Is training getting harder instead of easier? Dragging yourself out of bed or just hitting snooze and rolling over? Skipping the evening or weekend run because it’s just too hard?
It’s fantastic to sign up to do an incredible event but without a good plan and some great prep you can find that your get up and go has got up and gone. If you are finding things a lot harder than they were do have chat with your GP and make sure things like iron and thyroid are as they should be. This is especially important for women who tend to miss out on iron and then wonder why they are so tired. Have a look at what else you are doing. The body does need rest as well as exercise and if you are working long hours and then training with no time for a break you will start to feel run down.
Diet can also have a real impact on how much energy you do or do not have. Once you have ruled out low iron or too much work, then it is worth looking at the key nutrients that will impact your energy.
B vitamins are crucial in helping your body to release energy from the food you eat*. They also help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Niacin (vitamin B3) is one of the key vitamins along with B12 which contributes to normal red blood cell formation. And we need red blood cells to carry oxygen around our bodies. Fish is an excellent source of B vitamins especially B12. Salmon in particular is very high in B12. You will also pick up B vitamins in milk and yoghurt as well as wholegrain foods.
Iodine is another nutrient to think about. Iodine contributes to the normal function of the thyroid. Our thyroid controls our metabolism and if it is not working as it should it can lead to really low energy levels. Milk is one place to pick up Iodine but fish is another really good source especially salmon, mackerel and sardines. Eating these fish regularly will help you to get the iodine you need and John West Salmon infusions are an easy way to get what you need.
Almost 48% of women do not eat enough iron and this goes up to a staggering 79% of teenage girls. Men tend to do better when it comes to iron because they usually eat more red meat and eat bigger portions of food overall. Being low in iron can leave you feeling tired and run down so it is worth checking with your GP to see what your levels are if you are flagging. However, do have a look at what you are eating as well. Although chicken breast is a great source of protein, it is not a great source of iron. There is more iron in the chicken legs. Red meat is another good source of iron along with chickpeas, red lentils, almonds and sardines. Make sure you have some iron-rich foods every day and boost your iron absorption by eating a food rich in vitamin C along with your meals (this is another excuse for eating your greens…).
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is another one to look out for. An estimated 80% of Irish people are deficient in vitamin D or borderline. Vitamin D contributes to normal muscle function – something you do need when you are training. You may think that if you are training outdoors, you are getting enough vitamin D but in reality you may not. Although being outdoors, with face and hands uncovered can help you to make vitamin D, it doesn’t happen if you use a sunscreen. The other potential problem is that the sun that hits Ireland between October and March is too weak for us to make any vitamin D. During the Summer, the sun is stronger but can be blocked by cloud cover (also known as rain…). You may be okay but it’s no harm to make sure you are eating foods that are rich in vitamin D and oil-rich fish like tuna and salmon are among the best sources. Try John West Tuna or Salmon Creations for a quick and easy lunch.
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.