Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 9, 2018

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

A poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and lethargic.

You may even find your cravings for junk food are actually stronger, rather than satisfied, after indulging in salty or sweet snacks; unfortunately, your health and your waistline will pay the price.

With all the diet fads out there, it can be difficult to weed through the hype and find concrete information on what you should be eating, what you should be avoiding, and most importantly, why to do either.

Outlined below are 9 ways a clean eating diet can help increase your energy, reduce bloat, improve your health, and maybe even slim your figure– all while making you feel stronger, more focused, and in-tune with your body’s needs.

Clean Up Your Eating Habits

There are many different opinions out there on what constitutes a “clean” diet.

In general, and broadly speaking, clean eating means to focus on nutrient-rich, whole foods. It suggests you minimize pre-packaged, overly processed foods, and it encourages you to make your food from fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible.

It is imperative to note that however you would like to interpret those guidelines is entirely up to you.

Some people choose a paleo strategy, some prefer a vegan diet, and some find their body responds best when they limit dairy.

Either way you need to choose a path that fits your lifestyle, and give yourself permission to be flexible. Once you start to weed out the processed, high-sodium, -fat, and -sugar foods, you will find it easier to pinpoint which options agree and disagree with your unique tastes.

1. Protein = Satisfaction

Some examples of lean protein include chicken, turkey, white fish, beans, lentils, and low- or no-fat dairy. Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and help make up other structures within your body such as skin and cell membranes.

Protein is slow to digest in the stomach, which helps you to feel fuller longer, and will keep hunger at bay between meals.

Because lean proteins have a low fat content, they are subsequently lower in calories, making them easy to incorporate into any meal. For example, throw some hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken breast into a salad and it goes from rabbit food to a filling meal.

2. Scrub Your Intestines

Fiber, or roughage, is important for keeping your digestive tract moving smoothly; it is like a scrub brush for your intestines.

Advertising

While that may sound a bit harsh, both literally and figuratively, it is exactly what people are looking for in popular cleanses and fasts, but without the drastic measures and high costs.

Older adults especially, can get deposits of build-up in their intestines which cannot only lead to major discomfort, but is also been known to cause colon cancer and other significant health problems.

Fiber also naturally helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Without the spikes and dips that accompany a processed diet, your cravings for sweets will remain regulated and on an even keel. This can not only help your metabolism stay humming throughout the day, but it can be a huge emotional and mental relief as well.

A healthy portion of fruits, vegetables, peas, whole-grain foods, and beans are all great sources of fiber. These foods have also been linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease, due to their fiber content specifically.

3. Skip Added Sugar

One way to clean up your diet is to start limiting the amount of added sugars you consume throughout the day.

Fruit naturally contains the sugar fructose; when you are looking for a sweet treat around the house, reach for a fresh piece of fruit for a satisfying snack instead of a candy bar or sugary, baked confection.

The sugar-type fructose is a form of carbohydrate. It will give you that boost of energy you may be looking for during your mid-afternoon slump, but without the blood sugar hike, and subsequent crash, of sugary candies.

It is important to note that sugar hides in many foods parading around as “healthy.”

Many popular brands of yogurt or granola bars, for example, can have an astronomical amount of added refined sugar. Be sure to read food labels and steer clear of any foods with a sugar content in the double-digits.

4. Cut Back on Saturated Fat

Less than 10% of your total daily calories consumed should come from saturated fatty acids. Total fat intake, of all types, should be between 20 and 35% of all calories. That means that if you are following a 2,000 calories per day diet, no more than 700 of those calories should be from fats; this equates to an absolute maximum of about 77 grams of fat per day.

Please read food labels; many people will find a heavy portion of those 77 grams in their “healthy” salad dressing alone!

One helpful fact is that most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Think about the white fat on bacon and other meats versus the healthier oils (also fats), such as olive oil, that are liquid at room temperature. This is an easy way to keep yourself in check with how much saturated fat you are consuming; you can often literally see the fat in many popular foods.

5. High Salt Means High Blood Pressure

The recommendation by the AHA (American Heart Association) is no more than 2,300mgs (about 1 teaspoon) of salt for adults, but they set an “ideal” limit of no more than 1,500mgs.

Advertising

Far too many people reach this limit in a single meal alone, especially if they are eating out at restaurants often.

Salt enters the blood stream and disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, making it difficult for the kidneys to do their job. To be fair, a low potassium intake is just as likely to cause high blood pressure as an excess in salt might. However, so many people consume prepackaged foods as part of their everyday diet and still have no idea how much salt they are really consuming.

Salt is used a preservative in many foods; years ago, meats were even packed in salt to extend their shelf life.

Now, so much natural flavor is cooked out of foods during the manufacturing process, that salt is added to heighten the flavor that is left. This is why the spaghetti sauce you make at home can have drastically less salt and yet loads more flavor than the same sauce bought pre-cooked in a jar or can from the store.

Lastly, high salt intake causes your body to hold onto water as a way to dilute the sodium absorbed into your body and its tissues.

This is the reason behind that post-meal bloat you may feel up to two days after a salt-heavy meal, such as a dinner of a burger and fries from a popular chain restaurant.

6. Indulge in Complex Carbohydrates

One of the most popular diet misconceptions you will find these days is that the answer to weight loss is to eat less carbohydrates.

This is totally true if what you are eating is highly-processed, sugar-laden foods made in a factory. It is not true, however, if you are consuming nutritious, fiber-dense, complex carbohydrates that provide your body with fuel and energy.

