10 Ways to Fight Fatigue on a Vegan Diet
If you’re on a vegan or plant-based diet and are always feeling tired or run down, then you need to check out these 10 ways to fight fatigue on a vegan diet.
I’m sharing these tips along with my personal story of fatigue on a vegan diet.
10 Ways to Fight Fatigue
Whether you’re new to a vegan or plant-based diet, or you’ve been doing it for awhile, you may start to experience fatigue, headaches, tiredness, or mood changes. Some of the common questions and concerns include:
- I went vegan or vegetarian and I’m feeling weak or tired.
- I went vegan and I’m feeling depressed.
- My adrenal fatigue got worse on a vegan or plant-based diet.
- I’m eating a vegan diet and getting dizzy spells.
If any of these issues related to you, then read on! You’ll probably find at least one tip or more that can help resolve your fatigue on a vegan or plant-based diet.
Plus, be sure to read the section at the end of this post to help determine if dietary changes may be necessary to help resolve your tiredness.
1. Get good quality sleep
Believe it or not, but the most common reason for fatigue is poor sleep, or not getting enough sleep. I went through a period of several months where I would go to bed at a normal time, but wake up only 4-5 hours lately completely awake. So, rather than toss and turn for hours, I would get up but then be exhausted later in the day.
Whether you have insomnia like I had, or you have sleep apnea, hormone imbalances like estrogen dominance, or something else that is causing sleep disruptions, it is important to address this issue.
You may need to consult your healthcare provider to help rule out any conditions that might be affecting your sleep. Once you get your sleep under control, you will likely feel less fatigue.
2. See professionals and get appropriate tests to identify medical problems
Don’t wait too long to try and figure out if your fatigue is related to health condition. Fatigue can often be related to an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Women’s concerns about fatigue can often be dismissed by doctors, so it’s important to be your own advocate and ask that your thyroid levels be tested.
If your thyroid is healthy and you can rule out thyroid disease as the cause of your fatigue, then it’s also worth having your ferritin levels tested to make sure you aren’t anemic. Learn more about ferritin testing and how you can order your own lab tests.
3. Take appropriate supplements for fatigue
Your doctor or healthcare provider can likely suggest some supplements to help with your tiredness. Whether you are in need of more protein, more iron, or something else, it’s important to get some expert input about your individual situation.
And, be sure to check out this article with natural ways to increase energy which includes a whole list of supplements that can help.
You may also want to read my articles on the best supplements for women over 30 and the best supplements for women over 50.
4. Use a plant-based protein powder supplement and eat more protein rich plant foods
While many vegan diet advocates say that you can get all the protein you need from whole food plant sources, there are some women who need more protein. This was the case for me when I was on a vegan diet. While I ultimately stopped being vegan, I usually felt less tired when I added a plant-based protein powder to my morning smoothie.
There are some great plant-based protein powders on the market now, and you can choose from a variety of ingredients including rice protein, pea protein, hemp, soy, and more. Just try a few different brands and see which one works best for you.
Check out why list of the best clean protein powders.
5. Practice stress management
Since there are so many stressors in the world right now, it’s that much more important to learn to manage that stress. If you don’t, then you will likely feel run down and not as energetic as you normally feel.
Stress management can include everything from meditation, sitting quietly, spending time with friends, being outside in nature, or journaling. Or, if you are truly suffering, you can also reach out to find a therapist who can help you develop coping skills.
6. Get appropriate exercise
While getting daily movement is important, you might need to make sure you aren’t working out too hard. Fatigue is an important indicator that you might be over-training or under-training.
Some experts say that most adults need about 30 minutes of exercise a day.
7. Drink green tea
While hyping yourself up on caffeine isn’t the best way to combat fatigue, a glass of green tea can help. In addition to being high in antioxidants, green tea also contains l-theanine. L-theanine can help improve focus and mood.
You can buy green tea loose or in bags, or you can also try match (learn about the health benefits of matcha). Don’t miss my recipe for Coconut Matcha Latte.
8. Eat a variety of plant-based foods with minimal processing
When you’re eating vegan, it can be tempting to turn to vegan junk foods. Fake meats are not healthy foods, and neither are sugar-filled vegan desserts. Learn more about the risks of plant-based meats.
Instead of eating processed foods with refined oils and sugars, it’s better to choose whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains (if they work for you), nuts and seeds.
