Survive the silly season with these energy boosting foods

December usually sees the work and school chaos colliding with Christmas shopping, holiday planning, food preparation and social occasions, which means long days and long nights. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be exhausting, a time when your energy might be looking a little more ‘silent night’ than ‘jingle bells’.

Fatigue can be caused by many things during the silly season including disrupted sleep patterns from late night parties, unhealthy eating and drinking too much. But overall, we feel stressed from too many obligations and trying to do too many things in a very short period of time. While for most people the holidays are a time of joy spent with those closest to you, the change from your daily routine can have a pretty strong effect.


Why do I feel tired during the holidays?

After socialising and having a late night, you can still get a good night’s sleep. But if you find yourself feeling tired even after sleeping well, then it might mean that other lifestyle factors are involved.
 
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Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can increase our melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy, but while it can make some fall asleep faster, it leads to poorer sleep and increased ‘wake periods’ during the night making us feel tired the next day and even week. Holidays are usually a time when people drink a lot more than usual, but not many realise that it can still affect your body more than a day after.

To minimise this, try to reduce your alcohol intake by taking breaks in between events and opting for a non-alcoholic beverage instead. Sparkling mineral water with a dash of lemon or lime is an easy winner! Try our berry soda or refreshing lemonade recipes.

Impact of food

Tummy troubles, including reflux and indigestion, from eating too much or foods that we don’t normally eat can be a sleep killer. Eating dessert or sugary food just before bed can leave you with a sugar high, which can also impact your sleep. But eating sugar during the day will decrease alertness and increase feelings of fatigue within the first hour post ingestion.

Burnout

Even social butterflies will admit December is an endurance event. From trying to accomplish all the tasks at work and attending end-of-year events for your kids, to Christmas shopping and catching up with your loved ones, the pressure of trying to do everything can be overwhelming.

Sometimes you might not realise you’re feeling the stress of it all, until it starts impacting your sleep, diet and mental health. To prevent burnout, try to carve out some quiet time just for yourself, stick to your favourite exercise or plan some family down-time in the ‘holiday cheer’ calendar. And remember you don’t need to do it all – it’s ok to say no sometimes.
 

How can I fight fatigue naturally?


To fight fatigue and sustain energy levels, think about what you eat and drink, the way you eat and drink and how often you’re moving. Our dietitians recommend:

1. The power of three
Eating three well-balanced meals every day will help maintain your energy levels and prevent you from overeating throughout the day. Skipping meals or not following your normal meal routine can lead to energy slumps and grabbing unhealthy snacks. It also sends your blood sugar levels and body’s ability to regulate appetite on a roller coaster.

For example, choosing a low GI breakfast cereal with fruit and yoghurt or wholegrain toast and your favourite topping will help regulate your blood sugar and help provide satiety, preventing later sugar cravings. Check out our light and easy breakfast recipes, perfect for summer.

2. Work it out
When we are stressed and tired, exercise is often one of the first things to go. But regular physical activity is important in helping to fight tiredness. It helps release endorphins which can help give us an energy boost and can also help us get a good night sleep.

3. Water is key
Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration, which can happen after drinking too much or not drinking enough water. One of the easiest ways to keep your energy levels up is to drink plenty of water. It’s the main component of your blood and helps to carry nutrients throughout your body. The average adult needs at least 1.5-2.0L (about 6-8 glasses) of water every day, so be sure to keep a water bottle handy at all times and keep sipping. Add a squeeze of lemon or a sprig of fresh mint for taste variety.
 

6 fatigue fighting foods for an energy boost


When that energy slump hits, don’t reach for the sweets or another cup of coffee. While they will give you a quick rush, the best energy boosting foods are ones with complex carbs, protein and fibre.

1. Nuts
Nuts are high in protein, which is needed for sustained energy release and will help keep your blood glucose levels constant. Read more about how nuts are good for your health.

2. Wholegrain breads
Your body needs carbs for energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Wholegrain bread has lower GI than white bread and is great for a longer lasting energy kick. It will help to sustain energy levels, because it breaks down slower, meaning a steady supply of energy into your fuel tank.

3. Bananas
According to this research, bananas work just as well as sports drinks in keeping the body fuelled for a long time. They’re also rich in potassium, fibre and vitamins.

4. Chia seeds
These tiny nutritional powerhouses are an excellent source of prolonged energy thanks to carb content, healthy fats and filling fibre. Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of chia seeds with your morning smoothie or add a scoop to your yoghurt to help keep the fatigue at bay.

5. Eggs
B vitamins help the body convert food into the form of energy that cells can burn, which is why having an egg as a snack is a great option to boost your energy, as eggs contain 30% of the RDI of vitamin B12.

6. Dark chocolate
It wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate! Thanks to high levels of flavonoids and iron, good quality dark chocolate helps increase blood flow to the brain making you more alert and attentive. Find out more about how chocolate can be healthy for you, here.
 
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It’s important to remember, while some fatigue is normal, ongoing, extreme fatigue is not.

Symptoms such as profound and unexplained fatigue, memory or concentration difficulties, muscle pain or weakness and headaches could be a sign of an underlying issue such as iron deficiency or chronic fatigue. If you are having any of these symptoms you should see your doctor.

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