Drink plenty of fluids!
Moving on from yesterday’s stabilising blood sugar levels, we now move onto no.2 on my list on how we can use diet to fight fatigue.
- Stabilising your blood sugars
- Ensuring you drink enough
- Ensuring you get the right vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients
I am not suggesting you ‘hit the bottle’ here when I say drink! I am talking generally about making sure you have enough (good) fluids throughout the day. Whilst we know that dehydration can affect exercise performance and may have medical complications, we often underestimate the importance of drinking enough fluids on an every day basis.
Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can influence our energy levels. The problem is that we rely on thirst as an indicator for when we need to drink — a response that actually is too late to avoid many of the negative effects of dehydration. Our thirst sensation doesn’t really kick in until we are 1-2% dehydrated. By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform.
Being just 1% dehydrated can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities and women seem to be more susceptible than men. So make sure you drink around 2-3L of fluid a day (you may need more if the weather is hot). It doesn’t have to be ‘just’ water but do watch your sugar and caffeine intake. It can be very easy to use caffeine as a pick-me-up. It can certainly improve reaction speed and keep you going when you need to but the effects of too much caffeine can be much the same as those of anxiety. It is a stimulant that affects the brain and central nervous system which if consumed repeatedly simply over-activates the body meaning you are more likely to feel tired once the caffeine wears off.
Caffeine is not only found in coffee, it is also found in tea, fizzy drinks (including diet versions), chocolate (although not much) and some pain medications. Filter coffee typically contains twice the amount of caffeine as tea (although it depends on how you like your tea – a good mug of ‘builder’s tea’ will contain nearly the same amount as an instant coffee) and cola drinks contain a little less than an average tea. Then there are all these caffeinated energy drinks that fill me with horror, plus they are loaded with sugar. Don’t touch these with a barge pole!
I came across this caffeine counter (from Coca Cola – yes I know but this is useful!). It will tally up your intake and you may find the results surprising! Just a note that if you are into lattes and capuccinos, there will usually be 2 espresso shots in each drink. If you are a Starbucks fan and go for the bucket sized ‘Vente’, there will be 3 espresso shots in there!
When it comes to soft drinks you need to be very wary of their frequent high sugar content, even the ‘posh’ ones. I have written a previous blog on the sugars found in fizzy drinks and fruit juice here that would be worth a read.
So choose water, low sugar soft drinks, low-fat milk (check what goes into milkshakes / milk drinks as they can be high in sugar and fat), decaffeinated coffee or teas.
All teas are full of anti-oxidants which are great for helping protect the body. Black and green teas generally contain more caffeine than white tea but fruit and herbal teas are caffeine free (Rooibos, peppermint, chamomile etc.) and can be soothing and relaxing to drink. Just to add, if you are someone who can’t function without that morning brew and decide to cut down on caffeine (whether coffee is your vice or you go through bottles of coke / diet coke), do it gradually to avoid withdrawal effects. Going ‘cold turkey’ will more than likely mean you go have to go back on it again. Allow yourself a good 3-4 weeks to cut down gradually or remove it from your diet. You can check your hydration status simply by looking the color of your pee. Urine should be a very pale yellow colour. If it’s dark yellow or tan in color, it means you are not drinking enough so it will be very important to ‘up’ your fluids not only to give your energy levels a boost but to help your body flush out wastes and toxins.
Look out for the last post tomorrow on vitamins and minerals – I will suggest foods that are rich in B Vitamins, Vitamin C & D that may particularly help with fatigue and also mention some essential fats too…………….