Carbohydrates are the go-to fuel for organ activity; this includes the heart, skeletal muscles, and in particular, the brain.

White bread, bleached flour, and other processed carbohydrates are the ones to avoid when you are looking to clean up your diet.

These have little-to-no fiber and turn into sugar and then fat when not used as energy; they also likely contain many added sugars. However, fresh vegetables, 100% whole grain breads, lentils, beans, and whole potatoes are excellent sources, of energy and fuel for your body and mind.

7. Hold Out for Homemade

Here is a fact that will both astonish and astound you: legally, food labels and calorie counts on packaged foods and in restaurants only have to be accurate within 30%.

This means that if you choose to indulge in an entrée listed as a whopping 1,000 calories, it may actually contain as many as 1,300 calories, and this does not always account for the butter and oils used to grease pans during cooking.

Advertising

At home, you can create the same dishes with far less of an impact on your health.

There are endless healthy-food swaps you can make to decrease calories and increase your intake of vital nutrients.

Some examples would be using condensed milk in the place of heavy cream in recipes, cauliflower in place of rice for a low-carb alternative (if you are into that sort of thing), or a quick spray of olive oil to prep a pan instead of a pat of butter.

Quite possibly the best parts of cooking at home is that you have the ability to alter recipes to meet your liking, and you can save hundreds of dollars each month with proper planning.

Some things to keep in mind if you are trying to save money on groceries is to shop farmer’s markets for fresh produce, buy foods that are in-season for peak freshness and the best value, and when necessary, opt for frozen foods over canned; frozen vegetables tend to be flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, increasing their nutrient content when compared to their canned counterparts.

8. Boost Your Antioxidant Intake

If eating a diet low in saturated fat is cleansing for your arteries and heart, and eating a fiber-rich diet is cleansing for your gut, then antioxidant-rich foods promote the same type of health benefits for your body’s cells.

The long and short of it is this: oxidants are radicals found in the environment through some unavoidable circumstances such as air pollution, but also from lifestyle choices such as alcohol, cigarette smoke.

These oxidants have been know to cause damage to our cells, possibly leading to diseases and certain cancers. Antioxidants, however, perform just as their name implies; they help balance the oxidants to a healthy level that the body can handle.

A popular tactic of modern food manufacturers is to boast the health benefits of their food on labels. Buzz words like “anti-aging” and “cancer-fighting” appear on packages as a way to draw you in. The truth is, none of these foods compare to the health benefits of whole foods in their natural state.

Grapes, blueberries, nuts, and yes, even chocolate (cocoa) contain nutrient-rich antioxidants that can help keep your cells healthy and your body operating with efficiency.

9. A Clean Kitchen Leads to a Clean Diet

Have you ever cleaned out your closet of all your old, unworn clothes?

After doing so, the next time you go to pick an outfit you open your closet doors you feel relief at the organization; suddenly you find yourself at ease in your own wardrobe! Now, imagine if opening your refrigerator or pantry made you feel the same way.

Many advocates of a clean eating diet are also fans of meal prepping.

Advertising

To meal prep means to cook a batch of meals at once and save portions of them to eat throughout the week. This is ideal for people on-the-go or who often struggle with what to eat. You can cook once or twice a week and not have to worry about what to do for your next meal.

This works particularly well if you work during the day and want to be able to grab your breakfast or lunch on your way out the door.

While this strategy for weekday eating will definitely save you money and calories, the biggest benefit is the peace of mind and mental relief you may feel from taking the uncertainty out of the equation.

Many people find going out to eat stressful when they are trying to follow a clean diet. Others feel overwhelmed at the options at the grocery store and what to buy and cook at home. By preparing batches of food you can experiment with recipes, shop according to grocery store discounts and sales, and you will always have a healthy meal ready when in a pinch.

Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life

Clean eating can mean a number of different things to different people. Although, experts and nutritionists urge against cutting out any entire food group, such as fats or carbohydrates, from your diet.

At its core, clean eating is really about balance and fueling your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your metabolism, muscles, and brain in peak performance.

Your body was designed as a well-oiled machine; it comes equipped with everything it needs to keep itself in gentle homeostasis, and the better quality fuel you feed it, the better you will feel.

Many people find that just by adopting a cleaner diet, they shed unwanted, excess pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and eventually find themselves being taken off diet-related medications.

As you delve deeper into what foods you choose to cut out and what foods you may want to add in to your diet, your tastes will change also.

You will eventually find your body craving the healthy stuff as much as you might have once craved the junk food you thought you could never live without. This transition may take time, however, so be patient with yourself.

Finally, a clean eating diet does not mean that you never get to indulge.

Food is about satisfying your body and its needs, even if that sometimes means a treat or guilty pleasure.

When you take care of your body every day, these instances will become that much more enjoyable–especially when they don’t leave you feeling sluggish and tired afterward. So, next time you get a craving… be sure you’re reaching for foods that are “clean”!

More by this author

Lisa Patten

ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Professional Fitness Writer

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better Why Strength Training for Runners Increases Performance (and Prevents Injury)

Trending in Physical Strength

1 How to Gain Muscle Fast (The Healthy And Natural Way) 2 These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise 3 7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance 4 The Ultimate 5-Day Workout Routine for Women to Get Strong and Toned 5 The Ultimate Workout Routine for Men (Tailored for Different Fitness Level)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next