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Are You Tired All the Time? Food Might Be to Blame

Are You Tired all the time? Food Might Be to BlameDo you feel dull and drowsy much of the day?  As the day wears on, do you find yourself yawning, wanting to lay down, or having difficulty concentrating?

We all feel tired from time to time, and a multitude of factors contribute to tiredness and fatigue.  One factor may be an underlying medical condition, such as anemia, hyperthyroidism or a heart condition.  Struggles with psychological problems — such as anxiety and depression — can also be linked to feelings of tiredness. Medication side effects are yet another factor.

But sometimes when we’re sleepwalking through the day, it’s simply because of what we eat

Eating too much contributes to obesity, which has a significant impact on our energy levels and feelings of tiredness.  But, even when we aren’t overweight, the foods we eat can leave us feeling sluggish and worn out.

In one study, children with unhealthy eating habits — particularly those who often ate salty foods — were more likely to feel tired throughout the day.  These children also tended to have health concerns related to blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and atherogenic index (a measure used as a predictor of heart disease). 

This study highlights the connection between what we eat and our physical health.

We’ve all heard the cliché “you are what you eat.”  But many of us forget or fail to apply the adage to our own diet.  We view food and eating as a comfort or a social experience and forget that when making food choices, its primary function is to fuel our bodies.

Your body, like your car, won’t perform well when it doesn’t have the proper fuel.  How you choose to fuel your body will impact your energy level and your body’s ability to function.

3 Eating Habits that Contribute to Tiredness

1. Skipping meals.  Sometimes we’re too busy to eat (particularly in the morning) or we’re trying to lose weight and attempt to reduce calories by skipping meals.  But research shows that eating at regular intervals improves concentration and alertness.

2. Missing a food group.  According to the American Dietetic Association, we require a mix of foods to sustain energy.  Our needs differ with age, gender and overall physical health, but each of us requires carbohydrates (the primary fuel for sports and exercise), healthy fats for long-term energy, and protein and dairy to aid in balancing fluids and improving immune function.

3. Not getting enough fruits and vegetables.  Public messages abound, telling us to eat fruits and vegetables.  But they can be easy to skip, since they are often not central to fast food or restaurant menus, require time and effort to prepare and don’t have the addictive qualities of fats and carbohydrates. 

However, fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and important chemicals in the body that are essential to maintaining energy.  The mineral magnesium, for example, helps regulate the production of energy, body protein and muscle contractions.

If you’re chronically tired, unmotivated or having difficulty concentrating, ruling out medical causes and considering contributing psychological conditions is important.  However, don’t forget that often our feelings of wellness and energy stem from the foods we use to power our bodies.

Are You Tired All the Time? Food Might Be to Blame

Christy Matta, MA

Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of "The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free You from Needless Anxiety, Worry, Anger, and Other Symptoms of Stress."

Christy has worked in mental health since 1994, is intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy(DBT) and has extensive training in Mindfulness. She is an experienced group leader and trainer in both Mindfulness and DBT Skills Groups. Christy blogs regularly for Psych Central at Dialectical Behavior Therapy Understood.

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APA Reference
Matta, C. (2018). Are You Tired All the Time? Food Might Be to Blame. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 16 Oct 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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