I'm currently facilitating a three week cleanse and elimination diet via a Facebook group for about 55 people and today we're on Day 5. The glorious Day 5! The day when most detox symptoms begin to disappear and we generally hit the “flow” of clean eating. Headaches float away, muscle and join pain subsides, nausea vanishes, bloating is a thing of the past. Can't you just hear the angels singing off in the distance? Maybe you can't because you're still so stinking tired. Fatigue can be a major symptom when you make drastic changes to your diet, especially when you exclude one or more food categories. There are a few reasons why this could be happening to you. And there are certainly some things you can try to get the pep back in your step even while continuing on a cleanse program. Here are four:
- You have excluded virtually all food-based stimulants from your diet. With the pace of life the way it is these days, many of us have learned to rely on caffeine and sugar to get through the day. We use these foods to wake up and get moving and we use them to stay moving by mid-afternoon. On a cleanse, caffeine and sugar are removed from the diet. If you're doing an elimination component then things like dairy, wheat, corn and processed foods may also be removed. These foods contain or break down into sugar as well, so they have become part of our energy equation. To combat fatigue resulting from removing stimulants from the diet, try upping your water consumption and making sure you are consuming enough complex carbs in the form of non-gluten whole grains. It's also smart to balance each meal you consume with a mix of quality protein, healthy fats and complex carbs.
- When you remove stimulants, your sleep debt rears its ugly head. Once you remove things like caffeine, processed foods and copious amounts of sugar from the diet, you may find that you are getting tired during the afternoon and may even want to call it a night earlier. Adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and the more hours prior to midnight, the better. Our brains need this number of hours per night to get deep enough into the sleep cycle to do repair work and to really restore us energetically. To combat sleep debt fatigue, plan your day so you can get an extra hour or two per night. And a 20 minute nap in the afternoon could work wonders for you! Just make sure you wake by 4pm or you risk messing with your natural circadian rhythms for night sleep.
- When you do a cleanse, your body expends more energy cleaning up the joint. When you stop eating foods that cause inflammation and irritation, the body will go back into natural detox mode, looking for things to clean up in cells, organs and blood. And when you start eating helpful foods, this will super charge your body's ability to detox. This heightened ability to clear out the bad stuff can make your body feel like it's clearing a virus. It's because you are using a lot of energy to clean up! This form of fatigue should pass once your body gets into its new rhythm of optimal cleansing. But if you find you're entering the second week of a cleanse and still feeling fatigued, you can either up your water and dark, leafy greens (these things help to move toxins through the system) or you can dial back on some of the things you've added in that optimize detox. So maybe lowering the amounts of lemon water or green tea you consume daily could help to slow the process just a bit and give you some more energy.
- You're simply not eating enough calories. It's a common experience to go on a detox and find yourself fatigued a week later because you excluded a bunch of foods from your diet but did not make up for the calorie deficit by including allowable foods. So if you were a major wheat or dairy consumer, this could be you. Wheat, corn and dairy contribute to calorie dense foods generally, and so their absence in your diet will require plentiful amounts of veggies, fruit, healthy fats, proteins and alternative grains. Add coconut oil to smoothies, add a side of brown rice to dinner, or add nut butter to your fruit snack. Be sure to eat enough in the absence of those foods that used to make up a good part of your daily diet.