QA Ed Tooley - Fighting Fatigue
I always start the New Year expecting a new lease of vibrant energy, only to discover that not only am I still exhausted from the festive period, but that my eating habits have taken a serious downward spiral.
When we’re feeling fatigued, we tend to reach for the caffeine and sugary foods to help give us an instant energy boost. This can help in the short-term, but it can actually be counter-productive and can prevent recovery from long-term fatigue - for example delaying/impacting sleep.
I caught up with our resident expert Ed Tooley, Performance Nutritionist for England Rugby League, to find out how we can support fatigue management through a more conscious approach to what we eat to get our energy levels back on track.
It’s about making that conscious shift out of those bad habits and purposefully choosing foods to maintain an even level of energy throughout the day and avoid the spikes and slumps from caffeine or high GI foods.
Fatigue symptoms are linked closely with stress from modern lifestyles, so the start of a new year is a good time for us to become more skilled in how to combat the symptoms of fatigue and help prevent future burnout.
Plus, fatigue from Covid has become increasingly common in the last few years as it’s one of the more prevalent symptoms with the most long-lasting effects. Something which many of us are still struggling with.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to improve fatigue management, you’ll hopefully find some useful tips and reminders in Ed’s advice:
1. Hydrate, don’t caffeinate.
- Good hydration is essential for your body to function correctly. If an athlete becomes even slightly dehydrated it can reduce their performance significantly, so Ed always ensures his players are properly hydrated at all times.
- Instead of starting your day with regular tea or coffee, switch instead to a drink which will hydrate you, but without giving you a caffeine hit. Although we associate caffeine with helping to give us an energy boost, it’s actually a lot better for you to maintain consistent energy throughout the day when fighting fatigue and just use caffeine when really necessary. (remember to limit it later in the day so it doesn’t impact sleep and you enter the vicious cycle of tiredness —> caffeine —-> impacted sleep —> tiredness —> repeat).
- Cutting back on alcohol can also make a big difference – not just by reducing your sugar spikes and slumps, but also helping you to wake up feeling brighter and more energised the following day.
2. Keep to low GI foods – avoid those sugar spikes.
According to Ed, the key here is to avoid spikes in your energy levels from High GI foods. In the same way as caffeine, these high sugar foods can give instant gratification and an energy boost, but within an hour you can start to feel the slump.
- Eat slow-release carbs such as oats, wholegrain/black/wild rice, rye bread and boiled sweet potatoes.
- Eat regular meals and planned snacks from whole foods.
- Have ‘better choice’ ‘Plan B’s’ (snacks to have to hand for when you don’t have time to prepare food or sit down and eat) available such as whole fruits, nuts and seeds.
3. Eat to help you sleep and replenish
Sleep health is absolutely key to helping your body fight fatigue, so Ed recommends ensuring you have a good routine in order.
Once you have the basics in place, he suggests supporting your sleep through optimised nutrition with natural foods that have been shown to improve sleep quality.
There is early research suggesting that eating Kiwi fruit before bed can make quite a difference to improving sleep quality. This is thought to be due to the fruit containing anti-oxidants and serotonin.
Ed also recommends Tart Cherry Juice as a natural sleep aid as it helps the body produce melatonin and maximise its effects. Make sure you look out for the unsweetened variety though as you want it in its most natural form.
Read our advice here for how to create a healthy sleep routine to help get those basics in place.
DID YOU KNOW?
Magnesium is an essential tool for helping your body fight fatigue, as it’s vital for the following:
- Energy production – Magnesium helps with the production of ATP, which is your bodies energy currency – think of it like the electricity which powers your body.
- Better sleep – Magnesium is an essential part of Melatonin production, which is the hormone responsible for providing you with a deeper, more replenishing night’s sleep.