Updated: Nov 2
Maybe you’re a parent who’s wearing many different hats, you aren’t sleeping well, and you are feeling stressed out and like you never have enough time or energy to get everything done… Maybe you’re a student who’s been studying hard all year and as you’re approaching your exams you feel like you’re just hanging on by a thread! Maybe you’re a business owner and struggling with the changing financial climate and price increases and trying to support your staff while still making an income. Maybe you're none of these things, but you're just feeling tired!
Regardless of your personal circumstances, there are so many situations that can cause us to feel tired, stressed and on the brink of burn-out.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
As someone who suffered debilitating fatigue for many years, I feel you. I know how overwhelming it can feel to even keep up with the day-to-day when you’re feeling so flat. I also know that implementing changes into your life to support your body can feel like too much. But I want to encourage you, that even the smallest changes can go a looonnnnggg way in helping you to feel better.
One of the most common drivers of fatigue that I see in clinic is a lack of protein. Protein is essential for energy production. Now, when we talk about energy, it's not just the caffeine-driven buzz that we're referring to; we're talking about the sustained, stable energy that keeps you going throughout the day.
Protein plays a central role in this energy game in a few key ways:
1. Sustainable Energy Release
Protein helps combat fatigue by stabilising your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is stable, you avoid the energy crashes that often follow high-sugar meals. Protein, rather, provides a slow and steady release of energy. This steadiness in energy levels translates to improved focus, better mood, and increased stamina throughout the day.
2. Muscle Repair & Growth
Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. When your muscles are well-nourished, they function efficiently, reducing the energy expenditure required for basic activities. Whether you're lifting weights or simply going about your daily tasks, well-maintained muscles demand less energy, leaving you feeling more energised overall.
3. Metabolic Boost
Protein requires more energy to digest compared to fats and carbohydrates. This thermic effect of food (TEF) essentially means your body burns more calories during the digestion process. This slight increase in calorie expenditure might seem small, but over time, it can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and energy balance.
4. Brain Fuel
Proteins are not just for your muscles; they are also vital for your brain. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are used by your brain to produce neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are essential for maintaining focus, attention, and overall cognitive function. Including protein-rich foods in your diet can help keep your brain firing on all cylinders.
5. Regulating Hormones
Protein intake helps regulate hormones, including those responsible for your sleep-wake cycle. Adequate protein can improve the quality of your sleep, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, thereby enhancing your overall energy levels.
Many of us eat adequate protein at dinner but it’s important to be aiming to consume the bulk of our protein intake earlier on in the day (breakfast, lunch & snacks) to help fuel our body for the day and minimise those energy dips.
So how much protein do we need?
For an inactive person, the estimated intake for protein for an:
0.75 - 1 gram per kg of body weight per day
0.84 -1 gram per kg of body weight per day
Athletes and those training
Should aim for 1.5-1.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight daily. When trying to increase muscle mass, protein intake can go as high as 2.0 grams per kg of body weight per day, with added training too.
For children, the intake of protein varies during periods of growth and development as below:
Children aged 1 - 8 years old
12-16 grams of protein per day
Children aged 8 - 13 years old
16-24 grams of protein per day
Female adolescent 14 - 18 years old
35 grams protein per day
Male adolescent 14 - 18 years old
49 grams protein per day
*As a general rule, aim to consume 20 g to 25 g of protein at each main meal
What does this amount of protein look like?
Here are some examples of serving sizes of common foods and their quantity of protein:
Quantity of Protein
Lean Beef or Lamb
20 - 25g
2 slices (thick style)
Large Egg (boiled)
Goats Cheese (soft/chev)
Greek Yoghurt (full fat)
11 - 12g
7 - 9g
Bread (gluten free)
1 small slice
1 small slice
1 small slice
Brown Rice (cooked)
2/3 cup | 100g
11 - 14g
1/2 cup | 82g
*The above is not an extensive list - Google is a fantastic resource if you want to know how much protein is in your specific food items.
So, whether you're tackling a hectic day at work, managing a busy household, or aiming for peak athletic performance, incorporating sufficient protein into your diet is key to ensuring sustained, vibrant energy. It's not just about feeling awake; it's about feeling alive, focused, and ready to embrace whatever life throws your way.
HIGH PROTEIN RECIPE
Here’s a quick & easy breakfast recipe to get you started that contains over 20g of protein!
*Hot Tip: if you’re in a rush in the mornings, pre-make this the night before & heat or eat cold the next day!
Spinach & Feta Omelette:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil for cooking
In a bowl, whisk the eggs together until well beaten. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat (*Hot Tip: using a cast-iron pan is an easy way to help increase your iron consumption if you struggle with low iron.)
Add the chopped spinach to the pan and sauté for a minute until wilted.
Pour the whisked eggs over the spinach. Allow the eggs to set slightly at the edges.
Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese over one half of the omelette.
When the eggs are mostly set but still slightly runny on top, carefully fold the omelette in half with a spatula.
Cook for another minute or so until the cheese melts and the omelette is cooked through.
If you’re a student who’s heading into your exam block, not only is protein important but I also have some extra naturopathic tips to reduce your stress & improve your cognition going into your exams!