4 simple diet tweaks that can stop you feeling tired

breakfast fatigue
Eating a well balanced breakfast can help to reduce feelings of fatigue. (Getty Images)

Feelings of fatigue is something that plagues many Brits. In fact, as many as one in eight UK adults feel tired all of the time.

Yet, while we may think that work or home stresses play a part in these feelings, it can also come down to our diet.

Currently, British diets contain around 56.8% of ultra-processed foods (UPFs), including sugary drinks, salty snacks, and baked goods – but these foods can lead to blood sugar spikes which results in our energy levels crashing after eating.

A new study from Pro Plus found that 20% of British adults notice that eating these foods can drain their energy, while 40% admit they turn to a sugary drink for a quick energy boost.

So, what’s the solution to reduce fatigue and boost your energy without resorting to quick fixes? Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains four easy tweaks you can make right now.

Switching from UPFs to whole foods can have a big impact on your energy levels throughout the day. This is because, most of the time, UPFs are not nutrient-dense like whole foods are so they do not supply your body with the goodness it needs to thrive.

“Unprocessed foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, are nutrient dense and the key to sustaining energy levels due to their rich content of complex carbohydrates, high fibre, and balanced nutrients,” Hobson explains.

“These complex carbs and fibres ensure a slower digestion process and a gradual release of energy, helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent the spikes and crashes associated with ultra-processed foods. The balanced mix of proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals in unprocessed foods not only contributes to a longer-lasting energy supply but also support efficient energy metabolism in the body. The fibre, protein, and fats in these foods also aid in satiety and hunger control, preventing overeating and the energy dips from frequent snacking.”

Close up, high angle shot of young woman enjoying multi-coloured healthy fruit, vegetables with grilled chicken salad bowl with balanced nutrition in cafe, with a glass of water by the side. Healthy eating lifestyle. People, food and lifestyle concept
Eating whole foods can give you a sustained energy boost. (Getty Images)

There’s a reason people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day – having a well-balanced breakfast can set you up for a day of healthy eating.

“Starting your day with a nutrient-rich breakfast can greatly influence your energy levels and cognitive function,” Hobson explains. “Go for a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, like oatmeal with almond butter and berries or whole-grain toast with eggs, to ensure a steady release of energy and prevent the common mid-morning slump. These choices help maintain even blood sugar levels, which is crucial for focus and mental clarity.”

Hobson adds that you should incorporate B vitamins at breakfast as these are essential to energy metabolism and cognitive function.

“B12 and B2 can be found in dairy products, eggs, meat and fish. B6 is available in meat, fish and vegetables such as peppers and spinach,” he explains. “While food sources should be your primary source of these vitamins, supplements can complement your diet to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements for optimal energy and mental performance.”

While it is important to leave a few hours between meals to give your digestive system a rest, if you do fancy a snack Hobson recommends being mindful about what you reach for.

“Choose snacks that fuel your body and brain without causing a sugar crash,” he suggests. “Snacks high in protein, fibre and healthy fats provide a steady release of energy. Examples include a handful of nuts, Greek yogurt with honey and chia seeds, or apple slices with peanut butter. These snacks help maintain consistent energy levels, keeping you focused and productive.”

Hobson also recommends paying attention to your hunger cues and having healthy snacks on hand for when it hits.

“Instead of reaching for the nearest packet of crisps or a chocolate bar when hunger strikes, have your healthy snacks prepared and within reach,” he says. “This small habit change can significantly impact your energy levels and productivity.”

greek yogurt with honey, top down view, isolated on a white background
Greek yoghurt with honey is a great, protein-filled snack. (Getty Images)

“Caffeine, when used strategically, can be an effective tool to enhance alertness and concentration,” Hobson explains. “Think of caffeine as your personal assistant for the brain – it's there to give you a boost when you need it.

“Caffeine isn't just about mental alertness; it also plays a crucial role in physical performance. It helps in reducing fatigue, which is particularly beneficial when exercising for prolonged periods of time or before a tough workout. I often recommend caffeine for its performance-enhancing benefits especially during endurance-based sports.”

However, if you’re an avid coffee drinker, you should aim not to have any caffeine up to eight hours before bed as it can disrupt your sleep. So, if your bedtime is 10pm, try to stop ingesting any caffeine by 2pm.