If you are having a hard time figuring out how to eat on a vegan diet, then you might benefit from consulting a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you create a meal plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
9. Soak and sprout foods
If you find that you feel really tired or bloated after eating a plant-based meal, then you might try soaking and sprouting your foods. Beans, nuts, seeds, and many grains can all be soaked before being cooked.
While it does take extra time to soak and sprout your foods, it can make all the difference in how your body digests those foods.
10. Consume minimal refined sugar
While eating sugar can give you more energy in the short term, you’re probably familiar with the energy crash that can occur once the sugar high wears off. It’s important that you wean yourself off too much refined sugars.
it can be hard to get over a sugar addiction, but you can move toward natural sugars from fruits and dates to help.
See my related article with the benefits of going sugar-free.
It is definitely possible that the cause of your fatigue is that a vegan diet is not working for you. There are some health risks that come with a vegan diet, and not everyone knows about these risks. Consider the differences between vegan and vegetarians and think about expanding your dietary choices.
If you determine that a vegan or plant-based diet isn’t for you, then you might need to consider re-introducing meat back into your diet.
It’s impossible to list all the potential causes of fatigue, so it’s probably a good idea to consult a healthcare provider to rule out any major nutrient deficiencies or diseases that may be causing you to feel fatigued.
You can also check out this post with reasons and tips to help if you’re feeling tired all the time.
More Health Articles You Might Like
If you are on a vegan diet or a plant-based diet and experiencing fatigue, there are several ways to try and feel more energetic. If your tiredness does not improve, then it may be time to consider seeing a dietitian or your doctor to rule out other conditions.
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About the Author: Carrie Forrest has a master’s degree in public health with a specialty in nutrition. She is a top wellness and food blogger with more than 7 million annual visitors to her site. Carrie has an incredible story of recovery from chronic illness and is passionate about helping other women transform their health. Send Carrie a message through her contact form.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
I am an ex-vegan (gasp — really just an ex plant based eater depending on how you determine who is vegan – I owned leather etc) and I actually moved to whole foods plant based for the purpose of health. Before E2 and FOK, I read “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.” I saw somewhere here a comment about vegans going vegan for weight loss and not health – I just really disagree with that generalization and think that it is more complex then that. I am careful with my food choices, but at the end of the day I think more along the lines that no food is bad just not beneficial or not efficient. I would rather eat the beneficial foods then displace those food opportunities with less nourishing foods. I also was just convinced differently about health. I left a plant based diet for the same reason I went there: health.
That said – I wish the best for people on the vegan diet and I cannot stress enough on the tips you gave how important it is to sleep 8 hours – or even nap. Also, I would look at sugar overall – as in glycemic index – that was actually messing with me. Finally, fats 🙂 Not all animal fats, actually avocado and cocoa are my favorite fats. I only eat whole foods and the non-animal fats are a lot less controversial as far as links to breast cancer. I eat a half an avocado on a semi regular basis and a few macadamia nuts when I really am craving a quick fix.
Again, I wish everyone the best with plant-based diets.
Thank you, Anne! I think your advice is really helpful for people who think that a vegan or plant-based diet is the answer to everything. I am starting to realize that it is not, especially when it comes to health, although I do think it is best for animal welfare and environmental health. For those who do consume animal products, there are more compassionate choices that can be made as well such as free-range sources. When it comes to the environment, I don’t think there is an easy answer except that overpopulation is probably part of the problem and that even if everyone ate plant-based, there would still be a huge drain on the earth’s resources…just my two cents.
What a nice response! And I completely agree – my animal products come local in the grass fed, pastured, organic way and not only is that better from an animal welfare and environmental aspect (if meat and eggs are in the diet) but it is also optimum from a health perspective. If anyone is interested in approaching a diet change from a health perspective do your own investigations and be super careful about conventional animal products, particularly fatty meats and dairy. I completely see the vegan perspective as far as animal welfare and environmental health items are concerned and respect it, but I have seen arguments both ways (I did not read it, but I think Lierre Keith’s book touched on some of those arguments – whether or not valid). Environmental issues are so complex it is hard to generalize as to one answer, besides the obvious pulls like deforestation for wheat crops or factory farming. One thing I will agree on as far as animal welfare goes is that killing an animal is killing an animal and the amount of torture that goes on in most farming is not excusable.
