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Nutrition

How tired mums can upgrade their energy

5 tips to help exhausted mums go from flat to fabulous

Wilma MacDonald
Wilma MacDonald
Nutritional Therapist & Founder of Maverick Motherhood
September 14, 2021
6 min read

What do you do when you’re a tired mum, with flat energy and you feel like you’re running on fumes? Sleep. That’s what the standard recommendation is.

If only it was that simple.

Normal rules don’t apply when it comes to motherhood.

Standard advice: Sleep 7-9 hours without interruption, never miss a meal, and make sure you’re in a relaxed state when you do eat.

Sounds lovely. But frankly, impossible when your small humans are wide awake at 4.30am and throwing broccoli at you over dinner.

Energy for mums

Mothers are a special case when it comes to energy. We need health advice that takes parenthood into consideration, we need advice that we can trust and we need advice that actually makes a difference to how we feel.

Even though parental burnout is on the increase post pandemic and there’s an acknowledgement that women’s health issues don’t get the attention that they need and deserve; we’re still left wondering if being tired all the time is our new normal and  ‘just the way it is’ now that we’re mothers.

A 2019 study on fatigue in early motherhood stated that fatigue was a “trivial” health issue in women and not the subject of a great deal of research, however a small scale 2017 study reported that fatigue postpartum impacted every facet of a woman’s life from mood, relationships, how they feel about themselves, how they dress and motivation levels.

From my clinical practice and personal experience; fatigue and low energy doesn’t just go away after the fourth trimester, when the small humans start sleeping through the night. But continues to impact every area of a mother’s life.

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Tired of being tired? Energy tips for tired mums

If you’re a mum who's in dire need of an energy boost, here’s 5 suggestions that’ll help you go from exhausted to energised.

1. Test your iron levels

Studies have shown that low iron levels may be one of the key contributing factors in fatigue in women. 

Your body stores iron. But growing a human, birthing them, bleeding for 6 weeks afterwards, and monthly menstruation depletes your iron stores. If you’re not filling them back up, your body will start giving you feedback.

If you’re tired all the time, lethargic, struggling to concentrate and your hair is looking frazzled, ask your GP to check your iron levels.

Improving iron levels may also increase memory recall, attention span and cognitive capabilities which are all issues that mothers experience postpartum.

Food sources of iron to add to your plate are red meat, chicken, spinach, tofu, and seeds. Vitamin C helps absorption while dairy and tannins inhibit it, so best have some red pepper instead of a cup of milky tea with your steak or spinach.

2. Make sure you’re eating enough

It’s common when you’re an exhausted mum for the small humans to get gourmet organic balanced meals while you cram leftovers, toast crusts and energy bars in whenever you get a spare 10 seconds.

If your car runs out of fuel, you take it to the petrol station and fill its tank up because it can’t run on fumes. Neither can you, no matter how hard you try.

One of the only ways to get more energy is through the calories you eat. Not just any calories, these are keeping you fuller for longer, nutrient dense, va va voom inducing calories. Carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fibre.

Carbohydrates are your body and brain's preferred fuel.

Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer and supports blood sugar balance which is one of the foundations for energy.

Fats lubricate, help absorption of vitamins and minerals and feed your brain.

Fibre found in fruit and vegetables supports gut health, elimination and appetite regulation.

Making sure that over the course of a day, you get enough food using the above nutrients, will mean that your body creates the energy it needs so that you’re not left running on empty.

3. Hydrate

75% of us live in a state of mild dehydration, which means that feeling sleepy, unmotivated and having difficulty concentrating is a default setting that can be switched, simply by drinking some more water.

Not drinking enough water may lead to reduced blood pressure and reduced blood getting to the brain which can cause feelings of tiredness. It may also lead to a reduction in the levels of fluid in your blood, making your heart work harder to pump blood around the body which may also lead to tiredness.

There’s no one scientific agreement of how much water to drink. For women estimates are around 2 litres split across the day. A good way to check is to look at the colour of your pee, you’re aiming for a light straw colour that doesn’t smell.

4. Move

The same way a car battery is recharged when you move it, so are you.

It sounds counterintuitive to move when you’re feeling tired. But don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you do an hour of high intensity exercise, instead try to find a way to move that makes you feel good, that you enjoy. Better if you can get the small humans involved too.

Studies have shown that 15 minutes of daily movement may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety, boost happy hormones, improve self-confidence, improve brain power, sharpen your memory and increase muscle and bone strength.

5. Focus on the quality of sleep instead of quantity

There’s no getting away from the fact that the amount of sleep you’re going to get once you become a parent is going to be reduced and interrupted, sometimes for many years.

A lot of focus in sleep literature focuses on the amount of shut eye you get. But, when that’s unpredictable, focus instead needs to be on the quality of sleep you do manage to get.

Sleep training isn’t only for small humans, it’s for you too.

  • Go to sleep at the same time every night (Think 1030pm not midnight.)

  • Tryptophan converts to melatonin, your sleep hormone. Oats, nuts, seeds, milk all contain tryptophan, so snack on these if hungry before bed.

  • No blue light emitting devices an hour before bed.

  • Brain dump into a journal.

  • Clear clutter from bedroom.

  • No caffeine after midday.

Upgrading your energy can sometimes feel like another thing to add to your to-do list. Small simple changes are easier to slot into your overstuffed life and will add up to make a big difference. Choose one thing from this list and do it over and over and over again until it becomes a habit.

(**Please note: Unexplained ongoing fatigue always needs to be investigated by your medical practitioner.)

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