Energy and performance

When your body needs a break

Our everyday juggle between our job, household tasks, family, friends and leisure time can be very draining. We are used to giving our all in every area of life; rest and recovery phases, on the other hand, are often neglected. Such stressful situations, which often go hand in hand with particular eating habits, can lead to our bodies developing an increased need for nutrients. How to get fit again, what you can do about fatigue and what you should look out for… we have put together lots of information for you!

What is the cause of constant tiredness?

Tired, fatigued, exhausted: possible causes

Fatigue is usually a sign that the body is lacking something: e.g. sleep, oxygen, fluid or exercise. Usually the condition does not last long and can be easily remedied. The exhaustion that accompanies an infection, for example, and is a sign of the immune system being active, also disappears after recovery. On the other hand, you should take note if the exhaustion comes on suddenly, lasts for an unusually long time and causes such as lack of sleep or overwork can be ruled out.

Fatigue trap diet

However, there does not always have to be an organic reason for persistent fatigue. Often it is simply our lifestyle that is to blame when we don’t really get our energy levels going:

1. Skip breakfast

This deprives the body of an important source of energy! We often eat a mid-morning sweet snack instead. These calorie bombs cause our blood sugar to rise quickly; however, it falls again just as quickly and we feel more tired than before.

2. Fast food

Everyone has experienced fatigue after a hearty meal when your stomach has to work hard on digestion. Accordingly, people who eat rich food and eat a diet high in fat and calories (for example, from fast food) may also experience more pronounced fatigue.

3. Too little iron

Iron deficiency is widespread and one of the most common causes of feeling listless and slow. Even with a balanced diet, it may not be easy for certain groups of people (such as vegetarians and vegans or pregnant women) to meet their daily iron requirements!

4. Too little liquid

A common fatigue trap is also to ignore feelings of thirst or to drink too little: Water helps maintain normal physical and cognitive functions if you consume at least 2 litres of it a day. With lower fluid intake, the blood becomes more viscous, blood circulation is deficient, blood pressure drops and the brain can get less oxygen.
Things that steal our energy in our everyday life

Have you also experienced the following situations? We often incorporate habits into our daily lives so naturally that we no longer notice how draining they can be. Protect yourself against these habits which drain energy:

1. False ambition

You always try to do your best at work, of course. But that doesn’t mean you should never say “no” or have a guilty conscience if you don’t put in at least one extra hour every day! Even if you prefer to do everything yourself, you should also be able to delegate. In between work, you should also take a break to catch your breath or walk around. And you should have the courage to say “I can’t do it!” when nothing else works. Asking for support in good time is better than misunderstood ambition!

2. Never switching off

If you don’t allow yourself a break in your free time, you won’t get the recovery effect. We are not doing anyone any favours by doing this: For example, those who are also available for the boss to contact at the weekend or answer work-related emails often cannot return to the workplace rested and are consequently less productive. Something that is easily forgotten in the smartphone age: You don’t have to be available to friends around the clock either! As a small suggestion: How about a wellness weekend with just your partner instead?

3. Too little exercise

However, “resting more often” does not mean that couch potatoes live healthier lives! On the contrary, those who exercise too little are not more rested, but feel much more tired than someone who gets their heart rate up two or three times a week: Exercise is one of the most effective measures against fatigue. One interesting point to note is that exercise can be integrated into everyday life even without being a pro athlete! For example, this can be achieved by using the stairs instead of the lift or by cycling to work instead of taking the bus.

4. Irregular bedtimes

It’s the weekend… finally time to sleep in! The thought is tempting. And of course there’s nothing wrong with having breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning! This is also a form of relaxation. However, the body finds it easier to get up early during the working week if it doesn’t have to get used to it again every Monday! In other words, people who keep regular bedtimes, even at weekends, are less likely to be tired.

Tips against fatigue

How to beat fatigue!

Being tired and exhausted is something we have all experienced. After a long day, we also find the feeling of being tired pleasant as it shows us that we have achieved something. But when you feel like you’re exhausted when you get up, seemingly for no reason, and you’re in a slump during the day? Then maybe it’s because of one of your habits having an unfavourable effect on your biorhythm or metabolism.

The following points will help you to uncover hidden energy thieves and instead integrate a few measures into your everyday life that will allow you to recharge your batteries, even without that big cup of coffee!