Oh, and I have one more thought. Gardening is a passion of mine- and one day it occurred to me- even these plants I eat aren’t themselves eating as vegetarians!! Research that if you’d like. 😉
I was a vegetarian for eight years. During that time I lost my ability to run or exercise. I became depressed and developed anxiety. I was cold all the time, and sometimes so weak I was breathless. I went to doctors and psychiatrists and took medications to try to feel better. I never felt like the real issue was being addressed- “why” did I feel so sickly?! I read and researched for enough years that all of the pieces came together to form a very accurate picture… When I was mentally sharp, athletic, energetic, and ALIVE- unfortunately/fortunately was when I ate as an omnivore. It broke my heart to realize this, but I was so tired of laying in bed with my head spinning and feeling so weak and ill that I went back to eating meat. I feel incredible now. My suspicions were right. And no silly formula of pair this food with this food will work when you don’t have enough iron, or zinc to utilize any of that stuff. Whey protein and soy meat made me so estrogen lopsided that my period was more painful than ever. I took supplement after supplement and my body wasn’t absorbing it. I took supplements I found online touted to “fill this void” and they did nothing. I had to ask myself- WHY am I wasting my life and energy like this?! I cannot even get out of bed to function- is being a vegetarian worth any more years feeling like death? I passionately decided “NO”. Being a vegetarian for the most sincere reasons took eight years of my life. It was no life at all. I will never go back to that lifestyle ever ever ever again.
I think your list is missing a REALLY important factor.
You absolutely NEED cholesterol to make sex hormones and a healthy CAN produce its own, but it’s difficult and most bodies are not exactly healthy…
There is a way for vegans to make cholesterol…saturated fat can be converted into cholesterol.
THEREFORE…it is IMPERATIVE for ALL vegans to add SATURATED fat to their diet (especially if they are women and moreso if they have hormonal issues).
Sources include: coconut products, cacao butter, palm oil…
The SATURATED FAT myth has been debunked. It is NOT unhealthy. We NEED it.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not overlook this.
oh and cholesterol isn’t unhealthy either…
Carrie – great article. I have been on a plant-based diet for almost 3 years now, and after reading books after books and seeing blogs and people who went back to eating animal foods – I realized that vegans who go back to animal foods are undercarbed. Yes, protein is SUCH an important part of being plant based and healthy, but our cells and brain runs on glucose – and we get glucose from carbohydrates. The primary form of energy that we get from food – comes from carbohydrates. Even the way we digest foods, suggests that carbs are the way to go (carbs start digesting in the mouth with amylase). And by carbs, of course, I mean whole grains, beans, legumes. Greens are amazing and should be a huge part of our diet, but if you don’t get enough complex carbohydrates, you start experiencing fatigue, low energy etc. etc. And also fats. Fats like flax and chia are super important to be healthy.
My point is, in my mere 3 years of eating plant based, I never really felt fatigued because i “carbed” myself 🙂
Hi Ana, thanks so much for your thoughtful words. As I continue on my journey, I’ve come to a similar discovery just in recent weeks. I had restricted my whole grain intake way too much last year, and, since adding oats and other healthy intact grains back into my diet, fatigue seems to be a distant memory for me (thank goodness!!!!!!). Of course, I’ve continued to make other healthy “tweaks” along the way, but I’m actually not drinking caffeine anymore and I’m feeling SO much better. I will probably do a follow-up post to this one to talk about these changes. Again, thank you for your great insight.
Yay Carrie! That’s wonderful news 🙂 I’m sure all of us would love to see a follow-up post on this. I also gave up coffee, because it’s just a vicious circle of fake energy and caffeine-dependent adrenals and overall I feel better (although I do miss the smell and taste of a soy lattee…hehe).
Anyways, thanks for all your posts and recipes 🙂
Thanks, Ana! I was also concerned about the fake energy issue and the other not so great side effects of caffeine. I’m so happy to hear you’re feeling better, too. I think the longer days help me for sure.
Wow I do think whole grains/complex carbs may be the answer. I only eat 1 cup cooked oatmeal and occasionally I will have a serving of quinoa. I can’t believe all this time it hadn’t occured to me to focus on complex carbs. I once heard that some people mix the Fuhrman-McDougall plans, and that sounds like that is what it is.
For clarification, you wrote here that you gave up caffeine, but in an early post you said you drink green tea. I know I have “medicating” my extreme fatigue with a little coffee (stopped about 8 months ago) or with a few cups of green or white tea. I wonder if that’s what makes me anxious. Are you still drinking green tea, or did you give that up too?
