Fatigue, that dragging sensation that makes you want to curl up on the couch and go to sleep, happens to all of us. However, if it is becoming a daily problem for you and you need to get more energy, look first at your daily habits, and see if you can make some changes that pay off with a boost to your energy.
Fatigue can be physical or mental, which means that different lifestyle changes can work for different people. Fatigue can be associated with chronic illnesses, or it may be secondary to poor lifestyle choices. Fatigue is described as an “overwhelming, debilitating, and sustained sense of exhaustion that decreases the ability to function and carry out daily activities.”1
Quite simply, food is fuel for your body. Just like fuel for your car, if you fuel your body with junk food that is highly processed, you cannot expect it to run as well as if you are eating a largely whole-food, nutritious diet. You may have heard that you should shop at the periphery of a grocery store. That is good advice because unprocessed, whole foods that you should eat, starting today, are located there.
Ultra-processed foods are created to be hyper-palatable. Additives and flavorings are added to make the food look and taste better, but all that processing breaks down many of the nutrients, and much of the fiber food contains. Poor diet is one of the leading contributors to non-communicable diseases that cause about one-fourth of all adult deaths and decrease your health span (lifespan without chronic disease or disability).2
Processed foods also tend to be high in simple sugars that cause a spike in your blood sugar, followed by a spike in insulin. As your blood sugar falls, your energy level plummets, and you are hungry again.3
NOVA classifies foods and beverages based on their level of industrial processing into:4
Ultra-processed foods contain food derivatives that are rarely used in cooking, such as hydrogenated oil and cosmetic additives.4 Americans are eating foods with less dietary quality.5
Choose minimally processed foods that provide a wide range of nutrients. Eat enough calories to give your body the energy it needs to keep you going daily.
Hydration is always a big topic when discussing energy levels. Do you really need to drink eight 8-oz glasses of water each day? No, but you do need to pay attention to thirst. Dehydration can affect your mood and energy levels.6 The human body is 55% to 65% water. Every chemical reaction in your body must take place in a watery environment. Avoid sugary drinks full of chemicals and calories. Drink water throughout the day, so it becomes a habit.
It seems counterintuitive. You have no energy, so you should exercise? Exercise gets your blood flowing, warms your muscles, and helps reduce stress. Choose a low-intensity exercise that you enjoy.
In one study, workers dealing with work-related fatigue were randomized to an exercise program or a wait-list control group. The exercise group reported lower emotional exhaustion and overall fatigue. They also had better sleep quality, work ability, and self-reported cognitive function.7
While sleepiness and fatigue are different, lack of sleep can contribute to fatigue, stress, and mood disorders.8 Sleepiness is the sensation that you want to go to sleep. Fatigue is the bone-weary sensation that moving or thinking is too much effort. Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is associated with increased calorie and fat consumption, suppressed immune function, mood disorders, and depression. These increase your risk for chronic disease, which can worsen fatigue.
Improve your sleep quality by:
Stress can make you feel anxious and tired. Similarly, feeling fatigued and having low energy can increase your stress level, especially if you have looming deadlines. Feeling tired can be your body’s way of letting you know it is under too much stress.
Stress is defined as an imbalance between the demands placed on us and our ability to handle them.9 Work on either one of these—decrease the demands or increase your ability to handle them.
Take a hard look at your day and the demands placed on your time and mental energy. Are there obligations that you can delegate or decline? Make a list of everything you do in the day and the time it takes to do each chore. Now consider how important completing that task will be if you look back at it from some point in the future. Trim the nonessential from your schedule.
Build a support network to help you manage stress. If demands on your time are not a stressor, schedule time for a relaxing activity, such as reading, meditating, or spending time in nature.
The chemicals in smoke are vasoconstrictors. They narrow blood vessels and decrease blood flow. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can increase inflammation in your lungs, which causes them to work less efficiently.10 Decreased blood flow and oxygenation contribute to fatigue.
If you smoke and want to quit, contact your healthcare provider. Nicotine replacement gum, patches, or lozenges can help you quit.
Alcohol is a diuretic, and it has a sedative effect. While alcohol can initially make you feel more tired, ultimately, it disrupts sleep. It can cause you to wake more frequently at night to urinate and cause frequent nighttime and early morning awakenings.
