If you find yourself saying, “I feel tired all the time,” it may be due in part to what you are eating and drinking throughout the day. Read on to learn how you can make dietary adjustments to combat fatigue.

You’re Drinking Too Much Caffeine

Coffee and tea provide wonderful health benefits, including reducing risks for certain types of cancers, providing a rich source of antioxidants, and everyone’s favorite, blocking fatigue. However, too much caffeine over a prolonged period of time will actually make you feel more tired.

How does this work? Caffeine blocks brain receptors for adenosine, a molecule that induces fatigue. Over time, your body responds by producing more adenosine receptors, resulting in stronger, longer lasting fatigue.

Try limiting your caffeine consumption to one or two cups prior to noon, and skip any added sweeteners.

You’re Iron Deficient

Not eating enough iron raises risks for anemia. Early signs of iron deficiency include persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, unexplained weight gain, and feeling anxious for no reason.

Reduce your risks by incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet, such as lean beef, bison, oysters, lentils and spinach. If you are vegan or vegetarian, pair those iron sources with foods high in vitamin C to increase absorption.

You Eat Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates include pasta, white rice, most breakfast cereals and white bread. Though derived from whole grains, refined grains have undergone processing that removes all protein, fiber and nutrients from the food, leaving behind simple sugars that give your body a quick burst of energy, followed by an energy crash, fatigue, and cravings for more carbs.

Instead, switch to whole grains that provide your body with protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins that give you long-lasting energy. Great choices include quinoa, barley, brown rice and whole wheat bread.

You Turn to Added Sugars

Similar to refined carbohydrates, added sugars spike the blood sugar, but provide nothing nutritionally to sustain that energy. The result is a sudden plummet in energy and mood. In addition, consuming added sugars interferes with leptin production, a key hormone that helps us to feel full. Wean yourself off this temporary fix and turn to whole fruits when you need something sweet.

Natural sugars, as opposed to added sugars, do not dramatically spike the blood sugar and contain fiber and antioxidants to keep you feeling full and energized longer. You’ll also cut your risks for type 2 diabetes, another condition that leads to chronic fatigue.

You’re Skimping on Magnesium

If you eat like most Americans, you’re probably not getting enough magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for breaking down glucose in the body for energy. One interesting study conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center found that those who did not meet daily magnesium requirements in the diet expended more energy and required more oxygen to complete tasks than those who ate enough magnesium.

Great sources of this important mineral include bananas, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, and pumpkin seeds.

You’re Dehydrated

I recommend drinking 7-11 glasses of water every day, and more if you are active or consume a lot of caffeine. Every single function the body performs relies on hydration to work properly, including your metabolism. When we don’t drink enough water, we’ll feel tired and lethargic.

You’re Low on Melatonin

Our diet influences the body’s ability to produce sufficient levels of melatonin, one of the primary hormones responsible for lulling us to sleep. A low melatonin supply translates into more difficulty falling sleep, less deep sleep, and higher risks of insomnia.

Add to that the fact that our bodies naturally produce less melatonin in middle age, and poor sleep quality sets us up for fatigue. Counteract these changes by adding foods to your diet that encourage melatonin production. These include tart cherry juice, dairy and lean protein sources.

I have helped to develop an all-natural, drug-free sleep aid for my patients to get a sound night’s sleep during (and after) middle age. It combines melatonin-rich tart cherry juice extract with whey protein to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, all with no side effects. You can find it here.

You Need More Protein

Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients and takes the longest to digest, providing our bodies with a steady stream of energy – and helping us to feel full longer. Due to the natural process of sarcopenia, which begins around age 30 and ramps up around age 40, our muscles naturally degenerate in middle age.

We can experience feelings of weakness and fatigue as a result. Build all of your meals around lean protein sources, and consider taking a supplement if you still frequently feel tired and hungry.

Do you feel tired all the time? Do any of these suggestions sound familiar to you? What are you doing to develop healthy aging habits? Please join the conversation.

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