Right after getting up

Light influences our body. The sleep-wake rhythm is essentially controlled by brightness, which is why we find it so difficult to get up in winter. In the morning, draw back the curtains, air the room or go for a run: The combination of oxygen and daylight perks you up and sets the body to “awake mode”. Taking a contrast shower requires a bit of commitment. Nevertheless, end your shower with a cold stream of water, at least for a few seconds: It causes the blood vessels to contract and the circulation to get going. This is how you chase away the last of that heavy feeling from being in bed!

For breakfast

Plan enough time for breakfast without rushing! Turn on music, read the news… that’s how you prepare your senses for the day. Carbohydrates, preferably from wholemeal products, give you strength for a good start to the day! Depending on your taste, you can combine muesli, bread or rolls with fresh, vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables, yoghurt or even an egg. If you don’t like breakfast in the morning, at least take the time to have a fruit juice and pack a healthy snack for later, because your body has also been working during the night and now needs energy again for the tasks ahead. Breakfast is therefore rightly described as the most important meal of the day.

In the morning

Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep you feeling alert. Ideally, you should already drink one litre in the morning to meet your daily requirement of 2-3 litres. Coffee may be included in the fluid requirements. Caffeine increases alertness and concentration, so there’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning. Most of us sit at our desks in a bent posture. This makes us breathe more shallowly. So take a moment in between to consciously focus on your breathing. To do this, place your hand on your stomach, straighten up, loosen your shoulders. This will help you feel much more relaxed right away.

During your lunch break

Don’t skip lunch! You need the energy for the rest of the day! A balanced diet also increases well-being: Avoid heavy, fatty food at lunchtime and opt for fresh vegetables and low-fat meat or fish. In addition, choose carbohydrates from potatoes, wholemeal, pasta or rice. Power napping: A ten-minute nap during your lunch break can work wonders and doesn’t take up much time. But be careful: Taking a nap for too long leads to exactly the opposite effect and makes you really sluggish and tired! A lap around the block: A walk after lunch can also help to overcome that midday slump. Just 20 minutes of activity helps us to relax. The fresh air supplies the brain with oxygen and the sunlight promotes the production of vitamin D: This supports our immune system.

In the afternoon

Even if it is difficult: If possible, delegate some tasks. You can still supervise things but you don’t have to do everything yourself. This takes a lot of stress out of your everyday life and your body will thank you! Keeping moving works wonders! Simply stretching properly or taking a few steps outside the door or into the neighbouring office stimulates the circulation and is good for the veins at the same time: the blood that is actually needed in the brain accumulates in the veins when sitting. Avoid the 5 o’clock sugar trap: In the afternoon, your body has already been working hard and demands an energy boost. However, cakes or sweets only provide short-term relief because the simple carbohydrates cause the blood sugar level to rise and fall again quickly. Instead, keep healthy snacks of fresh fruit and vegetables, yoghurt or wholemeal bread on hand. Treats such as trail mix or dark chocolate are actually proper soul food and contribute to a greater sense of well-being with a high magnesium content: The “anti-stress mineral” contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to the normal function of the nervous system.

After hours

Don’t take work home with you. Switch off. At dinner, don’t talk about what annoyed you at work, but concentrate on positive topics and don’t waste valuable energy ruminating on your troubles. Give yourself enough space for leisure activities and your social life: Being together with family and friends lifts your spirits and takes your mind off things. Laughter makes you happy! Too little exercise is one of the main causes of fatigue. On the other hand, if you regularly challenge your body and then give it the appropriate rest, you will feel fresher and more efficient afterwards.

Did you know that endorphins are released during sport? These are the body’s happiness substances that strengthen self-confidence and promote relaxation. A run in the evening or a yoga class not only reduces stress, but is also fun. Create energy oases! Take time to take a deep breath: Breathe in slowly and hold your breath for a moment, then exhale slowly. Treat yourself to a few repetitions and enjoy the relaxation. It works even better if you close your eyes or imagine you are in a beautiful place. Aromatic oils and soothing music can further support the relaxation effect. Ensure you get a good night’s sleep: TVs and mobile phone or tablet screens emit blue light, which signals daylight to the body. So it’s better to read a few pages of a book to fall asleep and switch off electronic devices, otherwise your body will switch back to “awake”! You should also avoid drinking a glass of red wine before going to bed as our quality of sleep suffers even with small amounts of alcohol.

