If you’re dealing with chronic fatigue and low energy, it could be what you’re eating. Sure, food is supposed to give you a boost, but not all calories are created equal. Certain foods have energy-zapping qualities that will leave you with less gas in your tank.
Check out the list below for some common culprits.
Processed or refined carbs refer to carb-rich foods that have been processed to remove the bran, fiber, and other essential nutrients that would naturally be found in the whole version. Processed carbs include things like white pasta, bread, and rice — typically, the color white indicates processing.
During processing, almost all of the fiber is removed from the grain. Fiber slows down digestion, so without it, carbohydrates are more easily and quickly digested into the bloodstream. That quick surge of carbs in the blood causes blood sugar levels and insulin to spike, which inevitably causes a crash in energy soon after.
What’s more, processed carbs don’t contain the germ of the grain, which has many vitamins and nutrients that are essential for healthy energy levels, such as B vitamins.
When trying to make the healthy choice, it’s best to go with whole-grain versions of your favorite carb-rich foods. Choose foods like brown rice, breads like Ezekiel, and whole-grain pasta.
Think your daily coffee habit is giving you a jolt? Well, you’re not totally wrong. Caffeine is a stimulant and causes a quick release of energy and alertness. But just like with processed carbs, the quick release inevitably leads to a crash. Not to mention, when you’re drinking coffee every day, your body develops a tolerance for the caffeine, and you need more of it to get that same awake feeling.
And while you could always just reach for another cup when the crash hits, research has shown that too much caffeine can actually lead to problems like poor sleep quality and insomnia — both which contribute to chronic tiredness.
Many people associate alcohol with better sleep, and some even consider a nightly glass of wine to be a natural sedative that helps them relax. And again, they’re not totally wrong. Alcohol is a depressant and it has relaxing qualities — at first. However, studies have shown that alcohol prevents your body from achieving full, deep sleep — and not getting enough rest can inevitably drain your energy.
Rather than reach for the bottle to wind-down at night, why not mix up this ayurvedic tonic for sleep instead?
We’ve already discussed the effect of surging blood sugar levels on your energy, and when it comes to sugar-laden foods, the same can be said. The processed sugar found in cereals, flavored yogurts, snack foods, sodas, and other packaged foods all cause blood sugar to spike. At first, this makes you feel more alert, but then energy comes crashing down along with blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling tired.
Limit added sugars (check your food labels!) in your diet, and try getting your sugar from natural sources like fruits which have other energy-boosting nutrients in them!
Ever felt like you could use a nap after a lunch of burgers and french fries? That’s because fried foods are loaded with fat. Fat takes more energy for your body to break down, and therefore, you end up feeling depleted and tired when you eat it. What’s more, fast and fried foods are often lacking in vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. While nutrient-rich foods contribute to healthy energy-levels, nutrient-deficient foods can cause lethargy and tiredness.
Instead of going for quick and easy, try cooking your own foods or opting for raw (veggies and fruits), baked, or grilled versions of your favorite foods.
Here’s to a perkier, more energized you!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.