Numerous factors affect the severity and length of worker fatigue. These can include anything from shift work and lack of exercise to light, temperature and sleep debt. An often overlooked factor in fatigue is the potentially significant impact that metabolism and glucose levels can have on how tired people are.
Metabolism provides energy to all of the body’s functions (organs, cell reparation process, food digestion, etc.) and its primary job is to keep the body alive and the organs working. Providing us with energy when we’re fatigued comes second. This is why eating the right foods is so important to keeping the brain and the body at their optimal level—and why so many people are always tired even when they eat a lot and sleep enough.
It’s also important to note that the brain uses more energy than any other organ. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA found that two-thirds of the brain’s energy helps neurons send signals and the remaining third is used for cell-health maintenance. This means that not eating enough of the right type of foods will not only make the body tired, but it will also make the brain fatigued, leading to decreased awareness and potentially impairing decision-making abilities.
Staying on top of glucose levels (the amount of sugar in the blood) is an important step in controlling the body’s energy levels. Most people never give their blood glucose a second thought, but keeping it stable and ensuring that it doesn’t fluctuate wildly can ensure that their energy throughout the day remains fairly level. Even small changes to the food people eat can make them feel more alert and energized or, conversely, more sluggish and fatigued.
When workers are tired or a little hungry, they’re more likely to reach for a doughnut, a cookie or a piece of bread. These foods immediately flood the body with glucose and boost energy. However, the results are temporary and are soon followed by a crash that can cause headaches, restlessness and hunger. It can also cause fatigue or exacerbate its symptoms.
Discussing nutrition with workers is vital if they struggle with fatigue in the workplace. A course on healthy eating with a nutrition expert could be a good way to influence their food choices and, in turn, reduce their overall levels of fatigue.
Supplying workers with healthy snacks might also go a long way towards providing them with the right type of energy, steadying their blood sugar levels and helping with fatigue. Also, consider hydration—if workplaces provide drinks to their workers, they should offer water instead of soft drinks.
Although food is not something many employers consider when thinking about worker safety, it undoubtedly affects employees’ health and safety. It’s important to remember that even a small fluctuation in temperatures, food intake or sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s metabolic rate and thus on their performance.