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8 Surprisingly Unhealthy Drinks You Should Avoid

8 Surprisingly Unhealthy Drinks You Should Avoid

When it comes to grabbing something quick that can quench your thirst in the most satisfying way possible, plain old water sometimes just doesn’t cut it. And if you consider yourself to be a relatively health-conscious individual, you’re likely not the type of person who regularly grabs a sugar-filled bottle of juice or an aspartame-ridden can of diet soda.

You already know that stuff’s bad for you. And besides, there are lots of other healthy beverage alternatives out there that taste great too. Or are there?

There certainly are a lot of choices out there, but you can’t always believe what advertisers say these days to get you drink their products. Phrases that suggest health benefits like “all natural” and “low-calorie” don’t exactly mean what you think it means, which is why it’s up to you to educate yourself about proper nutrition and read more of what’s included on product packaging labels.

Here are eight popular types of beverages most people think to be pretty okay or even healthy, but they might be surprised to discover that they’re actually much better off by ditching most of these entirely and replacing them with other beverages or foods that do a better job at keeping hydrated and offering nutritional value.

1. Almond Milk

Almond milk has quickly become everyone’s favorite alternative to cow’s milk. It’s affordable, it tastes good, it goes great with smoothies, and it’s an ideal choice for those who are sensitive to dairy. Derived from almonds, some fans of the drink are led to believe that they offer all or most of the nutritional benefits of the actual nut itself.

As it turns out, almond milk is only made up of about two percent of real almonds, therefore lacking most of the healthy fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals you get from eating the nuts in their solid form. As if that weren’t depressing enough, some types of almond milk have added sugar to sweeten them up, burdening you with more unnecessary and empty calories.

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You’re better off drinking a cold glass of water and snacking on a handful of raw almonds. Even for an extra 160 calories or so, at least you’ll be satiated and get the full nutritional benefit of what almonds have to offer.

2. Zero-calorie Drinks

Anyone who used to be a fan of soda of juice is usually a fan of zero-calorie drinks and drink mixes. You know, they’re either those little packets of powder you add to your water to make them taste like juice, or they’re already flavored and sold in cans or bottles at the grocery store.

Obviously, the “zero-calorie” component makes it an attractive choice in comparison to full-calorie drinks. People think they can drink as much of this stuff as they want and never gain a pound.

Shockingly enough though, your body is smarter than that. When it senses something sweet being consumed, it anticipates calories. Since these super sweet drink mixes don’t have any calories, your body gets confused, and then ramps up your hunger hormones so you start to crave high-calorie foods like chips, crackers, cookies, and anything else you can quickly shove into your mouth.

Try squeezing some lemon or lime into some sparkling water for a change. It may not be as sweet as you like, but at least it won’t lead to terrible cravings later on.

3. Energy Drinks

Everyone knows at least one person who can’t get through his day without a Red Bull, Rockstar, or Monster Energy drink. He swears it gives him the kick they need to stay alert and get through all the crazy things he needs to do, especially if he’s been running low on sleep lately. It’s a sugar and caffeine addict’s dream beverage.

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You might get a nice short-term burst of energy from one of these drinks, but you’ll probably crash later on — if not from the caffeine, then certainly from all that sugar. Just like other caffeinated and sugar-filled beverages, energy drinks can be highly addictive, sometimes causing you to suffer nasty side effects like the jitters, increased anxiety, and more headaches or migraines.

Try a protein-packed smoothie mixed with a healthy carbohydrate (like whole fruit) instead of reaching for another Red Bull. A lack of protein is a pretty common cause of fatigue, and lucky for you, it’s an easy fix.

4. Sports Drinks

Gym rats, endurance runners, and people who do a lot of physically demanding work often rely on drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. For a while now, they’ve been successfully positioned in the market as the best drinks for rehydrating and replenishing electrolytes.

The bad news about these types of drinks is that most of them contain high-fructose corn syrup, too much sodium, and almost just as much sugar as soda. Similar to energy drinks, sports drinks can also cause you to experience a short burst of great performance followed by a plummeting crash.

