Article: How does food affect your fatigue and stress levels?

Publié le 09/04/2024

By Marc Dellière

After a meal, your energy levels are influenced by the choices you make in terms of nutrition, but also, of course, by your state of stress.

Proteins, found in foods such as fish, eggs, meat, dairy products and legumes, play a crucial role in regulating your energy levels. Made up of essential amino acids, they contribute to the body's proper functioning, including the production of neurotransmitters and hormones.

When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, some of which can act as precursors to neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating energy, motivation and concentration.

What's more, proteins help stabilize blood sugar levels after a meal, preventing energy crashes and cravings. Their slow digestion promotes a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream, thus avoiding sudden fluctuations in energy levels.

Another crucial aspect is the role of gluconeogenesis, a process by which your body produces glucose from non-carbohydrate precursors, such as amino acids derived from the breakdown of proteins. Neoglucogenesis maintains an adequate level of glucose in the blood between meals or overnight, providing energy to cells including the brain, essential for mental and physical performance, especially in times of stress.

Carbohydrates, found in foods such as bread, pasta, vegetables and fruit, also play a crucial role. When you consume carbohydrates, your body releases insulin, a hormone that helps transport sugars from your blood to your cells for use as an energy source.

This process also allows more of the amino acid tryptophan to enter your brain. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and relaxation.

So when the brain has more tryptophan, it can lead to an increase in serotonin levels, making you feel calmer and less tired, which is particularly beneficial when you're stressed.

Lipids play a crucial role in regulating fatigue and stress, particularly with regard to the absorption of carbohydrates. They provide a considerable amount of energy calories.

When you consume fat-rich foods alongside carbohydrates, digestion is slowed down, resulting in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream. This regulation avoids blood sugar spikes followed by sharp drops, providing a more stable source of energy over an extended period. This energy stability is fundamental to maintaining your alertness and vigilance throughout the day, which is particularly interesting when coping with daily stress.

Although they don't directly affect serotonin levels, fats are essential to brain health and function. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as rapeseed or camelina oils, walnuts and oily fish like sardines, mackerel or salmon, are associated with improved cognitive function and mood regulation, which is particularly beneficial in times of fatigue and stress.

In summary, balanced dietary choices, including proteins, carbohydrates and fats, can help maintain stable energy levels and regulate mood, which is particularly beneficial in times of stress.

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Post-prandial changes in measures of fatigue: effect of a mixed or a pure carbohydrate or pure fat meal.

Cunliffe A, Obeid OA, Powell-Tuck J.

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Dec;51(12):831-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600496.

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