Feeling tired on a regular basis is extremely common. In fact, about one-third of healthy teens and adults report feeling sleepy or fatigued. Fatigue is a common symptom of several conditions and serious diseases, but in most cases it is caused by simple lifestyle factors. Fortunately, these are most often easy things to fix.
Let’s talk about 10 potential reasons why you’re always tired and look at ways to get your energy back!
- Consuming Too Many Refined Carbs
Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy. When you eat them, your body breaks them down into sugar, which can be used for fuel. However, eating too many refined carbs can actually cause you to feel tired throughout the day (these are such items as bread, rice, pasta, muesli bars, bakery items, crackers, wraps etc.)
When sugar and processed carbs are consumed, they cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar. This signals your pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells.
This spike in blood sugar levels — and subsequent fall — can make you feel exhausted. Craving quick energy, you instinctively reach for another serving of refined carbs, which can lead to a vicious cycle.
To keep your energy levels stable, replace sugar and refined carbs with whole foods that are rich in fiber, such as vegetables.
- Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
Inactivity could be the root cause of your low energy. But many people say they’re too tired to exercise.
One explanation could be chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is characterized by extreme, unexplained fatigue on a daily basis. However, the research states even with CFS, exercise does help in reducing fatigue.
To boost your energy levels, replace sedentary behaviors with active ones. For instance, stand rather than sit down whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk instead of driving short distances.
- Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is one of the more obvious causes of fatigue. After a night of high-quality sleep, you typically wake up feeling refreshed, alert and energized. For adults, this is usually around 7 hours, on average.
In addition to getting enough sleep, maintaining a regular sleep routine also seems to help prevent tiredness. Being physically active during the day will help you get more restorative sleep at night.
To improve the amount and quality of your sleep, go to bed at roughly the same time every night, relax before sleeping and get plenty of activity during the day.
- Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities or intolerances typically cause symptoms like rashes, digestive problems, runny nose or headaches. But fatigue is another symptom that’s often overlooked.
Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn.
If you suspect that certain foods may be making you tired, consider working with an allergist or nutritionist who can test you for food sensitivities or prescribe an elimination diet to determine which foods are problematic.
Summary: Food intolerances can cause fatigue or low energy levels. Following a food elimination diet may help determine which foods you are sensitive to.
- Not Eating Enough Calories
Consuming too few calories can cause feelings of exhaustion. Calories are units of energy found in food. Your body uses them to move and fuel processes like breathing and maintaining a constant body temperature.
When you eat too few calories, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy, potentially causing fatigue. Your body can function within a range of calories depending on your weight, height, age and other factors.
To keep your energy levels up, avoid drastic cuts in calorie intake, even if your goal is weight loss.
- Sleeping at the Wrong Time
In addition to inadequate sleep, sleeping at the wrong time can reduce your energy. Sleeping during the day instead of at night disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm, which are the biological changes that occur in response to light and darkness during a 24-hour cycle.
This is a common problem among people who perform shift or night work.
It’s best to sleep during the night whenever possible.
- Not Getting Enough Protein
Inadequate protein intake could be contributing to your fatigue. Consuming protein has been shown to boost your metabolic rate more than carbs or fat do. In addition to aiding weight loss, this may also help prevent tiredness.
There are certain amino acids which can help fight fatigue, known as branched chain amino acids. Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein.
To keep your metabolism strong and prevent fatigue, aim to consume a high-quality protein source at every meal.
- Inadequate Hydration
Staying well hydrated is important for maintaining good energy levels. The many biochemical reactions that take place in your body every day result in a loss of water that needs to be replaced.
Even mild dehydration can lead to lower energy levels and a decreased ability to concentrate
Although you may have heard that you should drink eight glasses of water daily, you may require more or less than this depending on your weight, age, gender and level of activity.
- Relying on Energy Drinks
There’s no shortage of beverages that promise to provide quick energy. Energy drinks typically include; caffeine, sugar, taurine (amino acid), large doses of B vitamins and herbs.
It’s true that these beverages may provide a temporary energy boost due to their high caffeine and sugar contents. Unfortunately, these energy drinks are also likely to set you up for rebound fatigue when the effects of caffeine and sugar wear off.
To break the cycle, try cutting back and gradually weaning yourself off these energy drinks. In addition, limit coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
- High Stress Levels
Chronic stress may have a profound effect on your energy levels and quality of life. Although some stress is normal, excessive levels of stress are significantly linked to feelings of fatigue.
While you may not be able to avoid stressful situations, developing strategies for managing your stress may help prevent you from feeling completely exhausted.
Strategies include stretching routines, meditation, other exercise or mind-body practices may ultimately help you feel more energetic and better able to cope with stress.
The Bottom Line
There are many possible causes for feeling chronically tired. It’s important to rule out medical conditions first, as fatigue often accompanies illness.
However, feeling overly tired may be related to what you eat and drink, how much activity you get or the way you manage stress.
The good news is that making a few lifestyle changes may very well improve your energy levels and overall quality of life.