Re-Engergize the Right Way with Proper Nutrition & Activity

Fighting fatigue has become an issue for a growing number of people too busy or stressed to get adequate rest.  In fact, according to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of American women report getting inadequate sleep.  When we’re too sleepy to function, most people choose to accept it and keep going.

Caffeine Quick Fix

The benefits of caffeine are real – It improves mood and cognitive performance.  Coffee consumption can potentially decrease insulin secretion and the risk of liver cancer.  On the negative side, regularly consumed caffeine can increase anxiety, risk of headaches, and the inflammation process.  Cola beverages, but not coffee, also have been associated with an increased risk of hypertension.

Caffeine, in amounts exceeding 5g, is considered toxic – causing arrhythmia, tachycardia, vomiting, convulsions, coma, or even death.   While the risk of toxicity is rare, the pervasiveness of caffeine warrants some caution.  Many soft drink, for example, contain 20mg – 40mg of caffeine per 8oz can, however, today’s specialty coffees can be very potent – ranging between 58mg – 259mg, and even up to 564mg per dose.  In addition, caffeine is often added to medications.  Over-the-counter anti-fatigue supplements typically contain 100mg – 200mg of caffeine per tablet and prescription medication can include 32mg – 200mg of caffeine.

Food For Energy

Instead of using caffeine, health experts advise preventing drops in energy is a wiser approach.  Our performance, and even our mood, depends on balanced blood sugar levels.  With modern diets and lifestyles, the balance is hard to come by.  Most of us are running low on energy around 10a.m. and reach for caffeine and sugar.  For those in urgent need of re-energizing, try juices, such as pomegranate, instead of something with caffeine.

The key to properly preventing blood sugar slumps is the old fashioned basics of proper nutrition.  A meal rich in fiber and carbohydrates causes a higher level of alertness, while high-fat meals leads to a lower level of alertness and higher caloric intake.  Protein-rich or balanced meals, which cause less variation in blood sugar levels, improved cognitive performance.

Although carbohydrates can rapidly increase energy levels, they can produce the opposite effect – fatigue and memory decline – in people with poor glucose tolerance.  Choosing carbohydrates with a low glycemic index – fruit and vegetables (except potatoes) – as opposed to high glycemic index foods – corn flakes, white rice, and bread – has been shown to improve memory and cognitive performance.  Inadequate glucose is not the only thing contributing to fatigue.  Fatigue can also result from anemia – iron, B12, B6, or folic acid deficiency.

Moving the Body

Even with adequate sleep and nutrition, our lack of motion can regularly put us to sleep.  Especially tiresome are repetitious desk jobs such as data entry.  Most average white-collar workers need some kind of motion every 15 minutes.

To prevent mental fatigue, take frequent 5 to 15 second micro-breaks (shoulder rolls or stretching) throughout the day, getting up and walking around 2 hours.  Over your lunch break do the opposite of what your job entails.  For people with mentally challenging occupations, try some sort of physical exercise or take a walk.  For those with physically taxing work, try some brain stimulating activities, like puzzles.

Whether re-energizing through sleep, nutrition, exercise, or a combination of all three it’s clear that fatigue should not be taken lightly.  There is no magic around a solution so simple – proper exercise, sleep and diet.  We can’t keep taking stimulants as a remedy for not recovering from our lifestyle.

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