Energy: Six hidden causes of fatigue

Energy: Six hidden causes of fatigue

Are you lacking in energy? Find out what is causing your low energy levels.

We all get tired, but what if you can't get rid of the feeling that you don't have enough energy to get through the day – even after a good night's sleep?

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in every five people spends their days feeling unusually tired, and one in every ten has long-term low energy.

If you're always tired or exhausted, a variety of factors could be to blame, but some of them may surprise you...

1. Excessive sugar consumption

A diet high in simple carbohydrates, such as cake and cookies, can cause fatigue and low energy. This is because refined starches and sugars cause blood glucose levels to spike, and then plummet, causing fatigue.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity, teenagers who ate a high-sugar, low-fibre breakfast had fluctuating blood glucose levels, giving them less energy – they were later more likely to forego sport in favour of a sitting-down activity.

2. Not getting enough vitamins

Certain vitamins and minerals are essential for getting the most energy from the food we eat. Magnesium and phosphorus, which are found in tofu, beans, and wholegrains, are two nutrients that aid in the breakdown of our food into fuel.

Meanwhile, iron is required for the formation of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen throughout the body to cells: our cells require oxygen to break down glucose into energy. Iron deficiency also causes anaemia, which causes extreme fatigue. Iron can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, and sesame seeds.

3. Portion misalignment – eating large meals

If you have low energy, avoid eating three large meals a day with long gaps between them. According to health experts, our brains have limited energy stores and require a steady supply of nutrients to feel refreshed, so try eating a small meal every few hours.

 Avoid heavy lunches in particular. They cause a blood sugar spike, and what goes up must come down... usually in the form of a midday energy slump.

4. Excessive alcohol consumption

Drinking during the day may cause drowsiness and fatigue. And drinking before bedtime increases the risk of disrupted sleep: alcohol raises levels of the stress hormone epinephrine, which raises your heart rate and makes you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

In fact, drinking is responsible for 10% of cases of chronic insomnia, which can significantly reduce your energy levels. Alternate every alcoholic drink with a soft drink, or go alcohol-free for a number of days per week.

5. Struggling with stress


A 2011 study published in BMC Research Notes discovered that people who were under the most stress reported higher levels of fatigue. This is because stress suppresses the immune system, raises blood pressure and breathing rate, slows digestion, and increases alertness – all of which can make getting a good night's sleep more difficult.

Make time to unwind every day, even if it is only for 15 minutes. This will help to reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as calm your stress response. 19 Experiment with meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. 20

6. You have a medical condition.

Certain medical conditions and diseases can cause fatigue. These are some examples:

  • CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome)
  • fibromyalgia
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • urinary tract infection
  • gluten intolerance
  • anaemia

If you have unexplained low energy levels, you should consult your doctor to see if you have any of these or other conditions.

Advice is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to replace medical care. Please consult your doctor before attempting any home remedies.