We all feel a lack of energy sometimes. But when being tired becomes chronic, or can more accurately be described as exhaustion, it’s time to take a closer look. 

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel peppy or pooped? Clear-headed or confused? Good-natured or gloomy? Fatigue itself is not a disease or an illness, and it can affect anyone at any age. The first step towards a solution is to know why you are feeling worn-out.  

Physical causes 

Very often, dwindling energy can be linked to lifestyle factors such as poor eating habits, use of caffeine and alcohol, sleep deprivation, excessive physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle. Physical challenges such as nutritional deficiencies, cancer, obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, allergies and chronic pain can also cause the body to feel worn down. Did you know that even taking allergy pills or pain relievers can compromise energy levels?   

Psychological causes 

Over a period of time stress builds up and takes away your vigor. Your body may go into “shut down” mode if you have recently been dealing with depression, grief, anxiety or excessive demands. Similarly, when you are feeling bored with your life, you may experience some of the same symptoms.  

Tips to help boost energy levels  

Chances are you know what’s causing your fatigue. With a few simple lifestyle changes, it’s likely that you have the power to put the pep back in your step. Consider these options:   

Your diet 

Perhaps the easiest, fastest and most effective way to increase energy is simply to modify your diet. If you want more zip in your daily life, you must absolutely be using the proper fuel.  

Drink it up.  A dehydrated body functions less efficiently. Dehydration can be cumulative, so make it a daily goal to drink half your body weight in ounces of water.  

Take care with caffeine. While one or two caffeinated drinks per day may boost energy and mental alertness in the short-term, heavy caffeine users—or those who are stimulant-sensitive—are subject to anxiety, irritability and reduced performance.   

Don’t skip meals. Going without food for too long allows blood sugar levels to dip. Aim to eat in a way that will maintain your energy levels throughout the day.   

Go for quality. Increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Cut down on foods high in fat, sugar and salt while working to eliminate processed foods.  

Eat iron rich foods. Women are especially prone to anemia or iron-deficiency. Make sure your diet includes high iron fare, such as spinach, figs, molasses, Brussels sprouts, raisins and beans.  

Supplemental support 

While the best source of vitamins and minerals is healthy whole food, proper supplementation can help put things back in balance and boost energy levels when needed. Resist the temptation to self-diagnose and take handfuls of vitamins without consulting someone knowledgeable. Also, remember your need for a certain supplement may be short-term; occasionally review what you take to see if you still need it. 

B Vitamins. Certain B vitamins help in the generation of energy. Feeling a bit weak? Low niacin levels may lead to lowered metabolism and hormone production. Too little B12 results in fatigue, and is depleted by alcohol, antibiotics and other drugs. 

Chromium. Enhances the action of insulin, which helps to sustain energy. Drugs such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors decrease chromium absorption.  

Vitamin C. May improve mood. Often, a side-effect of vitamin C deficiency is anemia. 

Iron. An essential mineral needed for the manufacture of hemoglobin—the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen—and is needed for energy production.   

Magnesium. An important mineral in converting carbohydrates into energy.  

Exercise good judgment 

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to raise energy levels, exercise stimulates endorphins that elevate mood as well as increasing the delivery of oxygen to the tissues. Too tired to exercise? Try taking even a 15-minute walk; you may be surprised at how much better you feel. 

Sleep on it 

Many of the things we’ve discussed here—from supplements such as magnesium to cutting down on caffeine—will impact sleep quantity and quality. One way to achieve consistent sleep is to set a sleeping schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time every night; this is a very simple, but effective anti-insomnia remedy. Also remember that watching TV or working on the computer before you go to sleep will stimulate your brain and make it more difficult for you to get a good night’s rest.  

When to ask for help 

If your symptoms persist for at least two weeks despite your attempts to improve your diet, sleep more, exercise and de-stress, it may be time to seek medical attention.