If I had a dollar for every one of my clients who ticked the ‘low energy’ box on their intake forms, well, I’d have a lot of dollars. And these are go-getting women from all walks of life with different diets, workout regimes and sleep schedules.
But they all have one thing in common – they are simply tired all the fucking time. Here’s why:
Energy In = Energy Out
Before I jump to lab tests, hair tests, blood tests, urine tests, saliva tests (all the tests) with my clients I establish one simple metric – are they eating enough to fuel their body?
Whilst I’m a true advocate for food quality over food quantity, and truly believe food is information for the body, there is the simple physiological truth that if you do not eat enough calories you will not be able to make (and have) energy. You wouldn’t expect your car to run on an empty fuel tank, and just like your car, when you try to run your body on empty it won’t go. And, you might do irreparable damage.
One of the most important, but most neglected, reasons for feeling fatigued is simply not eating enough. Whilst (thank goodness) we are moving away from the misguided advice around low calorie and low-fat diets, I still see clients who have whittled down their calorie intake to a scary 1,200 calories per day (or less).
When you do not eat enough calories to fuel your body’s complex needs, it goes into starvation mode, and conserves fuel by down regulating it’s non-essential functions such as optimum energy production. This will also negatively affect thyroid health (another reason for feeling fatigued – more on this to come) hormone balance, sex drive, health of your hair, skin and nails and metabolic rate.
Paradoxically, all too often my clients will lower their calorie intake in a bid to lose weight, but this can cause the reverse effect and actually increase body fat storage and lower metabolism.
Poor Protein Intake
In my professional opinion, the rise in lower protein diets, unhealthy forms of intermittent fasting, and poorly managed vegan diets are to blame for so many of the current chronic health issues. Protein is the key macronutrient for so many of our body’s structures and metabolic processes. Protein helps with the building and preservation of muscle, prevention of skin aging, and even hormone and neurotransmitter production. Inadequate daily amounts can lead to low energy, slowing of metabolism and even depression and anxiety.
Protein is also essential for blood sugar balance. Because of this, I recommend at least 20-40g of protein at every meal. Diets that are low in protein can cause huge drops in our blood sugar levels, making us feel tired and lethargic. When this happens, we naturally reach for a high sugar or high carb food, putting us once more on the blood sugar and fatigue rollercoaster.
Additionally, low protein intake can negatively affect thyroid function (see below). Conversely, optimum protein intake has been shown to decrease chronic inflammation, one of the root causes of low energy and fatigue.
Nutrient Deficiencies and Thyroid Health
After ensuring adequate daily protein intake (and overall calorie intake) the next step I take with my clients is to to check for any possible nutrient deficiencies (here comes the lab work). Typically, women can become nutrient deficient after childbirth and/or breast feeding, especially if a second child was conceived within 18 months of the birth of the first child. Women can also become nutrient deficient after a crash or fad diet, after bouts of intense exercise, or after periods of extreme stress.
The key vitamins and minerals I test for with my Private Coaching clients are:
Iron and Ferritin – both of these tests are important as ferritin is the protein that stores iron and makes it available for metabolic cellular processes (such as making energy).
Vitamin D – low levels of Vitamin D can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, bone weakness and aches and pains.
Vitamin B12 – B12 plays a crucial role in the metabolic reactions that create ATP, our bodies energy currency.
Poor Thyroid Health. Your thyroid gland (the butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck) plays a role in almost every key function in the body, including a vital role in energy production. The health of our thyroid is directly affected by aspects of our everyday lifestyle and diet.
High stress levels, as cortisol, the stress hormone, can suppress the release of thyroid hormones.
Toxic burden in the body.
Food intolerances (especially gluten).
Family history of thyroid conditions.
Thyroid health affects your mitochondrial health, the part of our cells that produce energy. When you have low thyroid function the mitochondria cannot produce energy efficiently, causing fatigue, lethargy and low mood. When working with my clients to establish the health of their thyroid I like to assess a full thyroid panel including markers for TSH, T4, T3 and Reverse T3.
Read more expert posts from me on Charlotte’s Book here.
Photo credit: The image is Nicole Kidman in Before I Go to Sleep. A 2014 mystery psychological thriller. Forty-year-old Christine Lucas wakes up in bed with a man she does not know, in an unfamiliar house. The man explains that he is her husband. Do you ever get this tired? Us too.