From time to time, everyone struggles with feelings of low energy. Sometimes the reasons you’re feeling tired are easy to identify and temporary: maybe you had a late night, or maybe you haven’t had a proper meal. But sometimes, fatigue can be longer lasting and have deeper causes.
Too often, people reach for ineffective patches to try to gain more energy, when they are in fact, battling chronic fatigue. When you feel tired all the time, another cup of coffee or a chocolate bar are not going to help. You need more solid strategies that will tackle the root causes.
What Are the Causes of Low Energy?
There isn’t just one possible cause for low energy levels. Stress can have ravaging effects on your health, and among other things, it can leave you feeling tired and drained. This is especially true if it interferes with your regular sleep schedule, or affects your appetite.
Lifestyle factors are another big reason. A poor diet is one of the most common culprits. Overly processed foods or high-sugar foods, even though loaded with energy, lack important nutrients that the body needs for optimal functioning.
Low energy can also happen due to underlying medical condition, and sometimes it’s a lingering consequence of a viral or bacterial infection. Boosting energy is also one of the benefits of the sun, so it is worth checking whether you’ve been exposed to natural sunlight sufficiently.
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
If your fatigue is extreme and constant, it might be time to consult a healthcare professional. Sometimes this can be a symptom of a condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
CFS is a long-term health condition in which a person suffers from constant fatigue to the point that it interferes with their daily activities, and sleep and rest don’t help. This condition sometimes comes with other symptoms too, like headaches, dizziness, and muscle and joint pain. Even mild physical activity can be draining for people who suffer from CFS.
So far, there is no conclusive evidence as to what exactly causes CFS. Theories point to several possible causes, such as bacterial infections, viral infections, and especially infections with the Epstein-Barr virus, genetic factors, immune system problems, or hormonal imbalances.
When it comes to the mechanism of CFS, research suggests that the feeling of fatigue comes from the way this condition affects the mitochondria in the cells. This neuro-immune disorder leads to mitochondrial damage and lowered production of ATP, the energy currency the cells use for metabolic processes.
If you are dealing with extremely low energy levels and none of your attempts to fight fatigue bring a significant improvement, then there is a possibility you are suffering from CFS and you might need to seek treatment.
Tips to Boost Your Energy Levels
Whatever the causes of your fatigue, there are strategies to boost energy levels. A healthy lifestyle can do wonders to change the way you feel. However, it’s important to know what changes are the most effective and how they affect the body, so you can find the ones that work best for you.
Improve Your Sleep Quality
When you feel tired, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on insufficient sleep. The amount of sleep you get is the most obvious place to start.
We’ve all heard that for optimal health benefits, you should get enough sleep – eight hours a day. However, when it comes to the number of hours, the reality is not quite as rigorous as that. A healthy amount of sleep is actually a range, and it depends on a person’s age.
The thing that doesn’t get so much attantion is sleep hygiene and sleep quality.
In this case, hygiene refers to a set of healthy habits that promote optimal sleep. For quality sleep, you should avoid screens at least an hour before bed, and try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. For optimal melatonin production, sleep in a completely dark room, follow the body’s natural circadian rhythm, going to bed when it’s dark, and waking up early.
If you wake up often during the night, have trouble falling asleep, or can’t seem to get enough sleep, you most likely have poor sleep quality. Apart from irregular sleep hygiene, the main causes for this predicament are usually stress or sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea in particular should be taken seriously, because not only does it interfere with your sleep, but it can also lead to a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Eat to Support Your Energy Levels
The best diet for higher energy levels isn’t necessarily loaded with carbs or fats. A healthy diet is balanced and starts with a high-fiber breakfast like whole grains to kick-start your day.
When it comes to calories, less might actually be more. Scientific evidence shows that long-term caloric restriction without malnutrition prolongs the lifespan by supporting mitochondrial health.
Remember, the mitochondria are where energy is produced in the cell. Better mitochondrial health means higher energy levels.
Instead of processed, sugary, and fatty foods, make vegetables, lean meats, fresh berries, fruits, and nuts the focus of your diet. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Avoid Energy Boosters
Quick boosts to your energy levels that come from caffeine drinks such as coffee and energy drinks might actually have the opposite effect.
Not only can excessive caffeine negatively impact your sleep, it can even affect your insulin levels and cause your blood sugar to drop. Finally, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it promotes fluid loss. If you’re not careful, it can leave you mildly dehydrated.
All of these effects of caffeine can leave you feeling fatigued and contribute to a drop in energy levels and a low mood.
Leave Cigarettes Behind
If you are a smoker, that might be a contributing factor to your decreased energy levels. Tobacco smoke negatively impacts mitochondrial health by inhibiting several proteins in the mitochondria and by worsening the damage that free radicals do to the mitochondria.
Heart and lung cells damaged by tobacco smoke are much more likely to suffer the process of apoptosis or cell death. Quitting smoking is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health. Not only will it help you boost energy levels, it will also lower your risk of lung and heart disease.
Support Your Gut Health
What does your gut have to do with fatigue? Apparently, a lot. An imbalance in gut bacteria and overall poor gut health increases the amount of compounds called cytokines in the body.
These compounds cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which, in turn, leaves you feeling sluggish and exhausted.
The solution? Eat fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, drink plenty of water, and try red light therapy for optimal gut health. You can also use red light therapy for gut health.
When you already feel tired, the last thing you want to do is spend what little energy you have on exercise. However, a sedentary lifestyle might be a huge contributing factor to the way you’re feeling.
Regular exercise supports your mitochondrial health in two ways. First, it stimulates your body to make more mitochondria.
Secondly, exercise also increases the amount of oxygen your body needs – and oxygen is one of the main ingredients the mitochondria need for energy production. Deep breathing during less strenuous activities such as yoga does the same job.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Sometimes low energy can be the result of mental health issues. Depression, grief, and anxiety can be particularly exhausting, leaving you feeling lethargic and too tired to do anything.
If you suspect this might be the case, consider reaching out for help. Talking therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful. Sometimes, your low mood can be caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Red light therapy for SAD is highly recommended.
Lifestyle changes might help too – like living a simple lifestyle, getting more rest, and spending more time outdoors. And don’t forget to introduce relaxing activities to your routine, to help you reduce stress.
Check Your Iron Levels
Iron deficiency is a common reason why people feel like they don’t have enough energy.
Iron is a building block for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. If you don’t have enough iron, your cells don’t get enough oxygen to produce energy.
Harness the Power of Light
Simply put, our bodies are programmed to live in the sunshine: we are built to be awake and alert when it’s light out and to sleep when it’s dark.
There are a number of mechanisms through which sunlight boosts energy. The main mechanism is related to the circadian rhythm and the related hormonal processes which happen during periods of light and dark.
Red light therapy can reduce fatigue and boost your energy significantly. Therapy with a device that emits red and near-infrared light can help regulate this natural rhythm of sleep and waking, stimulate serotonin production, and strengthen the mitochondria.
With just a short daily treatment, you can alleviate sleep problems, balance certain hormones, and increase your energy levels.