Natural Ways to Boost Your Energy Levels
There’s lots you can do to increase your energy levels, much of which comes down to simple lifestyle changes including diet and exercise – this is especially important for people with diabetes.
It can be very common for people living with diabetes to experience low energy levels, ranging from mild tiredness to debilitating fatigue and these symptoms are often exacerbated by imbalances in the body that are related to blood glucose and insulin levels.
How can you combat low energy?
The first step to feeling better is to identify the possible reasons for your tiredness. These could include:
High blood glucose
People living with diabetes commonly experience high blood glucose levels. This may be due to a lack of insulin production, or a condition called “insulin resistance.” If blood glucose is too high, you may feel “fuzzy” or “dazed” as the nutrient needs of the cells in the body are not being met. If the amount of insulin is insufficient, glucose cannot be transported from the blood to the cells where it’s needed in order to create energy. So it won’t matter how much sugar you eat – if it cannot be utilised, the cells remain deprived of their food source.
On the other hand, some diabetes medications may cause the blood sugar to fall, and if it drops too low, you may feel fatigued and sluggish as you struggle to have enough fuel for the cells to work. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood glucose and review your medications regularly.
Pre-Diabetes sugar imbalances
In pre-diabetes, energy levels may vary throughout the day, as blood glucose rises and falls sharply. It’s common to get caught out at around 11am or 3-4pm, with low energy levels resulting in cravings for sweet or starchy foods. It might be easy to reach for a “quick fix” snack, but if the food contains too much sugar, it will exacerbate your fatigue later in the day. No matter what the reason, if left unchecked these imbalances may result in a deeper kind of fatigue, characterised by a loss of motivation, tiredness that’s not improved by rest or sleep, a constant need for naps, or difficulty concentrating. So don’t wait to take action – taking preventative steps now may help to stop symptoms from worsening down the track.
Tips for boosting energy naturally
Eat regular meals
Eating regular meals ensures that your blood glucose levels stay more constant, avoiding the extreme highs and lows. Even if you’re not hungry, eating small amounts frequently is better than skipping meals altogether.
Include some slow burning carbohydrates
Forget those white, starchy carbs! Swapping them for wholefood carbohydrates helps to slow the release of the glucose into the bloodstream. Wholegrains like brown rice, buckwheat, millet, and oats, or grain substitutes like quinoa, nuts, seeds, and sweet potato (with the skin on) are all great examples of healthy, slower burning carbohydrates that result in a more sustained release of energy.
Include a serve of protein and fibre with every meal
Protein and fibre also help to slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. When it comes to protein, look towards animal sources like meat, fish, dairy and eggs, or if you prefer a plant based source, choose legumes, nuts and seeds. Fibre is found in abundance in wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes, so by switching to a wholefood diet, it’s easy to improve your intake.
Make sure you’re properly hydrated
Dehydration is one of the fastest ways to create a tired, fuzzy brain. If you feel like you’re walking around in a fog, check in to see if you’ve had enough water. The usual recommended amount is 6-8 glasses per day, or more if you live in a very hot or humid climate.
It may be the last thing from your mind when you’re tired, but gentle exercise can help your body to utilise insulin better, which can have a positive effect on energy levels. Activities such as walking, yoga, swimming, tai chi and pilates are great options to get you moving.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is our natural “reboot” button. It can improve our immune system, reduce cortisol levels, and is linked to improved weight loss. Aim for at least 7-8 hours every night of restful sleep. Any less than 6 hours per night on a regular basis may have a negative effect. And if you feel tired in the afternoon, occasional naps are nothing to feel guilty about – in fact, they should be embraced. After all, in some countries, siestas are a virtually a national pastime!
Check for underlying issues
Sometimes poor energy levels are put down to being a part of diabetes, however, it may not always be the case. There are also several possible underlying causes of fatigue that are not related to diabetes. These can include iron deficiency, thyroid imbalance, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, stress, depression, and poor sleep. Deficiencies in key nutrients like iron, magnesium and B vitamins can also result in fatigue. So if you’re still feeling tired, make sure you consult with your health practitioner to look for underlying reasons.
Jules Galloway is a qualified naturopath and wellness coach with over 10 years’ experience working with patients who have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
She has been engaged by Sanofi to provide regular expert commentary for Diabetes-Care. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the view of Sanofi.