Skip links

Could my diet be making me tired?


Do you suffer with low energy and struggle to stay awake? Have you wondered if your diet could be making you tired?

Read below and find out if any of the points below relate to you and what changes you can make today!

Carbohydrate-rich foods are metabolised into blood glucose which is the only form of energy the body can use immediately. However, not all carbohydrates are metabolised the same way; refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, sugary drinks and sweets are high glycemic index, which means they release sugar quickly. That means they cause large spikes in blood glucose followed by sharp drops, which can bring on fatigue. Sugar also blocks the activity of orexin-producing cells, brain cells that stimulate wakefulness.

For a balanced release of energy choose low-glycemic carbohydrates such as soy beverages, apples, bananas, pears, oranges, dried apricots, berries, nuts, seeds and beans and lentils.

Protein-rich meals help you feel more alert by counteracting drowsiness that can be brought on by consuming excessive sugar or carbohydrates. Including protein at meals also helps regulate, or slow, the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Make sure to include a source of protein, such as fish, turkey, lean meat, eggs, yogurt, tofu, legumes or nuts, at all meals and snacks.

Those who skip breakfast have reported lower energy, poorer moods and reduced memory. Start the day with a breakfast that delivers protein and a low-glycemic carbohydrate. Good choices include bran cereal with milk, fruit and nuts,  or steel-cut oatmeal topped with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, or berries and ground flax, or even whole-grain toast with a choice of nut butter and fruit. Also, it takes between 2-3 hours to break down the carbohydrates in the foods you eat to be converted to energy; to prevent energy levels dipping, consume healthy snacks between meals like fruit and nuts, crackers with hummus or yoghurt and berries.

Eating small meals and snacks throughout the day maintains your energy level better than eating one or two large meals. Avoid overeating as a big meal can flood your blood with sugar, giving you a temporary energy lift followed by a crash and feelings of lethargy.

Milk, poultry, corn, brown rice, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, bananas, dates and chocolate all contain a nutrient (L-tryptophan) that helps you feel relaxed and possibly fatigued, avoid these foods in the middle of the day.

Water is an essential part of the diet, with approximately 60-65% of the body being water. Water plays a significant role in the body; aids in digestion and absorption helps with energy production, lubricates joints, carries substances around the body, clears waste products and delivers oxygen. Dehydration can cause fatigue as water is required in the production of energy molecules.

Drinking too much coffee can overstimulate your central nervous system and cause insomnia; caffeine is known to block the action of adenosine, a brain chemical that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve-cell activity. It is advised to stop drinking coffee after noon.

Alcohol intake during and after dinner can disrupt sleep by reducing REM, which is important for memory and learning. Plus, alcohol dehydrates you, which can worsen fatigue the next day. So, limit your intake to one alcoholic drink per day.
Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can make you tired; an iron deficiency, even without anemia, can cause fatigue and lethargy. Iron-rich foods include beef, turkey, chicken, pork loin, tuna, halibut, oysters, clams, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, soybeans, lentils, baked beans, black beans, firm tofu, cooked spinach, raisins and prune juice.

Too little B12 can also cause you to feel tired. The vitamin is used to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen through your body. B12 is found in all animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy), while many non-dairy beverages and soy products are fortified with the nutrient. You can also get B12 from a multivitamin or B-complex supplement.

To avoid feeling sleepy after a meal, try some of the tips below

  • Control portion sizes and eat smaller meals – especially those that are rich in carbohydrate and protein.
  • Reduce carbohydrate and sugar intake – try switching to whole grain foods as they release energy at a slower rate.
  • Drink water – even mild dehydration can cause feelings of fatigue and reduced motivation.
  • Walk after a meal – brisk walking after a meal can help prevent sugar crash symptoms, reduce the feeling of tiredness and also reduce blood sugar levels.
  • Drink green tea – rich in antioxidants, green tea can help break down carbohydrates and also reduces starch and fat as well as lowering blood sugar levels.

If this resonates with you then…

This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.

    Return to top of page