Eat to regain your energy
If walking to your mailbox or making it through the day without a nap seems beyond your current energy level, you may be suffering from fatigue. It has many causes, including stress, medications, overwork, sleep difficulties, or illness. If your fatigue is chronic or extreme, ask a doctor to check you out. But once you’re certain that your tiredness doesn’t stem from a medical problem, it may be time to reconsider your diet. Plenty of all-too-common eating habits sap energy-and plenty of relatively simple fixes can inject more oomph into your day.
1. Protein: Fish, meat, dairy products, beans
If you’re someone who eats salads with no meat, fish, or beans for lunch and then craves an afternoon nap, snubbing protein may be your problem. Studies have shown that people who skip protein at breakfast, for instance, are more apt to be depressed, stressed, and less physically fit than those who regularly add protein to their plates. Amino acids, which make up proteins, are the body’s building blocks, growing and repairing everything from blood vessels to hair. Amino acids also help increase levels of neurotransmitters that in turn boost mood and alertness.
Aim for: You need 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram (0.36 gram per pound) of body weight. For example, if you weigh 68 kilograms (150 pounds), you need 54 grams of protein. One serving of beef tenderloin has 32 grams of protein; 1 cup (250 millilitres) of black beans, 15 grams; and 1 cup (250 millilitres) of milk, 8 grams.
2. Iron: Red meat, molasses, beans
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, leading to a low volume of red blood cells that results in fatigue. Symptoms include weakness, pallor, fatigue, and brittle nails. If you suspect anemia, check with your doctor. Most cases are caused by blood loss (for example, from a bleeding ulcer or heavy menstrual flow).
Aim for: The recommended amount of iron is 8 milligrams per day for men and menopausal women and 18 milligrams for menstruating women. One 90-gram (3-ounce) serving of beef has 3.2 grams, and a cup (250 millilitres) of soybeans provides 8.8.
Helpful hint: Our bodies absorb iron much better from meat than from plant foods. If you get most of your iron from vegetarian sources like beans and peas, eat them with foods like citrus fruits that are high in vitamin C, which aids iron absorption.