
One of the biggest lifestyle factors that causes fatigue is a poor diet. While a lousy diet drains energy, a well-balanced diet filled with energy-boosting foods can fight fatigue. They include:
Tea. Although your first instinct may be to grab a cup of coffee, try tea instead since it contains fatigue-fighting caffeine as well as an amino acid called L-theanine. One study found that caffeine (150 mg) and L-theanine (250 mg) fought mental fatigue better than caffeine alone. The combo also improved alertness, memory, and reaction time. Green tea also contains the flavonoid EGCG which, according to Australian researchers, encourages focus and calmness.
Almonds. A lack of energy may be a signal you have a magnesium deficiency. A study from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service found that when the intake of magnesium was restricted in women for four months, they used more oxygen when exercising and tired more easily, because magnesium is essential for hundreds of biochemical reactions that take place in the body, including ones that produce energy.
Almonds are rich in magnesium, and snacking on a handful daily could boost your energy levels.
Almonds also contain high levels of heart-healthy and energy-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Belgian scientists found that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and the patients with the severest symptoms had the lowest levels. In addition, almonds are loaded with healthy antioxidants.
Whole wheat breads, pasta and rice. The "white foods" — white breads, pasta, and rice are simple carbohydrates that rank high on the glycemic index. They cause a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a sudden drop, which drains your energy.
Switch to foods lower on the glycemic scale, which include complex carbohydrates made from whole wheat and brown rice. Complex carbs help maintain steady blood levels which keep your energy levels high, and will also help keep your weight in check.
Bananas. Bananas contain the natural sugar fructose, which produces glucose. Glucose provides an immediate burst of energy. Bananas also contain sucrose, which is absorbed more slowly and keeps sugar levels even. They're also loaded with electrolytes, including potassium and magnesium in balance, which are essential to keeping you energetic. A study published in the journal PLos ONE found that eating bananas before workouts enhanced the performance of endurance athletes.
Yogurt. While the carbohydrates in yogurt are processed quickly and provide a burst of quick energy, yogurt also contains protein that makes the energy surge last. Probiotics in yogurt may also help since a Swedish study found that eating yogurt for four weeks eased the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Fish. You probably know that fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but those same omega-3s also fight fatigue. Choose wild fish, such as salmon and sardines, over farm-raised whenever possible. Wild fish not only contain more omega-3s that farmed fish, farmed fish can also be contaminated with chemicals and injected with dyes.
Chocolate. Chocolate can actually fight fatigue, but make sure it's dark chocolate — at least 72 percent cocoa. The British Hull York Medical School gave patients with severe chronic fatigue syndrome 1.5 ounces of either dark chocolate or white chocolate dyed brown every day for two months. Patients who ate dark chocolate reported their fatigue symptoms dropped significantly, and they reported no weight gain. Researchers believe the polyphenols in dark chocolate increase the levels of neurotransmitters like mood-boosting serotonin in the brain, which reduces feelings of tiredness. In addition, chocolate contains magnesium, which also fights fatigue.
Do you need an energy boost but can't grab a healthy meal or snack? Chew a piece of gum.
A British study found that volunteers who chewed gum were more alert than those who didn't. According to researchers, chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates nerves that increase alertness. Peppermint gum works best.
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