Unless you’re spending all day trekking through a hot dessert on foot, you don’t need this type of drink. The trick is to hydrate (with plain water) and feed yourself enough healthy carbs and protein before you work out. Adding a very small amount of unprocessed sea salt to your water as you sip on it through your workout can be a helpful option too, but not totally necessary unless you’re working out for a prolonged period.

5. Coffee Drinks

Alright, so most people probably know on some level that their favorite Starbucks drink isn’t all that healthy. For some reason, though, tons of people are still convinced it’s a good idea to use all the calories that come packed into their lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos to replace real food for breakfast.

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You may be getting an 800-calorie burst of sweet, frothy energy, but the quality of those calories earn you an F in terms of nutrition. All that saturated fat from cream-based ingredients plus sugar-loaded syrups and flavoring leave you with empty calories devoid of any significant nutritional value, plus the tendency to cause you to crash and feel sluggish later on.

If you absolutely can’t give up coffee, try switching to drinking it black and limiting how much you consume. Get your calories from real food that includes protein, complex carbs, and ideally fiber too. An example would be a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, plus an apple.

6. Freshly Squeezed Fruit Juice

What could be so bad about freshly squeezed fruit juice? The general assumption is that it’s healthier than the stuff you buy preprocessed in cartons, jugs, bottles, and cans. Juicing your own fruits (and even veggies) means you get the fresh stuff without all the added sugar, preservatives, and other nasty junk that often gets mixed into the store-bought stuff.

There’s just one big problem with juicing, though. You miss out on fiber, which keeps you fuller longer and prevents that blood sugar spike you experience from eating stuff that’s far too sweet. Sure, you get most of the vitamins and minerals from using fresh ingredients, but you basically just end up consuming pure sugar, which really needs to be balanced with fiber.

You have two options to fix this: either start consuming your fruits and veggies whole, or switch from juicing to making smoothies. Just drop the full fruit or veggie into a blender with some other ingredients, water, and ice, and you’ll still get the benefit of the whole thing in liquid form.

7. Vitamin Water

The appeal behind certain brands of vitamin-infused beverages is pretty self-explanatory. If it has vitamins, it’s got to be healthier than pretty much any other drink, right? That’s exactly what the companies that produce and sell them want you to think.

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It’s true that vitamin beverages have vitamins added to them, but don’t think for a second that it makes up for all the other junk you can find added to them too. For example, one bottle of Vitaminwater contains a whopping 33 grams of sugar. That’s even more than what you get from the average can of soda.

If you really want vitamins, try asking your doctor for an appropriate supplement. Or better yet, eat a balanced diet of real and healthy foods, and drink lots of water. You can’t a better mix of nutrients from anywhere else other than a variety of fresh plant-based foods and lean sources of protein.

8. Coconut Water

There’s a big trend in the health and fitness world concerning coconut water these days. To be specific, health fanatics and super athletes believe it to be the Holy Grail of hydration and a natural, low-calorie alternative to sports drinks for being so high in potassium.

This is one drink that there’s been a lot of debate over lately. The health benefits that coconut water has to provide are actually hugely exaggerated, and chugging a bottle of the stuff while you workout or after you’re done isn’t any better than eating something with sodium or potassium before you work out, like a banana, in addition to drinking plenty of water.

Some athletes swear by it, though. So if you love coconut water and you think it helps, you can keep drinking it — just don’t entirely depend on it in place of real food and plain water, and make sure you choose a brand that doesn’t add any sweeteners or use a concentrate instead of the fresh stuff.

Surprised by some of the items on this list? You’re not the only one.

It’s a good idea to avoid most of these beverages and switch to some of the suggested healthier substitutes instead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge once in a while. Anything is fine in moderation, and self-deprivation is never part of a healthy lifestyle, so if you can’t completely give up your Starbucks lattes or freshly squeezed orange juice, consider treating yourself once or twice a week.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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