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Why Are You Always Tired? The 7 Most Common Causes and Their Solutions

Do you regularly come home from work feeling like you have no energy left for anything? Cleaning or exercising seems like something impossible? Or do you wake up first thing in the morning without energy? You’re not alone. Everyone’s felt that feeling before. But there’s not just any old fatigue. There is a difference whether you feel it after a hard strength training session where you’ve heavy weights, or if it comes on regularly, and you have no idea why. 

In today’s article, we will discuss the 7 most common causes of fatigue and reveal how to combat them so that you are once again full of energy and a renewed zest for life.

1. Poor diet

What you eat fundamentally affects how you feel. It’s like a car. You can’t expect it to run as it should if you “feed” it with poor quality fuel. If you build your diet around highly processed food, your food intake will consist of foods with a high-energy density and, conversely, a low nutritional density. How to comprehend this? In practice, this means that with these meals you receive a high amount of calories in a relatively small volume, which comes from sugar, refined carbohydrates and low-quality fats. Thus, this is nothing to stand by. In addition, such food usually contains relatively little fibre and micronutrients, such as vitamins or minerals. Deficiency of these can again be related to fatigue, as well as obesity, which is quite common for people consuming this type of food. Ultra-processed foods rich in sugar and fat stimulate the reward centre in the brain. This makes it easy to overeat, which can lead to weight gain.

You’re thinking this is definitely not your case because you eat mostly healthy food? If you are more sensitive to carbohydrates, it is possible that you will not avoid fatigue after eating, even if you eat healthy foods. If you treat yourself to a large serving of oatmeal for breakfast, there may be a greater release of insulin, and thus a sharp drop in blood sugar, which will cause fatigue. This secretion of insulin can cause more tryptophan to enter the brain. It affects production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which in turn may be related to your fatigue. Unfortunately, you will not help yourself if you decide to replace carbohydrates in your food with fat. This macronutrient takes the longest to digest, which can cause a feeling of heaviness and fullness. [1-2]

If you want to learn more about how to avoid feeling sleepy after eating, you should not miss our article Why Do You Feel Tired After Eating and How To Avoid This?

How to avoid lows after eating?

Fatigue may also be related to food intolerance or portion size

In addition to the above reasons, a particular food can also cause a lack of energy after eating, especially in the case of intolerance. Fatigue often affects people who suffer from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. In addition with a doctor, a self-diagnostic test can help detect proper adherence to a gluten-free diet or to uncover or diagnose this problem. [3]

However, in addition to large portions, we should also mention too small portions, which can also lead to fatigue. Often this condition occurs in people who decide to lose weight and establish too large caloric deficit. This will then cause a lack of energy for normal activities of daily living. In the end, this restriction can have much more serious consequences, which you will be familiar with from the article dedicated to the female athletic triad. To avoid these problems and still lose weight, we recommend using our energy intake calculator to help you calculate both calories and macronutrients.

How to eat healthily?

Equally important, however, is adherence of water intake and sufficient hydration. In an adult, 55 – 70% of body weight is made up of water, and fatigue is just one of the many symptoms of dehydration. Daily fluid intake should be approximately between 30 – 45ml per kilogram of body weight. On hot summer days and during sports activities, the overall need for liquids can increase even more, so this must be taken into account. [4]

Resolution of dietary problems

Make sure your diet has very few ultra – processed foods as possible which have a minimal nutrient content. Focus on fresh ingredients, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, keep a balanced ratio of all macronutrients, and remember their intake during the day, and portion sizes, also play a role. So try to eat regularly and not overeat. An obvious part of a healthy diet is also water intake based on fresh water. If you really want to lose weight, do not go to any extremes, calculate your optimal energy intake and try to eat healthier.

In case you still feel unwell after certain foods, try to investigate for yourself where the problem is. You can write down your diet together with the feelings and manifestations the food has caused. If a more serious problem is suspected, do not be afraid to seek medical advice.

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2. Lack or too much of exercise

Do you spend every afternoon and evening on the couch because you’re exhausted from work? Quite possibly, this (in)activity is the real cause of your fatigue. From sitting at your computer all day and thinking, one is often more tired mentally. It is physical activity that can be a great way to get rid of fatigue and increase the subjective amount of energy felt. This is also confirmed by studies aimed at people with sedentary lifestyles, in which researchers ordered regular activity. These people then had a significant increase in energy and a decrease in fatigue. [5–6]

Again, you may feel that this point does not concern you because you work on your body every day. However, excessive exercise is another cause of fatigue and lack of energy. If you exercise intensively, your reluctance to exercise increases, you lose motivation, you are tired and your results do not seem to be improving, then you may well have just encountered overtraining. [7]

Learn more about this issue in the article Overtraining: Fact or Myth? 

