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Diet for Low Energy & Fatigue

By August McLaughlin

Low energy and fatigue are common complaints that can make it difficult to function well at work, home and social events. While some contributing factors, such as genetics and aging, are out of your grasp, you can take positive steps toward changing lifestyle factors, such as your sleep, exercise and dietary habits. Aim for sufficient nightly sleep, regular physical activity and a balanced diet, sufficient in nutrients and calories. For best results, seek specified guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

Guidelines

A diet for improved energy and reduced fatigue involves guidelines similar for a basic, healthy diet. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, provide glucose -- your body's main dietary source of energy. Replacing high-glycemic foods, or foods with a substantial impact on your blood sugar levels, with low-glycemic foods, such as whole grains, may help reduce insulin production and lead to improved energy, according to dietitian with specialties in chronic disease and vegetarianism Dina Aronson. Consume plentiful fruits and vegetables, which promote a strong-functioning immune system and help guard against fatigue and low energy associated with illnesses and nutrient deficiencies. Incorporate lean protein sources, such as fish, poultry and legumes, into your diet for improved physical strength, immune function and tissue repair. Healthy fat sources, such as nuts and seeds, provide energy for low to moderate-intensity physical activity.

Helpful Nutrients

While an overall balanced, nutritious diet is important for improving energy and managing fatigue, certain nutrients deserve close attention, according to Aronson. Deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, iron, vitamin D, zinc and magnesium may cause or worsen your symptoms. Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil provide omega-3 fatty acids. B-vitamins are prevalent in whole grains, meats, dairy products and fruits and vegetables. If you consume a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, you may have difficulty meeting your vitamin B-12 needs. Vegetarian sources include fortified breakfast cereals and some nutritional yeast varieties. Vitamin D is synthesized by your body in response to sun exposure and found in fortified dairy products, fish and seafood.

Eating Habits

The way you approach food and eating may also negatively or positively impact your energy levels. Under-eating and overeating can cause fatigue and low energy, so avoid restrictive diets and practice portion control. Stress can worsen chronic fatigue, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, so eat in calming atmospheres without distractions, such as television noise or your cell phone, when possible. Limit refined foods, such as white bread, candy and potato chips, which may offset your blood sugar and energy levels. Because dehydration can trigger tiredness and fatigue, drink water or other hydrating beverages, such as herbal tea, throughout each day.

Supplements

Dietary supplements may provide benefits if you have difficulty meeting your dietary needs through food alone or have a condition, such as Crohn's disease or colitis, that causes nutrient malabsorption. Although research is limited and mixed, according to the UMMC, taking 300 to 1,000 milligrams of magnesium daily may help minimize fatigue. Taking 1,000 milligrams of essential fatty acids three times each day and 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of evening primrose oil per day may provide similar effects. Avoid stimulatory supplements, such as caffeine, which may provide a temporary boost followed by a later "crash" and interfere with sleep, leading to daytime grogginess. Supplements can cause side effects and interact with medications, so seek pre-approval and guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

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