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Foods to Fight Fatigue

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WebMD Feature

Tired. Drained. Pooped. No matter how you phrase it, you're beat and need to drum up some energy.

Generally reported by more women than men, sluggishness can be caused by many things. But experts say poor nutrition is a big culprit. "Food is truly our body's fuel," says Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy for The Cleveland Clinic. "What we choose as our fuel is going to absolutely impact the performance of our bodies."

Here's what the experts have to say about making sure your body gets the right fuel when it needs it.

The Forgotten Meal

At the beginning of the day, most people dash off to work or school without a thought to their body's dietary needs. Who has time to eat in the morning anyway?

Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine says, "Breakfast is an easy meal to forget. But if people are skipping breakfast and find they're tired by midmorning, then it's time to re-evaluate that habit."

Research shows breakfast improves alertness and concentration, helps shed pounds by preventing overeating during the day, and prevents obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

To get these benefits and to prepare the body for the day, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating carbohydrates for energy and protein for endurance. Some quick options include:

  • Whole grain bagel with cheese
  • Cereal with fruit and yogurt
  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter and fruit
  • Hard-boiled egg sliced into a whole wheat pita
  • Scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit
  • Oatmeal with raisins

For the really busy bee, Camire says breakfast bars, frozen omelets, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal packets, and whole grain cereals in prepackaged plastic bowls are good choices for eating on the go. Be mindful, though, of the sugar and fat content of your morning meal. A study in Pediatrics found that children who ate sugary breakfasts were hungrier and ate more at lunch.

Complex Carbohydrate Charge

Healthy eating shouldn't stop with the morning meal. A well-balanced diet throughout the day is an essential source of sustained energy.

Although carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation, the nutrient is still the body's preferred source of energy, says Dave Grotto, RD, director of nutrition at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Ill. Low-carb diets, he says, initially boost energy but deplete it in the long run.

The best way to maximize the body's potential for energy is to eat a combination of complex and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, which are slow burning, should make up the bulk of the carbohydrates we eat, says Grotto. Whole grains and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and carrots fall into this category.

This does not mean ignoring simple carbohydrates with a faster burn, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, and honey. They can provide an immediate source of energy.

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