Resolution of problems with exercise

The most effective solution to lack of exercise is not to think about not wanting to exercise, but to just get up and move. It’s not relevant if you go for a run, a bike ride, go for a walk or play a game of footy with your friends. It is important to regularly be active and not spend all your time lying around. You’ll see that your reward in the form of an influx of endorphins (hormones that cause good mood) from exercising is worth it.

If you feel you have rather the opposite problem and think that your fatigue might be from overtraining, then you have no choice but to ease up. Instead of an intense workout, try light yoga. You can then build a new training plan according to advice from the article How To Build A Quality Training Plan – Tips, Training and the Most Common Mistakes.   

How to approach fatigue caused by over training or lack of movement?

3. You do not know how to plan

Being able to handle time well can be really difficult at first. However, this is an effective method to help you prioritize, reduce stress levels and therefore fatigue. Plus, you’ll also make time for activities you like. If you are experiencing frequent fatigue, you are stressed, have difficulty concentrating or sleeping, then you may well have just come across a possible cause. This awareness is the first step in enabling you to begin working toward change. [8]

Improve time management

At the beginning of each week (or day), list all the activities you would like to pursue and divide them into 3 categories:

  • Urgent – this category includes the most important tasks that cannot be delayed or put off. Examples include a deadline to commit to a project you’ve been working on for six months, or the last possible day to pay your electricity bill before you’re disconnected. It is ideal to perform all tasks before they become urgent. It is the urgent tasks that cause the most stress.
  • Important – this category is for activities that have some significance for you. This can include sporting activities or appointments. At the same time, it also includes things that become urgent in the event of prolonged postponement.
  • Least important – included in this category are activities that you have written on your list of activities but do not consider important. Ironing towels, for example, can be such an activity – if you don’t iron them, it doesn’t matter.

Once you’ve divided your assignments this way, schedule when you want to do them. Also, try to avoid making important tasks urgent. Surely, it’s less stressful to turn a project in a week earlier rather than leaving it to the last minute and hoping there won’t be any technical problems. [9]

It can also help you to divide larger projects into smaller parts when planning, which will make achieving your goal less challenging. This will also make you more likely to embark on completing the task. It’s also good to know what time of day you’re most productive. Set aside this time for the most demanding tasks. Their accomplishment will be easier for you and will take less time in the end. And if things don’t go according to plan, keep in mind that we’re not always perfect, and it’s normal to make mistakes sometimes. Don’t stress about it and rather learn from the situation. You’ll see that next time you will do better. If you learn to manage your time well, you’ll find you’re much more productive, have more time for activities you enjoy, and even reduce the level of stress and fatigue you feel. It’ll make you sleep better and make the world rosier again.

For more tips to help you reduce stress, see the article Why Is Stress Dangerous and How To Reduce It?

How to approach effective time management?

4. Poor sleep

According to the opinion of the National Sleep Foundation and the World Health Organisation, every adult should sleep an average of 7 – 9 hours every night. It is not enough to have five hours of sleep daily during the working week and then catch up by spending the whole weekend in bed. One needs to have a certain routine, and accumulating a sleep deficit is not functional. This irregular routine is more likely to throw your body off, which can cause fatigue. However, you may feel the same way even after excessive sleep. Perhaps you’ve ever experienced first-hand what it’s like to wake up after 12 hours of sleep and still feel as if you’ve been run over by a steamroller.  [10-12]

Resolution of sleep issues

To avoid fatigue associated with sleep deprivation, excess sleep or poor quality, it is a good idea to focus on your sleep hygiene. For starters, a few of our tips might help:

  • Go to bed at the same time every day and get up at about the same time, even on weekends.
  • Plan that you have at least between 7 and 9 hours sleep daily.
  • Practice relaxation techniques to help you sleep. You can try different breathing exercises or visualization techniques. [13]
  • Try not to look at any screens such as phone or television before bed, or set night mode so the display doesn’t glow blue at you. This way, it suppressed the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Special glasses designed for this can help with blue light blocking to some extent. [14-15]
  • If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid having it in the afternoon.
  • Avoid intense physical activity before sleep.
  • Sleep in a well-ventilated room that won’t be overheated. A temperature range of 15 – 18 °C is ideal.
  • Invest in a quality mattress.

If you think your fatigue is due to sleep problems, try keeping a diary to record the quality of your sleep, as with your diet. As you write this, don’t forget the overall context of your day – if you’ve exercised, how much you’ve been working, if you’ve been stressed, what have you been eating for dinner, what you’ve been thinking about when you’ve gone to bed, that sort of thing. All these apparent little things can affect the resulting quality of sleep. Thanks to these notes, you may find that, for example, drinking alcohol in the evening or working into the night is not good for you because then you are unable to fall asleep or otherwise known as being able to “turn off”.

How to fall asleep quickly and get a good night's sleep?

