Getting back to basics – what you might not know you don’t know about fatigue.

Yesterday’s post on fixing shoulder pain was a doozy – it got pretty technical and quite long. So today we balance it out with a very simple “what you might now know you don’t know” tip that literally everyone can benefit from. Today we’re focusing low on the Performance Pyramid (more info on that here if it’s new to you), aiming to remember that we need to honour the basic functions of our body before adding the physical training and hoping for sustainable improvements.

"Fatigue makes cowards of us all" - Vince Lombardi

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all” – Vince Lombardi

Let’s talk about fatigue. This low energy state is more common in our society than we give it credit for – since coffee, energy drinks, and sugary drinks and snacks provide a quick fix anytime people start to feel that crash.

But band-aid solutions to low energy often come with long term consequences.

The health disorders associated with sugar intake are wide-reaching, everything from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to more subtle hints that your body is breaking down like decreased immunity and achy joints. Energy drinks and excessive amounts of caffeine wreak havoc on your nervous system and disrupt quality sleep, and while the cost/benefit of coffee continues to be controversial, most people feel better without it once they go through the withdrawal symptoms from their addiction.

This low energy epidemic has rightfully become a hot topic in Natural Medicine, with tons of talk about adrenal function and endless high quality supplements that can help your body regain the ability to produce its own energy.

But what I think is easily forgotten is that supplements are just what their name implies…they supplement the real solution. They are not called “cures” for a reason – because they can’t do the work on their own.

So why the need for all of these quick fixes and supplements? Simply because we easily forget to respect how our body naturally works to generate energy. 

There are some very smart people who have gone into incredible depth about every metabolic process in our body and how we respond to every food, drink, thought, emotion, smell, etc. – and this information can be very useful when dealing with complex health disorders or working with people who don’t respond to the basic solutions. But complex information can also be a hindrance for some people – we can get caught in our head overthinking every single thing in our life and worrying about how it will affect us. This mental drain costs more energy and prevents us from living a whole hearted life.

So today I want to remind everyone of some very simple things that govern our bodies energy production. These are things you can take action on right away without spending money or reading anything complicated!
#1: Hydration
Hydration is key to helping your body generate energy to fuel your busy day.

Hydration is key to helping your body generate energy to fuel your busy day.

  • all of the metabolic processes in our body require water, and few of us drink enough to have things running at full efficiency
  • recommendations for water intake are all over the place, but the general consensus is no less than 2 litres (8 cups) per day, with more and more recommendations coming in around the 3 litre mark. This can seem like a crazy amount if you’re only used to having a glass or two a day, so take the increase gradually and accept that as your body gets used to this new environment you might need a few more hall passes…
  • keep in mind that the above recommendations are for hydrating fluids ONLY – essentially just water and herbal teas. Milk, juice, pop, coffee, caffeinated tea, and alcohol all either take water to metabolize the sugar in them or act as a diuretic, and are actually a dehydrating stimulus for your body
  • 2 super easy ways to monitor your hydration are:
    • the colour of your pee (pale yellow is ideal, bright or dark yellow is an alarm bell)
    • thirst – feeling thirsty means you’ve already started down the dehydration path, you want to stay ahead of thirst by drinking regularly
#2: Digestion
  • just like any process in your body, digestion takes energy. In fact it takes a LOT of it. So this means that the smoother your digesting processes run, the less energy you use on them
  • people often forget that just because things like bloating, gas, acid reflux, nausea, constipation, and stomach aches are common, it doesn’t mean they’re normal. Like anything else in your body it’s a sign that something is a little out of whack.
  • optimal hydration can often help digestion a ton, but I’ve already lectured you on that, so let’s move on
  • if you experience any digestive upset, you can be sure your body is spending your precious energy working to break down and digest something that it doesn’t like at that moment. Naturopathic Physicians are a great resource for full food sensitivity testing, but often people find success by cutting out some of the common allergens from their diet. Try a week without gluten, a week without dairy, and a week without soy and notice how your body responds. Some symptoms take longer than a week to resolve, but if you notice a positive change in a few days, you could definitely be onto something pretty simple
#3: Nervous System Relaxation
Spending some quiet time in nature can elicit profound relaxation responses to rejuvenate your body and mind.

Spending some quiet time in nature can elicit profound relaxation responses to rejuvenate your body and mind.

  • as much as everyone intuitively knows this, applying the principles of relaxation are easier talked about than practiced
  • there is an incredible amount to be gained in every aspect of your life by slowing down and getting out of the stressed, sympathetic nervous system tone (fight or flight response) in which most Westerners live. Calming ourselves down brings us back to parasympathetic dominance of the nervous system which allows digestion and tissue rebuilding to occur
  • relaxation can mean a lot of things, but let’s work with the simplest form of it. Slowing down or stopping activity. This means activity of your body and your mind. Screens disrupt this process immensely so getting away from the phone, computer, and TV is a necessity if you really want your nervous system to be nourished. Time in nature is basically the opposite of screen time – it expedites the relaxation response and has been shown to be more effective than anti-depressants.
  • don’t make the mistake of making a relaxation practice another item on your to-do list, this kills its essence. Treat it as something nourishing, a way of expressing love and gratitude towards your body, your mind, your spirit. A little appreciation goes a long way and you will be greatly rewarded for your actions.

At this point you’re probably thinking “SLEEP!! What about sleep!?”. Yep, you’re right. Sleep quality and quantity (in that order of importance) is paramount to regenerating energy for the next day. However any discussion of how to improve sleep quality would start with the 3 topics above! So start with the basics and then evaluate how your sleep responds.

There’s nothing I love more than working with a client and seeing their energy levels return to their ideal level, so if you want to dive deeper than the basics covered above I am always happy to help conquer that invisible demon known as fatigue!

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