One of the most important but most neglected reasons for feeling fatigued is simply not eating enough! I have worked with many women clients who have whittled down their calorie intake to 1200 (or less), which has negatively affected energy production, thyroid health, hormone balance, sex drive, the health of hair, skin, and nails, and metabolic rate.
When you do not eat enough calories to fuel your body’s complex needs it will think it is starving, and conserve fuel by downregulating non-essential functions such as optimum energy production (amongst many others)
Often women lower their calorie intake in a bid to lose weight, but this can actually cause the reverse effect and increase body fat storage and lower metabolism. One of the best parts of my job is to teach women how to eat more, exercise less, and achieve the body of their dreams (this is one of the principles behind food freedom and living in a body you love – and you can start here with my 7-day sugar detox program).
In my professional opinion, the rise in lower protein diets, unhealthy intermittent fasting (here’s how to do it right) and poorly managed vegan diets are to blame for so many of the current chronic health issues I regularly see in my female clients. Protein is the key macronutrient for so many of our body’s structures and metabolic processes (from building and preservation of muscle, prevention of skin aging, and even hormone and neurotransmitter production) and inadequate daily amounts can lead to low energy, slowing of metabolism, and even depression and anxiety.
Protein is essential for blood sugar balance (because of this the Skinny on Sugar food formula is always protein, fibre and fat at every meal and snack), and diets 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), whilst optimum protein intake has been shown to decrease chronic inflammation, one of the root causes of low energy and fatigue.
After ensuring adequate daily protein intake (and overall calorie intake) the next step would be to check for any possible nutrient deficiencies. Typically women can become nutrient deficient after child birth and/or breastfeeding (especially if a second child was conceived within 18 months of the birth of the first), after crash/fad dieting (or 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 body’s energy currency.
If you are unable to see your PCP for non-essential health visits you can test for nutrient deficiencies at home with the Iron Test and the Essential Vitamin Test from ‘Let’s Get Checked’ (use code ‘JENNIFERH’ for a 10% discount).
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 energy production. The health of our thyroid is directly affected by aspects of our everyday lifestyle and diet, such as:
• Nutrient deficiencies as described above.
• 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.
How well your thyroid functions affects 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 Private Coaching Clients I like to see a full thyroid panel including markers for TSH, T4, T3 and Reverse T3.
The first step to increasing your energy? Quitting sugar and improving your metabolic health with my Sugar Detox program. Find out more here.