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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

Finding it hard to concentrate at work or falling asleep on the sofa? Fight fatigue with these diet tips

 

1. Fill up on breakfast

Studies show people who eat breakfast are in a better mood and have more energy all day. Good options are wholegrain cereal or porridge with semi-skimmed milk and sliced banana or a few raisins, plus a glass of fruit juice; or a boiled egg with wholegrain soldiers.

2. Boost your B vitamins

Foods containing B vitamins help your body to release energy from food. The best way to get enough is to eat a varied diet, including wholegrains, fortified cereals, oats, green vegetables, lean meat, seafood and eggs. In particular, a deficiency of vitamin B12 (found in animal foods) and/or folate (in green leafy veg) causes anaemia, resulting in extreme tiredness. Your GP will be able to diagnose anaemia with a simple blood test.

3. Top up your iron stores

Iron is essential for preventing the energy-sapping condition anaemia, the symptoms of which include extreme tiredness and poor concentration. Include more iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, eggs, fortified cereals, green leafy veg, nuts and seeds. Don’t forget that vitamin C is needed to aid the absorption of iron, which means eating plenty of fresh fruit, especially citrus, and veg – have a salad with your main meal or a small glass of fruit juice to accompany your fortified breakfast cereal.

4. Stabilise your blood sugar levels

Enjoy regular healthy meals and snacks and don’t go for hours without eating. That way you avoid blood sugar spikes and the resulting drops that cause a drop-off in energy and alertness. Go for low-GI foods, such as porridge oats, low-fat yogurt, wholemeal bread and pulses (chickpeas, red lentils or cannellini beans, for example) to help release energy slowly. Include protein in meals and snacks to stay fuller for longer, and steer clear of sugary drinks and foods.

5. Cut back on stimulants

While coffee and tea have their place as natural stimulants (indeed, there’s good evidence they can assist mental and physical performance), go easy if you’re feeling wired and tired – they could be contributing to the problem. Be aware of how many cups you’re consuming, cut down if necessary and switch to herbal teas and decaffeinated drinks. Although at first you may feel a bit grumpier and may even get a headache, you could be surprised at the difference cutting down on caffeine makes in the long term.

Is everything OK?

If you’re tired all the time, your first step should always be to see your GP. ‘Your doctor will investigate possible underlying health issues,’ says HFG expert, GP Dawn Harper. ‘Conditions such as coeliac disease, diabetes, iron deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, anaemia and chronic fatigue syndrome may need to be ruled out before you can put your tiredness exclusively down to stress. Never feel constant tiredness isn’t an important concern – it’s something your doctor wants to know about.’

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.