Wishing you the very best, Carrie. You’re blog has helped me a lot. 🙂
Hi Danielle, so much has changed for me since I wrote this post. If you want to discuss this in depth, we should probably connect through e-mail: carrieATcarrieonlivingDOTcom. Thanks and my very best to you! 🙂
Some people use natural fruit juice as a sweetener. Pineapple, cherry, grape are all good and they provide a very real sweet fix for those with sugar addiction. But it’s not processed or refined and it causes a less dramatic blood sugar spike. I haven’t noticed this in your recipes and thought you might like to try it.
Great suggestion Elizabeth! I don’t usually use fruit juice as a sweetener, but I might start doing that again (I have tried pomegranate juice in the past, although that was more tart than sweet). 🙂
Thanks for addressing this Carrie.
I’ve been vegan (mostly) for the last 10 years. For quite some time, perhaps the last 5 years or so, I have felt like I’ve been in a bit of a slump and a small part of me has wondered if it has something to do with my diet.
I have 3 young kids and have difficulty having the time/energy to prepare myself balanced meals. I have also been under a lot of stress and I believe that has built up and burnt me out. Things culminated for me when my husband of 8.5 years and I separated 4 months ago. I felt so blue and so drained – all of a sudden I was a single mother with a very big hole in my heart.
I read on the internet about nettle infusions being great for energy and mood, and so many other things, being basically a liquid vitamin supplement. I eventually thought I would give it a try. I’ve been taking it for a few weeks now and I just feel like it has turned my life around completely. For me it works better than anti-depressants, I generally have more patience with my children, I find a lot more joy in the world, and I feel positive about being single. I find myself laughing more. I have much more energy as well – I used to have a nap with my 2 yr old during the day and go to bed at 8:30 and struggle to rise at 7:30. Now I jump out of bed happily at 6 every morning and feel so much more myself. Drinking nettle tea has stopped me emotionally eating to fill a void – It has literally been like flicking a switch. I now only really want to eat healthy foods and sometimes I have to remind myself to eat because I don’t feel as hungry as I used to, but that said I enjoy my food thoroughly, much more than I used to. Another bonus I noticed within days of starting nettle tea was my acne improved out of sight. I also feel like I sleep much better and deeper – that sleeping and never feeling rested is gone. I still go to bed quite early, usually around 10, but I fall straight asleep and wake up refreshed. I really feel like it’s somehow changed my attitude to be more positive too. I would recommend it to anyone feeling run down, tired, or stuck in a rut.
To make it I put 1 cup of dried nettle leaves into 1 Litre of boiling water and leave it overnight to steep. Then the next morning I strain it and drink the liquid throughout the day, about 4 small cups. It tasted yuck to begin with but now I like it . I put a little stevia in the infusion as I think it tastes better, but other people mix the infusion with juice or add salt for a savoury drink. its strong tasting at first.
Wow, your story of transformation is really encouraging, Emily. I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles, but I take strength from your turnaround. I will check out the nettle tea. Xoxo.
This topic hit home with me. I went to a natural medicine Dr. in Jan to figure out why I have been feeling so poorly. Exhausted, joint pain, mild headaches to name a few. Reviewing my diet, she felt I was restrictive to a point that brought bad health. I was very low fat and she asked that I add coconut oil in my cooking. We also decided gluten was bad for my GI that she feels has affected my thyroid that led to many of the typical symptoms of hypothyroidism. Although I am making attempts to correct my health without a Rx, I will take one if necessary. So currently I have added back some fats including avacado & black olives. I am so grateful that you share your experiences and help me to be vegan and healthy.
I’m so glad you’re making changes that help, Paula, and thank you for sharing your experiences, too. I avoid gluten as well, but I find there are so many great options that I don’t miss it at all. I’ve recently been experimenting with amaranth, teff, millet, buckwheat, and gluten-free oats and they are all so delicious! 🙂
Carrie, One of the things I love about you is that you approach everything with such a palpable sense of compassion. I loved your advice that there is no shame is pursuing whatever it is you think your body needs (be it medicine (western or eastern) or diet tweaks).
Also – I recently started sprouting nuts because I found them so difficult to digest raw – it’s made a great deal of difference. Thank you again for such a great post. xo
Thank you, Candace, I really, really appreciate your input. If I do anything in my lifetime, I hope it is to bring a sense of compassion and understanding to the struggles we all face, without judgment. It’s something I have to work on everyday and the biggest challenge has been to be kind to myself! Hugs across the miles. 🙂
Thank you Carrie for your open and honest post! Im intrigued by sprouting – I have never done this and would like to learn a lot more about the technique and also the health benefits- could you please share?
I’ll definitely be writing more on this topic, Lisa!