In one study, men who drank alcohol had:8
Feeling like you are pulled in all directions and have no time to yourself can cause increased anxiety and depression, poorer quality sleep, and increased fatigue.
Many people claim that they do not have time to take to themselves. They are already scheduled too tight. Challenge this idea and see if it is true for you. Sometimes taking some time to yourself to unwind can pay off in spades in terms of efficiency. You get more done in less time because you took the time to care for yourself first.
Like many things on this list, creating a schedule may seem like you are adding more chores for someone who is already too tired to complete the ones they have. However, schedules can have the following benefits:
Whether you use a pencil and pad or your phone, take notes on how you spend your day. Track your time and look for ways to open your schedule up to make time for more relaxing activities.
Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks adenosine, a metabolite that builds up in your brain and causes sleepiness. Caffeine early in the day can give you more pep. Later in the day, caffeine can keep you awake, ultimately causing more fatigue.
While nutritious foods are the best place to get your vitamins and nutrients, supplements can fill the gap left when consuming a sub-optimal diet. Invigor Medical has a range of performance treatments to boost your energy, both physical and mental. Whether you need sermorelin to boost your natural growth hormone production or a vitamin pack to supplement your diet, Invigor Medical has medical specialists who can help you determine your nutritional and healthcare needs and point you to the best treatment options.
Fatigue and weight gain commonly occur together. Persistent poor-quality sleep can cause both. When you are tired, exercising and making healthy dietary choices are hard. Lipo B12 is a combination of lipotropics, and vitamin B12 is specially formulated to boost energy and support your weight loss plans.
Mental fatigue can drag you down just as much as physical fatigue. While it may feel hard to make your brain work when you are feeling fatigued, you may also find that if you choose an engaging project to work on, the increased adrenaline and blood flow to your brain boosts your energy.
Find a project or activity that you enjoy. One that feels a little challenging and different from your usual activities. Give yourself time to really dig into it and see if you feel calmer and have more energy.
Something as simple as light exposure can greatly impact your mental and physical health. Light exposure is essential to maintain your circadian rhythm. Spend a few minutes outside in the morning to tell your brain that a new day has started. Walk outside during your midday break for fresh air, light exposure, and some exercise.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
1. Matura LA, Malone S, Jaime-Lara R, Riegel B. A Systematic Review of Biological Mechanisms of Fatigue in Chronic Illness. Biological Research For Nursing. 2018;20(4):410-421. doi:10.1177/1099800418764326
2. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet. May 11 2019;393(10184):1958-1972. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(19)30041-8
3. Vega-López S, Venn BJ, Slavin JL. Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. Sep 22 2018;10(10)doi:10.3390/nu10101361
4. Monteiro CA, Cannon G, Levy RB, et al. Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them. Public Health Nutr. Apr 2019;22(5):936-941. doi:10.1017/s1368980018003762
5. Martínez Steele E, Popkin BM, Swinburn B, Monteiro CA. The share of ultra-processed foods and the overall nutritional quality of diets in the US: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. Popul Health Metr. Feb 14 2017;15(1):6. doi:10.1186/s12963-017-0119-3
6. Pross N. Effects of Dehydration on Brain Functioning: A Lifespan Perspective. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 1:30-36. doi:10.1159/000463060
7. de Vries JD, van Hooff MLM, Geurts SAE, Kompier MAJ. Exercise to reduce work-related fatigue among employees: a randomized controlled trial. Scand J Work Environ Health. Jul 1 2017;43(4):337-349. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3634
8. Park SY, Oh MK, Lee BS, et al. The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean J Fam Med. Nov 2015;36(6):294-9. doi:10.4082/kjfm.2015.36.6.294
9. Danielsson M, Heimerson I, Lundberg U, Perski A, Stefansson CG, Akerstedt T. Psychosocial stress and health problems: Health in Sweden: The National Public Health Report 2012. Chapter 6. Scand J Public Health. Dec 2012;40(9 Suppl):121-34. doi:10.1177/1403494812459469
10. Tantisuwat A, Thaveeratitham P. Effects of smoking on chest expansion, lung function, and respiratory muscle strength of youths. J Phys Ther Sci. Feb 2014;26(2):167-70. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.167