In a modern, stressful life it can be very hard to keep our energy levels up. We jump from one thing to another, always have someone chasing us, always have deadlines and unexpected bills. It’s pure chaos. And it is easy to assume that you will feel invigorated if you just get some extra sleep, or a vacation. So why is it that even during the weekends, after a long lie in, or even a couple of weeks away, we still feel rotten and exhausted? Something that plays a big part in chronic fatigue is diet.
The diets we eat are typically high carbohydrate, processed, low nutrient, high calorie affairs. The average person eats too many carbs and calories, but not only are they eating too many, they’re typically empty calories too. This means we eat a lot of white breads, white rice, processed sugars, chips, fries, baked potatoes, etc. I’m willing to bet that almost every exhausted American eats three meals a day that are half or more white carbs, and several snacks loaded with sugar. And then we assume that a piece of fruit makes our diets healthier, whilst it adds a load more sugar and only a few more nutrients. We are recommended to eat too many carbs to feel healthy, but even so we eat more than we are recommended. And there are consequences.
Too many carbohydrates can impact our energy levels on several fronts. First of all we are running on an insulin cycle, which can cause adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is when our hormones, most notably our stress hormones, are out of balance, and we become exhausted from running on adrenaline. When you eat simple carbs your blood sugar spikes quickly. And if there is too much glucose in your blood, your body releases insulin to get rid of it. All that sugar goes into our muscles and, when they are full, into our fat. This makes our energy crash and makes us crave food again.
Secondly, we are eating carbohydrate at the expense of more nutritious foods. Most very high carbohydrate foods are shockingly low in other nutrients. There is nothing you can get in a cup of rice or bread that you will not get a hundred times more of if you eat a cup of dark leafy greens, root vegetables, or nonsweet fruit. Even sweet fruits have a reduced amount of antioxidants and vitamins compared to nonsweet or fatty fruits. But we are filling our stomachs with these carby foods instead of more nutritious foods.
Finally, unless you are an endurance athlete, a high carb diet is really unnecessary. As long as they are otherwise healthy, the average person can run just as well on ketones 24/7 as on glucose. What are ketones? They are a combination of fats and proteins that makes an alternative energy source for our bodies to run on. When you run marathons weekly you burn all that extra glucose, so you don’t store fat long term, and don’t go hypoglycemic. But when you don’t burn that glucose, the appetite cycle begins
When we focus on fats and proteins, we control our insulin cycles. This is the complete opposite of carbohydrate. When our bodies need energy on ketones, they can ask us to eat more, or just make ketones out of our own muscle and fat, tiding us over until the next meal. And if we have too many ketones they will be flushed out of our bodies through our urine, rather than stored as fat. Many people on ketogenic diets manage to put on a little weight, but nobody ever got obese on a ketogenic diet. Your energy will be topped up all day without gaining fat.
We also eat smaller amounts of high calorie food, leaving room in our stomachs for high nutrient foods. This means that all those nutrients that fight fatigue, such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin E, etc, have a better chance of getting into our diets. A huge plate of mixed greens and shredded root vegetables with a couple of eggs or some beef or fried tofu can make an amazing, satisfying, micronutrient-dense, energizing meal, no need for high carb foods.