5. Vitamins or minerals deficiency

As mentioned in the point regarding diet, lack of vitamins or minerals may also be one of the causes of your fatigue. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t give your body enough vitamin C on Monday, you won’t get out of bed on Tuesday due to fatigue. However, you need to be mindful of a high quality and varied diet that will guarantee you a sufficient intake of these substances. In particular, it is important to focus on your magnesium, iron, vitamin C, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12 intake. It is these vitamins and minerals that contribute to reducing fatigue and exhaustion. [16-17] 

Resolution of vitamin and mineral deficiency

If you’re wondering how your vitamin and mineral levels are, you can try a self – diagnostic test or ask your doctor for an appropriate test. In case of the lack of a particular component it is possible to help improve this with the intake of a nutritional supplement. However, a balanced and varied diet is essential, with an emphasis on plenty of fruit and vegetables. Alternatively, you can also try to include adaptogens to help reduce stress and fatigue.

6. The weather affects you

Do you ever wake up in the morning on a rainy day and already know that everything is wrong – do you feel tired, without energy and do not want to do anything? To some extent, however, you create these feelings for yourself in the way you approach this situation. Why have a bad day just because of the rain? Try to look optimistically at the situation and make the most of it. 

How to deal with a bad mood influenced by the weather?

If it’s not nice out, think of it as an opportunity to spend the whole afternoon at home under a blanket with a cup of tea and your favourite book. Even moments like these can have a good effect on your psyche and recharge your batteries for the next few days. 

If you’re not afraid of more extreme challenges, take the rain as an opportunity to push your limits. How about throwing on some waterproof clothes and going for a little run? You’ll see it’s not as bad as you imagined after all. Especially on summer days, such activity can also be a pleasant refreshment. And the feeling that you’ve done it and outdone yourself is really worth it.

Further advice on an optimistic approach to life can be found in a separate article – 12 Tips On How To Take A Positive Approach To Life Even In Difficult Situations. 

How to be optimistic and stay positive in all situations?

7. You might be chronically ill

In addition to the points mentioned above, chronic disease or its treatment can also cause frequent fatigue. For example, it is typically diabetes, a disease that can cause sugar levels to rise. This is then linked to feelings of tiredness, lower concentration and attention deficits. However, these manifestations are often associated with unhealthy lifestyles, which can often also be seen in obese people. [18] 

Does some form of resolution exist?

Chronic illness and medications taken on a regular basis may not be that easy to eliminate. If you feel that they may be related to your fatigue, you should notify your doctor. Again, however, dietary modification and inclusion of exercise can help to a large extent.

What should you remember?

If you are tired after strenuous strength training, don’t worry, it’s normal. If you are often affected by fatigue, and you do not know the cause, and it disrupts your daily life, then it is about time to do something about it. You can start right away, for example, by eliminating ultra-processed foods from your diet and replacing them with a quality diet rich in fruits and vegetables. This will provide your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals. Do not neglect to maintain fluid intake and try to include regular exercise. Fatigue can also be caused by poor sleep or stress. So do everything you can to give your body sufficient quality rest at night and learn how to plan your day better. If these changes don’t help in your life, try to consult your doctor about your condition.

Do you, too, have any guaranteed way of coping with fatigue? Share it in the comments and if you liked the article, don’t forget to share it among your friends. Maybe you can help them solve their long-term fatigue problem.

Sources:

[1] Richard J Wurtman et al. – Effects of normal meals rich in carbohydrates or proteins on plasma tryptophan and tyrosine ratios – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12499331/

[2] Complex carbohydrates – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19529.htm#:~:text=Complex%20carbohydrates%20are%20made%20up,and%20are%20used%20as%20energy.

[3] How Tired Is Too Tired? – https://www.webmd.com/balance/how-tired-is-too-tired

[4] Barry M. Popkin et al. – Water, Hydration and Health – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/#R1

[5] Timothy W Puetz et al. – Effects of chronic exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue: a quantitative synthesis – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17073524/

[6] Matthew P Herring – The effect of acute resistance exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19424902/

[7] R Budgett – Fatigue and underperformance in athletes: the overtraining syndrome – http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.32.2.107

[8] Why is time management key? – https://www.stress.org.uk/why-is-time-management-key/

[9] Stress Management: Managing Your Time – https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/av2103

[10] WHO technical meeting on sleep and health – https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/114101/E84683.pdf

[11] Max Hirshkowitz et al. – National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/

[12] How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

[13] Relaxation Exercises to Help Fall Asleep – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/relaxation-exercises-to-help-fall-asleep

[14] Jeremy Bigalke et al. – Effect of evening blue light blocking glasses on subjective and objective sleep in healthy adults: A randomized control trial – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33707105/

[15] Karolina Janků et alt. – Block the light and sleep well: Evening blue light filtration as a part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31752544/

[16] Anne-Laure Tardy et al. – Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019700/

[17] Nariadenie Komisie (EÚ) č. 432/2012 – https://www.uvzsr.sk/docs/info/hv/nariadenie_432_2012.pdf

[18] Sanjay Kalra– Diabetes Fatigue Syndrome – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13300-018-0453-x