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WHY AM I SO TIRED? THE TRUTH BEHIND FATIGUE AND WEAKNESS [PLUS HOW TO FIX IT]

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Feeling tired all of the time can stop you from enjoying your daily life and the things that mean most to you.

If you're tired, you'll lose motivation to do things like cook healthy meals, workout at the gym, or finish that extra project at work. 

Often we know the right thing to do, but having low energy completely stops us from doing it.

The worst part is... a lot of us feel tired even after sleeping the recommended dose of 7-8 hours per night!

If that's you, then this article will change your life.

That's why I like to say...

"Getting your energy back really means getting your life back."

HOW YOUR BODY PRODUCES ENERGY

how the body produces energy

Our energy comes primarily from the glucose (carbohydrates) in the food we eat, from fatty acids from fats and amino acids from proteins.

Glucose travels through the bloodstream and is burned by oxygen to produce energy. The whole process is controlled by hormones.

We also get energy from using our bodies in the way they were designed to be used -- by moving around during the day, exercising our muscles, and keeping our hearts healthy.

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Health By Boosting Mitochondria

WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE FATIGUE AND WEAKNESS?

Given what we put our bodies through every day, it’s hardly surprising we’re wondering how to stop feeling tired.

Our health and exercise programs need to fit around the demands of our careers, families and social lives, and finding the time to commit to a healthy eating plan often feels more demanding than picking up quick-fix convenience food.

Sleep often gets squeezed into the time leftover when everything else has been ticked off, and getting enough of it often feels like the last priority on an ever-growing to-do list.

If you’re waking up in the morning feeling less-than-energized, frequently yearning for afternoon naps, or feel you have the energy for exercise, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and work out how to stop being tired.

The three main things that contribute to having low energy are:

  1. medical problems
  2. your diet / nutritional deficiencies
  3. lifestyle choices 

Medical reasons for fatigue

medical-reasons-for-fatigue

The first stop on the journey to working out how to feel less tired is ruling out any medical issues.

The most common medical causes of fatigue are anemia, thyroid diseases, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, and diabetes.

Anemia

You’re anemic if you don’t have enough red blood cells, or if your red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin. This means your blood isn’t oxygen-rich and is therefore unable to efficiently turn glucose into energy for your muscles and tissues. [1]

If you suspect you could be anemic, it’s important to get a blood test as soon as possible. Sometimes anemia is a symptom of a more serious illness such as internal bleeding, inflammation from an infection, kidney disease, cancer or an autoimmune disease. [2] 

Much of the time, anemia can be managed via taking iron supplements and changing your diet to include more iron-rich foods. Getting more lean red meat, green leafy vegetables, kidney beans, nuts and seeds can help you get your iron levels back to normal and offer more day-to-day energy.

Thyroid diseases

The thyroid is a gland in your neck that produces a hormone that regulates metabolism, controlling the rate at which your body creates energy from nutrients and oxygen. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone, a symptom of which is fatigue.

According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the US population will have problems with their thyroid in their lifetime. [3]

Thyroid diseases can sometimes be managed via dietary changes, such as eliminating gluten and dairy and avoiding toxins and heavy metals such as BPA. Supplementing the diet with  iodine and selenium may also help with hypothyroidism.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, causing disturbed sleep and lower blood-oxygen levels. It is thought that 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Beyond fatigue, sleep apnea also can cause hypertension, heart disease, mood and memory problems. [4]

Treatment for sleep apnea often involves a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device) which is a mask that fits over the mouth at night and blows air into the airway to keep it open.

Lifestyle changes can also help cure this condition, particularly reducing your weight if you are carrying extra pounds. Sufferers should also avoid alcohol as it disrupts sleep and relaxes the muscles in the upper airway. Smoking can cause swelling in the upper airway and thus can exacerbate the condition.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an illness that affects many body systems.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe fatigue not improved by rest
  • Sleep problems
  • Post-exertional malaise (PEM) where symptoms get worse after any physical or mental activity
  • Problems thinking and concentrating
  • Pain
  • Dizziness [5]

CFS is thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the immune or adrenal system, genetics and/or childhood trauma. [6]

Treatment plans often include rest and relaxation techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and exercise. It is thought that an increase in vitamin B [7], magnesium and potassium [8] may also help sufferers of CFS.

Blood sugar imbalance

Many people suffer from blood-sugar imbalances caused by diets that include too much refined sugar and simple carbohydrates. Left untreated, a blood sugar imbalance can develop into diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015 about 9.4 percent of the US population had diabetes and the number of new cases increases by 1.5 million each year. [9]

To balance your blood sugar levels, minimize how much refined sugar you consume, such as in soda or energy drinks, fruit juice and sweetened tea and coffee. Also, eliminate processed snacks from your diet such as cakes and biscuits and cut back on simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and white rice.

