Foods to Fight Fatigue (cont.)

It is also important to make sure your complex carbohydrates have fiber, says Dee Sandquist, MSRD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Fiber helps the carbohydrates that we eat to be more slowly absorbed by the body," she says. "So, therefore, the body gets a more balanced release of energy, as opposed to the quick burst of energy."

Many processed carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread, and pasta contain little or no fiber, thus expending energy at a rapid rate. To ensure you have a food rich in fiber, check the label. A slice of bread should contain 2 to 3 grams of fiber.

Fat Force

Fat has also gotten a bad reputation, and for good reason. Too much of the "bad" fats is associated with heart disease, some types of cancer, and some chronic illnesses. In the right amount, however, fat can make food taste good, and is a concentrated source of energy.

In order to strike the right balance, choose polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils and seafood, and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, meat, and poultry. The unsaturated variety can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Protein Power

Fats and carbohydrates may supply the body with energy, but protein helps regulate the release of that power. Protein maintains cells, transports hormones and vitamins, and creates muscle. Muscles and many hormones are, in fact, made up of protein. So replenishing the body's source of the nutrient is very important.

"[Water] helps control body temperature through sweat, moves food through the intestines, and greases the joints."

Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.

In diets where the body does not get its usual fuel of carbohydrates and fat, protein provides the body with energy. Preliminary studies have shown that people with high-protein diets appear to be able to work longer and harder, says Finley.

Such findings, however, are controversial. Critics say high-protein diets will ultimately make people more tired and gain weight. There are also concerns the diets may increase the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis, and be harmful to those with liver or kidney disease.

The Weight of Water

Two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. Without it, we could only live a few days. The fluid helps control body temperature through sweat, moves food through the intestines, and greases the joints. It is also an essential ingredient in the production of energy molecules.

"Dehydration is one of the leading causes of a lack of energy," says Grotto. If you're not well hydrated, your body puts its resources into maintaining your water balance instead of into giving you energy.

Everyone's water needs vary. In February 2004, the Institute of Medicine released a report indicating most people meet their daily hydration needs by using thirst as their guide. In general, the Institute's expert panel recommended that women get about 11 cups of water from food and drink each day, and men get about 16 cups daily. This may seem like a lot of liquid, but 80% of it usually comes from drinking water and other beverages. The other 20% comes from food.

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