Fatigue

Oh, I complain a lot, I know…

But the last few weeks I have been tired.

Typically, I feel best on about 7.5 hours of sleep a night. And, as the days get longer, I generally wake up earlier and more easily than through the darkest days of winter.

But the last few weeks, I have been getting around 9 or more hours of sleep, and really struggling to get up and out of bed. Once I’m up and moving, I’m mostly good, but I can honestly say that staying in bed for another hour or two would be an option if I didn’t have to work.

I try to go to bed between 10 and 10:30pm every night. 7.5 hours of sleep would take me to 6am. The earliest I’ve gotten out of bed for two weeks is 7:30am! Today it was 8:20! What is going on!?

Stress

Yes, there’s some stress in my life, and I’ll share more about it in another post, and this is probably affecting how I feel and perform to some extent. In my family we deal with stress in two ways:

  1. Shouting, freaking, and bouts of intense activity
  2. Sleeping and avoiding the problem at all costs

My mother is a very clear example of type one (something must be done, and if it gets done now it will be dealt with and it will all be fine!), and my sister a type two (she always slept due to the stress of exams, for example), and I fall somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I freak out (ask my colleagues) and sometimes I just avoid and go to bed (ask my boyfriend). I think I might be doing more of #2 on a current situation right now, since there seems to be very little I can do to ‘fix this’ at this point in time. However, this isn’t really all that stressful a situation, and it’s not really playing on my mind or anything. So what else might it be?

Physical Activity

Exercise can have a lot to do with your energy levels. It can initially sap them as your body adjusts to new requirements, and then somehow magically boosts energy, as it becomes more efficient and starts seeking more activity. Overtraining can be a huge problem for the fitness enthusiast, as you push your body beyond its limits. I don’t think I’m overtraining though.

Yes, this week I’ve upped my running, but last week I didn’t run at all. I’ve also backed off the number of classes I’m doing – this is party just scheduling conflicts, but partly choices I’ve made when I’ve had the option. So it’s not that I’m doing more and needing more recovery time right now. Yes, I expected to need more sleep last night due to mileage increases. But is this playing a part over the last few weeks? I’m not so sure.

Nutrition

Obviously, how we fuel our bodies plays a major part in how we feel. Good fuel equals good feelings! I like to think I mostly eat well, but I do know that I eat too much fat and sugar and drink too much tea, and these things can cause all sorts of problems with energy cycles.

And what about other possible problems?  Like iron deficiency?

I’ve had quite a lot of meat this week due to eating leftovers because I was cooking for guests. (I find it interesting that meat is still sort of a ‘show off’ item – when you have guests, you almost always prepare meat.) Anyway… I know there’s not a heap of iron in chicken, but I’ve also had a bit of lamb nearly every day in my Tagine slice. I’m probably not iron deficient, especially since this has never really been a problem for me.

I’m probably not getting enough nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) as I haven’t had a lot of fresh salad vegetables the last few weeks. I’ve been adding spinach leaves to pretty much everything I can the last few days to increase the lovely phytochemicals in my body, but that might be a little too much of one thing, and not enough variety in my veggie intake.

Likewise, my fruit intake is back down to one piece a day on average. Geez, what is with me and fruit? Most people can easily enjoy two pieces of fruit a day, and I really have to make a conscious effort to get them. This is an ongoing problem for me, as you may know.

To compensate, I have been (intermittently at best) taking a multi-vitamin and some fish oil (ethically obtained, please and thank you) and have had a few shots of Berocca. Berocca is like an energy wonder-drug for me. All those B vitamins really do give me an energy boost without sugar and caffeine. But how much of it is my body really using? Because after taking my vitamins and Berocca, my body is clearly passing much of the excess nutrients out. Gotta love water soluble vitamins!

Energy Cycles

So, it probably has more to do with the energy cycles of caffeine, sugar and fat, which often get consumed hand-in-hand.

I have tried to restrict my caffeinated tea intake to three cups a day, and none late at night (or I get wicked weird dreams), and I tried to stop taking sugar in my tea, but just woosed out and kept using it. Bad! So I get a caffeine kick and a sugar rush, followed by a crash at least three times a day. What the heck am I thinking? I cut caffeine out of my diet during my Blackwood training and really felt the benefit of it (after getting through the withdrawal symptoms), so I think I am going to have to just say no, and be a tea teetotaler! 🙂

Likewise, they say that fat actually slows an athlete down because metabolising fat is difficult for the body, thus explaining why it is hard to lose weight fat. (Well, it’s pretty easy to lay down into fat stores, just not so easy to break down and make into a useable energy source (glycogen)). And, truthfully, I probably take in too much fat, and digesting it makes me feel lethargic.

When I look at the food diary I kept last week and I realised I was having a different ‘sometimes’ food every single day, well, it was a bit of an eye opener:

  • biscuits with a cuppa (fat and sugar and caffeine, thanks!),
  • a slice of cake and icing with a cuppa (what’s with all the sweets in a fitness centre?),
  • salsa and salty chips (sure they’re baked, but they’re made with and coated in oil!),
  • the infamous spinach and ricotta roll, with a nice side of sweet chili sauce to make it tasty,
  • two to three serves of nuts, cuz I can’t stop at just one (yes, nuts are good, but not in vast quantities!)
  • bread with butter and honey – a “few” slices (I love my carb, sugar, fat combo meals!),
  • chocolate bar (cuz I earned it, right? oh dear! What a terrible way to end the week!)

Solutions

Well, it all rests with going back to basics, doesn’t it?

  • reduce sugar intake
  • reduce caffeine intake
  • reduce fat intake
  • increase fruit intake
  • increase vegetable intake and variety
  • supplement diet with vitamins if necessary
  • continue to train at reasonable levels
  • take rest days when needed and do things that are stress-relieving

How do you manage your energy levels? Have you ever used a food diary? Did it surprise you, or affect how you ate?

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