Feeling Tired? Avoid these energy zappers

Thursday, 27 May 2021

As we get older we all get a little more tired. It’s part of the aging process.

Our bodies lose mitochondria (energy-producing engines in the cells) and we produce less adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the molecule that delivers energy to cells throughout our body.

Other causes of tiredness can include medication or chronic illness.

But age and disease-related factors aren’t the only drains on your energy. Your lifestyle habits may be to blame too. The following energy zappers are common culprits that you can change.


We naturally lose muscle mass as we age. Being sedentary compounds the problem by weakening and shrinking muscles and causing them to use energy inefficiently.

Physical activity strengthens muscles, helps them become more efficient and increases the production of energy-producing brain chemicals.

Don’t be intimidated by the recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, at least five days a week. The 30 minutes can be spread out into several shorter periods. And you don’t need to break a sweat.

Whatever exercise you can do will help. It can be simple as walking up stairs or getting up and moving during the ad breaks on TV.

Too much stress

Chronic stress can increase levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol reduces production of ATP and it increases inflammation, which also reduces ATP production.

But stress-reduction techniques can lower cortisol levels.

Things you can try to reduce stress include yoga, mindfulness meditation, tai chi or breathing exercises. As little as 10 minutes a  day can help.

A poor diet

If you’re not nourishing your body, you won’t have the vitamins and minerals necessary to produce enough ATP, and you’ll feel more tired.

Eating too much processed food can increase inflammation, which impairs the production of ATP and energy.

If you’re older and your appetite isn’t what it used to be, you may not give your body the calories and fuel it needs to function. On the flip side, if you’re eating too much food at one time, that can cause blood glucose spikes and lead to fatigue.

The fix, healthy eating. Eat whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins like fish, chicken, nuts, and seeds. The fatty acids in protein-rich foods also help boost ATP. And aim for smaller meals with snacks in between to provide your body with a steady supply of nutrients and fewer blood glucose spikes.

No enough sleep

A lack of sleep increases cortisol and also promotes inflammation. Sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing during sleep), also leads to the dips in blood oxygen levels that lowers ATP and energy.

Talk to your doctor about any underlying problems that might be causing problems with your sleep – like sleep apnoea or frequent trips to the bathroom which may be an indicator for diabetes.

To get better sleep work on improving your sleep hygiene. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep your room cool, quiet, and free of electronics, which stimulate your brain.

What you drink matters

Drinking sugary soft drinks can cause blood glucose spikes followed by a drop, that causes tiredness.

Being dehydrated can also make you feel tired. So can drinking too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks near bedtime. Did you know that alcohol interrupts sleep in the middle of the night?

To make sure what you drink isn’t draining your energy, replace sugary soft drinks with water. If you find water boring add some fruit for extra flavour. Its also a good idea to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol within six to eight hours of bed.

Social isolation

Being isolated and not seeing others on a regular basis is associated with depression, and depression is linked to fatigue.

Interacting and connecting with others can bring a different outlook and give you more energy. Scientists are learning that we produce different types of brain chemicals that make us happier and give us more energy when we connect to people.

Make plans to get together with others at least once per week. It can be friends, family, neighbours, or even new acquaintances.

When is low energy a problem?

If fatigue is affecting your day and is accompanied by  other symptoms like headache, muscle or joint pain, fever, or stomach or urinary problems, it could be something a little more serious. If this happens make an appointment to see your  doctor.

This article first appeared in Harvard Health

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