Hormone imbalance

Women in particular often feel fatigue due to fluctuations in hormone production. For instance, they may experience insomnia at certain times of the menstrual cycle. Exercising and eating a balanced diet rich in iron and vitamin B12 can help with this.

The drop in estrogen caused by menopause can also disrupt sleep patterns. During  menopause, it is very important to make sure you have enough vitamin D, iron, calcium and Omega-3 through supplements and by eating foods rich in these nutrients.

Nutritional reasons for fatigue

nutritional-reasons-fatigue

One of the most effective ways of decreasing fatigue is to take a look at your nutrition.

Try incorporating these tips to make sure your diet is optimized for health and energy.

  • Increase consumption of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and good fats.
  • Reduce foods high in sugar, salt, and bad fats.
  • Eat a breakfast of whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats to kick-start your metabolism in the mornings.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently through the day to help you avoid spikes in blood-sugar levels.
  • Eat whole foods rich in iron and magnesium such as spinach, nuts, seeds, oily fish, colorful leafy vegetables, tofu, eggs, lean red meat and kidney beans.
  • Make sure you have enough Vitamin C. This helps with iron absorption if eaten with iron-rich foods.
  • Supplement your diet with Omega-3 oils to boost alertness.
  • Shed excess weight. Even small reductions in body fat can make you feel more energized, but avoid crash diets as they don’t contain enough energy and nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
  • Avoid junk food as it is high in carbs that rate highly on the GI index. These foods increase blood sugar quickly and promote a cycle of highs followed by lows which increase fatigue. 

Hydrate

The slightest level of dehydration is bad for your energy levels as it makes your blood thicker and your heart work less efficiently. This reduces the speed at which your muscles and organs receive oxygen and nutrients.

Stay hydrated with frequent glasses of water -- men generally need about 3.7 liters a day, women about 2.7 liters, but the amount varies according to your metabolism and lifestyle. [10]An easy test to see how dehydrated you are is to check the color of your urine which should be pale yellow.

Related: The Beginner's Guide To Low-Carb High Fat Diets?

Is our lifestyle to blame for our fatigue?

lifestyle-fatigue

An examination of our lifestyle can also give us clues about how to stop being tired.

Sleep

When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Or an even trickier question, when was the last time you had a week of good sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults have 7-9 hours of sleep a night, every night.[11] Working late, using electronics late in the evening, consuming alcohol and caffeine, and dealing with too much stress can all affect the quality of our sleep.

If you are wondering how to sleep well, if you’re having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep long enough, try the following:

  • Switch off all electronics a couple of hours before bedtime. The blue light produced by digital screens is known to suppress the hormone melatonin that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bedtime.
  • Control the temperature in your bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol 3-4 hours before you sleep. Caffeine disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, and although alcohol has a sedative effect at first, it causes a surge in adrenaline as it metabolizes which is likely to wake you 3-5 hours after you go to sleep.
  • If you have a late night, try not to sleep in too long the next morning as it will disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Have a short (20-30 minute) nap in the afternoon instead.
  • If you regularly experience a mid-afternoon slump, try eating a combination of good carbs (rice or vegetables) and protein for lunch. 

Exercise

Our bodies were designed to move, and one of the biggest reasons for a lack of energy is our sedentary lifestyles: we sit at a desk all day, then behind the wheel of a car, then we plunk ourselves down in front of our computers or on the sofa in the evenings.

By the end of a long day, we often feel too tired to exercise, despite what we know about the importance of exercise for our physical and mental health.

But the truth is that when we exercise at a level that is comfortable for us – that is, at a light or moderate level – it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) make us tired.

If you feel more tired after exercise, it likely means you are either pushing yourself too hard, or you have a medical issue.

Many of us do push ourselves harder than we need to, which is why we stop doing it. To this end, the old adage of “no pain no gain” isn’t really true.

While a little bit of stiffness is normal, you shouldn’t normally be pushing yourself too far beyond your limits.

Regular exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes per session can work wonders for boosting your energy levels and making our cardiovascular system work more efficiently, simply because it encourages more oxygen throughout the body. 

Even a 20-minute brisk walk each day is enough to get the blood flowing.

Stress

Demanding jobs and busy schedules are common causes of fatigue. To minimize this, try slow, yogic-style breathing to help the blood to flow more freely and switch off adrenaline production.

Learn how to relax by practicing relaxation techniques and try to find joy every day.

Make sure you take time to relax at the weekends and take vacations. Everyone needs a break to relax and refuel. Regular exercise will boost endorphins, and dietary probiotics may improve sleep and reduce stress.

You can stop feeling tired!

Now you know what's causing you to feel tired and you have the system to reclaim your energy for good!

But this is only the beginning. There's going to be a long road ahead to figuring out what works for your body and lifestyle.

The good news is that you're starting now and your potential is limitless.


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