Forgive us if there are any glaring errors here. We’re putting it together around 3 in the afternoon, the time of day when our brain grinds to a halt and we have to fight to keep our foreheads from crashing onto our keyboards. We would have been much better off reading these fatigue-fighting nutrition tips from Southern California–based nutritionist Megan Garza before the midday bonk hit. The key, Garza says, is to keep your body running on all cylinders by feeding it the right fuel (and fluids) at the right times.
Most of you know about the benefits of caffeine postworkout, but this wonder compound is also an effective and 100 percent approved all-day weapon for combating fatigue. “Numerous studies have shown that moderate usage, the equivalent of 80 to 240 milligrams per day, can actually help sustain energy levels, create cognitive alertness and help improve your mood, even during the most mundane of tasks,” Garza says. “Just be sure to control your intake — too much caffeine can negate the long-term beneficial effects and cause anxiety, jitters and digestive issues.”
2. Meal Timing
“When you eat is just as important as what you eat when fighting fatigue,” Garza says. “Don’t be afraid to graze. A general rule is to eat five to six smaller meals a day rather than loading up on two or three calorically heavy meals. Feeding your body consistently rather than intermittently will help keep your metabolic furnace active and supply you with sustained energy.”
3. Limit Or Avoid Simple Sugar
Uh oh. The “S” word. Yes, consumption of the wrong sugars can leave you looking for a pillow a few hours after lunch. “Studies have shown that overconsumption of simple sugars can cause a burnout effect,” Garza says. “Eating too much sugar forces an immediate blood-sugar spike (read: a ‘sugar high’), but as this drops, your body goes into crisis mode to balance out again. This can cause extreme lethargy and leave you in a bad mood. Do yourself and everyone else around you a favor and limit your simple-sugar consumption to special occasions or cheat meals.”
4. Pay Attention To Protein
When it comes to eating for energy, the centerpiece of the discussion is usually carbohydrates. But people often forget the impact of another key macronutrient: protein. “Not getting enough protein can zap energy levels and stall muscle growth,” Garza says. “Daily protein intake should be around 1 gram of protein per body pound for the active individual. If supplementing with protein, be sure to investigate your sources and be sure to use something that’s independently verified for quality and purity.”
It’s not just about food, folks. Garza points to adequate hydration as key to energy levels. “It might seem to be common knowledge, but not drinking plenty of water throughout the day is an often overlooked cause of fatigue,” she says. “Foggy brain, lack of focus and/or cravings can all be signs you need to up your intake. Aim for a minimum of eight to 10 8-ounce cups of water a day to stay hydrated before, during and after you hit the gym. Use a water bottle to remain conscious of how many ounces you’re consuming throughout the day.”
Megan Garza is a Southern California–based nutrition consultant. She specializes in weight management and energy, helping people tackle the challenge of gaining back their health.