Natural health experts explain how you can restore your energy levels with a holistic plan.
We’ve all experienced that afternoon slump when our energy takes a dip, we will all have woken of a morning feeling less than rested, and we’ve all reached for food and drink that we believe will give us an energy boost.
The truth is, low energy is a hugely common issue, thought to have been made worse by the recent pandemic, but the good news is you don’t need to suffer – there are many steps you can take to recharge your dwindling energy.
Keeley Berry, Nutritional Expert and Product Development Technologist at BetterYou, explained: “Low energy can be a sign of numerous health issues, such as allergies, anaemia, nutrient deficiencies, mental ill health, and infection among others, but low energy isn’t just simply feeling drowsy or sleepy. Headaches, dizziness, and irritability as well as sore or aching muscles, slow reflexes and impaired judgement are all signs our energy levels are tanking, so it’s important to check-in with ourselves should these symptoms appear regularly.”
Rose Holmes, Nutritionist and Education and Training Manager at Rio Health, added: “Low energy is ‘normal’ only at the end of a busy day, when it is a sign that rest/sleep is required. Unfortunately, most of us experience low energy and fatigue during other times of the day. Low energy and fatigue in the day should be a concern, but is almost always preventable by addressing diet, lifestyle and stress levels. To some extent, many of us accept we will sometimes experience low energy as a trade-off for our lifestyle choices.
“Low energy often associates with fatigue. Common reasons are many and include poor or insufficient sleep, high stress levels, poor nutrient status due to poor diet or poor nutrient absorption, poor blood sugar regulation, and insufficient movement (or excessive physical exercise).”
Why are you lacking?
There are a range of reasons for feeling fatigued, some more common than others.
Rose explained: “Low energy and fatigue are very common complaints and can be due to numerous factors – some of them dietary, others lifestyle-related. It is important to consider possible cause to determine best action. Although low energy and fatigue can be a ‘red flag’ indicating assessment by a physician to rule out any disease process, low energy and fatigue can also be an indication that an individual is getting insufficient quality sleep, that liver detoxification is being overwhelmed by toxins, or that blood sugar levels are not being maintained throughout the day. Each of these issues requires a different approach.
“One of the first things to consider is possibility of vitamin/mineral deficiencies: menstruating women are often anaemic and need iron, elderly individuals and those following a vegan diet are commonly deficient in vitamin B12, elderly individuals and athletes may have electrolyte imbalances impacting magnesium availability and some medications may impact nutrient availability (CoQ10 may be needed, for example, by those taking statins).
“Selenium deficiency may impact energy levels as this mineral is needed for thyroid hormone activation. Zinc deficiency may also associate with fatigue because, alongside vitamins C, B5 and magnesium, zinc is important for adrenal health.”
Keeley added: “Aside from a medical condition, our energy levels can be impacted by our lifestyle choices and diet, activity levels, time of life and of course gender can all play a part in how energised – or not – we feel. Stress, anxiety, and disruption to our usual routine can also have a damaging effect on our sleeping patterns, impacting our natural body clock and leaving us feeling sluggish, so it’s essential to tune-in to your own body, mood, and what’s ‘normal’ for you.
“New or expectant mothers are more at-risk of low iron and folate levels, which can leave you feeling more tired than usual and for those that follow intense exercise regimes, low energy is common, so it’s important to consume enough calories to support your activity levels. We can lose iron and magnesium when we sweat, meaning it’s a good idea for highly active people to supplement, ensuring everyday energy levels are maintained.
“Generally feeling fatigued can also be due to a lack of key nutrients that are either underrepresented in our modern diet or are difficult for our gut to absorb. It’s these vitamins and minerals that slip through the net when it comes to our ‘wellbeing radar’ and we often mask these energy dips by reaching for caffeine and other energy-boosters.”
Shape up your diet
Some really simple changes to what you eat, as well as how and when, can make a huge difference to your energy.
Rose explained: “Where poor blood sugar control is a factor, individuals may find themselves reaching out for snacks, high energy drinks and similar pick-me-ups. Often, dietary and lifestyle choices can minimise poor blood sugar control; consuming protein with each meal, reducing sugary foods, and adding chromium and cinnamon may benefit. Sugar can be replaced by use of stevia. Opt for plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, good and sufficient protein with every meal, maintaining hydration and including essential fatty acids (omega 3-rich foods). Avoid processed foods, sugar and alcohol.
“Where the liver detoxification systems are being overwhelmed, reducing processed foods, sugar (in all its forms) and alcohol can help. Ensuring optimal hydration and plenty of fresh antioxidant-rich foods can also help. Add green foods and consider adding a barley grass juice extract drink daily; barley grass juice is a chlorophyll-rich, detoxifying, alkalising and nutritive drink that can support the body in several ways.”
Keeley went on: “When it comes to boosting energy levels fast, my advice would be to avoid tea, coffee, and caffeinated drinks as these can inhibit or interfere with the absorption of some key nutrients our bodies rely on for energy production. Instead, follow a healthy, balanced diet containing complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins.
“Drinking six to eight glasses of water daily will avoid dehydration, which can leave you feeling fatigued and exercising, even just for a short period of time, helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, releasing endorphins, which help to elevate mood.”
It’s really important to up your intake of certain nutrients, both through food and supplements.
“B vitamin and iron deficiencies are often overlooked yet may be the reason you feel so exhausted. Deficiencies are very common, especially amongst women, vegetarians, and vegans,” Keeley advised. “Known energy-enhancers, B-vitamins are crucial for providing healthy red blood cells, maintaining normal energy metabolism, and ensuring the brain and nervous systems are working effectively – combating the dreaded brain fog.
“Similarly, iron plays a central role in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body and is vital for energy production and metabolism. Many of us know so little about our specific nutrient intakes and are unaware if we are deficient, so if you suspect you may be lacking essential vitamins and minerals, test your levels through your GP or by using a simple at-home test kit. You can then supplement according to your personal needs.
“I would also advise ensuring you uphold sufficient levels of vitamins B, C and D, iron, and magnesium. A pill-free supplement can avoid any digestive discomfort, increase absorption for those that suffer from digestive disorders, and they’re proven to be just as effective as taking tablets or capsules.”
Rose went on: “A good multivitamin is a good place to start, in particular, ensuring B-complex vitamins. Vitamin D levels need to be optimal. Sometimes, low energy might relate to libido. Libido boosters like damiana, catuaba, muira puama, and maca may help; these are also adaptogenic. Adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus, schisandra berry and the ginsengs may benefit.
“Consider valerian or chamomile in cases of insomnia and to aid sleep. Conversely, in the daytime, consider a lift from herbs such as yerba maté and guaraná (which provide natural caffeine complexes that give a sustained boost, without the peaks and troughs of coffee).”
Don’t forget how important rest is.
“Getting enough sleep is important for both physical and psychological recovery. When we do not take enough time to recharge on a night, it can alter our body’s biochemistry, making it difficult to fall asleep long-term. In the short-term, it can impact our decision making, reaction times and changes in mood,” Keeley explained.
“Healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, so try sticking to a sleep schedule and disconnecting from electronic devices 30 minutes before bed, this can help to improve your sleep quality.”