Increased mineral requirement

More often than you think

Some population groups have an increased need for minerals due to special life circumstances. These include:

• Pregnant woman
• Women who are breastfeeding
• Athletes
• People under high stress
• Smokers
• Children in the growth phases
• Women of childbearing age (increased iron requirement)

Special diets or deliberately restricted diets, such as dieting for weight loss, can cause mineral imbalances. For example, the National Nutrition Study showed that more than half of women and a quarter of men in Germany consume too little iodine despite the use of iodised salt. The situation is even worse when it comes to calcium: Every second German citizen over 65 does not reach the recommended daily allowance!

Another mineral for which the supply situation clearly falls short of the DGE recommendations is iron. Over 75% of women of childbearing age do not reach the recommended intake.

Our tip:
You can easily supplement your mineral supply with natural mineral water. This contains calcium and magnesium, as well as lots of trace elements. The advantages: you kill two birds with one stone, namely, sufficient fluid intake and natural nutritional supplementation! In addition, it is practically impossible to take too much like this. When buying, look for a natural mineral water that is not labelled as “de-ironed”! De-ironing does not mean, as is often misunderstood, that it removes iron from the body, but that the iron has been removed from the water for aesthetic reasons. Such waters are therefore not suitable for preventing widespread iron deficiency.

Fit with minerals

An athlete can lose up to 3 kilos of body weight during a training session or competition; a marathon runner can even lose up to 4. However, this is mostly fluid loss through sweating.

Large amounts of minerals are also flushed out of the body with sweat. Athletes should therefore always make sure they have a good mineral balance: The body can lose between 35-120 mg of magnesium alone with every litre of fluid sweated out!

Minerals in sweat:
• Sodium: 1200 mg/l
• Chloride: 1000 mg/l
• Potassium: 300 mg/l
• Calcium: 160 mg/l
• Magnesium: 36 mg/l
• Iron: 1.2 mg/l

Our tip:
Athletes definitely need to drink more fluids! Even before training, you should fill up your fluid stores. During your workout, you should drink about 150-250 ml every 15-20 minutes. Sodium-rich mineral water (non-carbonated) and juice spritzers made from apple or redcurrant juice, which are rich in electrolytes, are particularly suitable.

Magnesium - the sports mineral

Magnesium is a vital mineral and is involved in numerous processes in the body. It plays a central role in the normal functioning of muscles and nerves and supports normal energy metabolism. About one third of our magnesium is stored in the muscles. It brings about the transmission of stimuli from nerves to muscles and encourages muscle contraction. Magnesium is found, for example, in cashews, cocoa powder and soy products. But meeting our daily requirement through diet alone is not always achievable. In particular during physical exertion and everyday stress, we should ensure that we consume enough.

Endurance athletes in particular notice a magnesium deficiency quite quickly: Too low a magnesium level in the blood can reduce the performance of the muscles.

During competitions, it has been demonstrated that athletes were more efficient and recovered more quickly if they had sufficiently high magnesium levels in their blood. However, it does not make sense to take a magnesium tablet just before the competition: Rather, our stores should be replenished a few days beforehand and sustainably over a period of at least three to four weeks afterwards.

Iron to keep your lungs strong

Having iron in our blood is a prerequisite for endurance performance: Iron in the red blood pigment binds the oxygen molecules to it and transports them wherever they are needed. Conversely, this means that empty iron stores impair our oxygen supply and thus aerobic performance. Especially with increasing energy input, it is not only demand that increases, but also the loss of iron through sweat and microfine muscle tears.

Liver, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds and pulses, for example, contain particularly high amounts of iron. You should, on the other hand, avoid eating foods such as coffee, cola or tea as they can inhibit iron absorption.

Vitamins for athletes

Athletes also often have an increased need for vitamins: Many, for example, play an important role in connection with energy metabolism and are therefore of particular importance for sporty people.

This is especially true of the B vitamins, all of which fulfil important metabolic functions. But oxidative stress also increases during intense physical exertion, so vitamins A, C and E can provide support here.

Finally, vitamin D is important. It helps to support the bones and thus to resist the forces that act on the skeleton during sports.

What actually is “oxidative stress”?

Oxidative stress is closely linked to reactive oxygen compounds called free radicals. These arise, among other things, during metabolic processes and often during excessive physical exertion. Normally, the body’s cells can render these free radicals harmless, but if they get out of hand, they can damage the cells and this is called oxidative stress. This can be countered by a diet of red, yellow and dark green fruits and vegetables as they are rich in antioxidants, which prevent free radicals.