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 Diet & Nutrition

September 2011
Bouncing Back from Fatigue
Prof.Adrian Kennedy
Tired after a long day’s work? Ever wondered why your body finds it difficult to carry on non-stop? It’s the fatigue that gets to it.

So what do you do when you are tired? You eat something that gives you energy!

People often tend to reach for a sugary snack that immediately lifts energy levels. However, the effects of simple carbohydrates last only for a short time. Blood sugar levels go up suddenly, and insulin is released to deal with it. This is followed by a sharp decline in blood sugar levels, which make you feel more fatigued than before; precisely why eating complex carbohydrates in combination with a little protein is a good idea.

Energy-boosting foods that give the body instant energy surge:
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Dried and fresh fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain Cereals
In fact, eating some fruit if you are really hungry and want some quick energy is the best option.Along with the carbohydrate, you get a healthy dose of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Sustained-energy boosting food items
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Yoghurt
  • Turkey or peanut butter on whole-grain bread
The idea is to provide the body with a balance of nutrients to get sustained energy.Your body digests protein, fats and carbohydrates differently; reason why foods that are combinations of nutrients give you sustained energy.

What to eat after working out
Giving your body the right amount of exercise can ramp up your energy levels, and help you to feel better emotionally as well.
  • You must eat carbohydrate-rich food during an hour or two after your workout to build your energy reserves for next day's workout.
  • You must also drink plenty of water to rehydrate your body after an exercise session.
  • Eating protein-rich food in a post-exercise meal is especially important.Such a diet helps you to rebuild tissues that get damaged during the workout. Proteins also facilitate carbohydrate storage, which improves tissue recovery if consumed with carbohydrates during the first two hours following a workout.
Why water intake is so important
Nearly 65-70% of a person’s body weight is made up of water. Hence, a drop in fluid intake can adversely affect overall well-being of an individual. In fact, a fluid deficiency of 2% of body weight is adequate to adversely affect a person’s ability to concentrate, and to remember. Insufficient water consumption lowers the blood pressure, which brings about frequent fainting bouts, and an abnormal heart rate. This is usually why inadequate water levels make a person sluggish and slow.

Cramps, a bloated stomach, dry and inelastic skin, are other fallouts of not drinking water in required amounts. Therefore, an optimal fluid balance is a decisive factor of an individual's well-being and performance.

What is fatigue?
Fatigue could be physical, mental or both, and is a persistent feeling of tiredness, weakness, lethargy, exhaustion and reduced energy levels. The causes of fatigue so far established include: illness, inadequate rest and sleep, inappropriate foods, obesity, lack of physical fitness, stress at work and home, smoking, alcohol etc. Besides tiredness, the effects of fatigue include, lower immunity and healing, drowsiness, depression, confusion, memory lapses, lower productivity, bodyache, headache, etc.
Various studies on fatigue yielded interesting results
In 2009, Apollo hospitals conducted its study on fatigue spanning over six cities in India by co-relating medical factors with the lifestyle analysis of the thousands of Medical Check Up (MHC) clients, who utilized the hospital facilities in Chennai, Hyderabad, Madurai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. 
  • The bigger cities had higher levels of fatigue (38 percent) as compared to the smaller towns (22 percent).
  • It was found that on an average 27% of Indians were fatigued, as compared to 20% in USA, 25% in Australia, and 18% in UK.
  • Females in India, as is noticed worldwide, are the more fatigued gender at 31%, as compared to 25% of male Indians being fatigued.
  • Common medical outcomes of fatigue included: insomnia 39%, headache 37%, digestive problems 35%, body and back ache 33%. Non-medical symptoms included: tiredness 29%, weakness 26%, little energy 24%, confusion and memory lapses 46%.
  • Stress is perhaps the major causative factor in fatigue and fatigue was determined in 45% of persons who were rated as highly stressed. Fatigue was also ascertained in 30% of persons with a passive personality, and 26% of persons with family problems.
  • Fatigue results in lower productivity amongst industrial workers.
  • Overweight individuals are more prone to fatigue as compared to the underweight ones.
  • Food plays a major role in fatigue and research studies conclude that individuals who ate fast foods are more prone to fatigue as compared those who ate at home.
  • Eating fruits and salads greatly combat fatigue.
  • Fatigue was more prevalent at 29%, amongst those who did not exercise and were physically unfit. This is further compounded by smoking and daily alcohol intake with more than 50% of this group reporting fatigue.
In conclusion, the Apollo study emphasizes that, fatigue is almost totally controllable through appropriate stress management,sufficient rest and sleep, a balanced diet, daily intake of fruits and salad, avoiding commercial foods, a daily one hour stint of exercise (walking, yoga) and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
Prof.Adrian Kennedy is international guru on health, wellness and lifestyle medicine, and guest faculty at Harvard Medical School, USA

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