IT'S quite normal to experience varying levels of energy —marked by a rise and fall — throughout the day. This may depend on several factors including stress levels, sleep deprivation, and even the kinds of food that we consume. The latter might come as a surprise to many since we eat primarily to refuel our bodies, however, nutritionist Janique Watts said some of the very foods we eat to sustain our energy supply may cause the opposite —zapping energy and leaving us feeling fatigued.
Unsure what some of the common culprits are? Watts shares a list of foods that have the potential to drain your energy levels.
“Coffee is a stimulant which contains caffeine. This substance stimulates the brain to increase alertness, activity levels, digestion and concentration. However, when the amount of caffeine ingested is used up, there is a noticeable significant decrease in energy levels and a reduction in stimulation,” Watts explained.
White bread is a simple carbohydrate or sugar. This is used in the body as needed; any excess in the body is stored away as fat for later use.
“If there is prolonged ingestion of excessive amounts, fat is stored and over time, this fat builds up and affects our activity levels, energy levels, and normal daily functions. It can also lead to developing lifestyle diseases like diabetes,” Watts advised.
Simple sugars in the natural form are used up immediately as it goes directly into the bloodstream and provides us with energy almost instantly. However, the body requires a limited amount and so when we consume large amounts this will not lead to weight gain as fat is stored. But it can also cause a spike in sugar levels, which is usually followed by a crash.
Fried and fast foods
Fried and fast foods mainly contain fat, Watts said, and though this is a great source of energy, it takes longer to digest and this will make you feel very low in energy.
“These foods also decrease alertness as this source of energy is not the preferred source for the brain (carbohydrates are). This explains why people feel so tired after eating a meal high in fat,” Watts said.
Constantly having low-carb meals
Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. Watts said that some of the most common sources of these are rice, bread, sugary fruits and starchy vegetable sources. When we choose to consume low-carb diets consistently — such as salads throughout the day, we are deciding to remove carbohydrates this way from the diet.
“But by doing this you are also getting rid of the brain's most readily available sources of energy from foods eaten. However, your body is smart, so it metabolises carbohydrates from other sources of energy like protein and fat, but this takes longer and hence explains the feeling of fatigue,” Watts underscored. She said it is therefore recommended to eat your complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates in the correct amounts.
Sodium from salt helps with muscle movement. When not eaten enough, Watts said that you will experience cramping. However, if eaten in excessive amounts, she said that people will tend to retain water in excess, which leads to bloating and increased blood pressure which causes a strain on your heart, kidneys and brain.
“In both instances, a feeling of fatigue is experienced and therefore it is important to eat within the recommended daily amounts of 1800-2000 mg, which is just a bit less than a teaspoon of salt per day,” Watts advised.