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Dr offers 6 ways to beat fatigue and boost energy levels

By Dr Andrew Thompson, Medical Director at InstantScripts 

ways to boost energy

The last two years has had a physical and psychological toll on many Australians. In fact, a new study indicates that more than 70 per cent of those who have had COVID still suffer persisting symptoms such as loss of strength and tiredness.[1] While everyone experiences occasional – and generally harmless – bouts of tiredness, regular moderate to severe fatigue should be addressed with a lifestyle or medical intervention.

Although feelings of tiredness are often attributed to unsustainable lifestyle choices such as poor sleep and an unhealthy diet, constant mild fatigue could be a symptom of an underlying condition including anaemia, underactive thyroid, coeliac disease, diabetes or problems with the liver or kidneys.

In cases of moderate to severe fatigue, this symptom could be the result of ‘long COVID’ or myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. This chronic condition is a complex and debilitating disease which presents similar symptoms to long-term COVID.[2] The illnesses share physical and pathophysiological similarities such as fatigue and decreased functional status and decreased immunity.[3] Approximately 250,000 Australians live with this neurological disorder, which affects the brain, muscles, digestive, immune and cardiac systems. Despite the cause of this condition remaining unknown, individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome often develop the illness following a viral infection or physical trauma.[4]

Fortunately, feelings of tiredness and fatigue that aren’t caused by chronic fatigue syndrome can be resolved or significantly reduced through minor lifestyle adjustments. Below, I offer 6 tips to address mild to moderate fatigue.

  1. Check your medications. If you are experiencing consistent tiredness, medication could be the culprit. Examples of medications that could induce fatigue and sluggishness are antihistamines (found in sleep aids and allergy medication); antiemetics (to treat nausea); anti-psychotics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants (which treat some mental illnesses and seizures),[5] high-blood pressure medication, sedatives such as benzodiazepines, and some prescription pain medications.[6] I recommend speaking with your doctor to discuss whether any medicines you are taking may be the cause of your fatigue. Resolving it could require a dosage adjustment or switching to an alternative medicine.

  2. Assess your mental health. Fatigue can also point to an underlying psychological, rather than physical, condition. Constant tiredness may be related to mental burnout, stressful work environments, work shifts that conflict with the body’s internal clock that manages the body’s sleep-wake pattern, and mental health illnesses. Many sufferers of mental health illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, struggle with fatigue and low energy due to their condition. In fact, psychological factors are present in at least 50 per cent of fatigue cases in Australia.[7] If you are struggling with low mood and energy, I advise consulting a GP or specialist, such as psychologist, to help resolve any psychological factors that may be contributing to or causing your fatigue.

  3. Maintain an exercise routine. While exercise is an important factor in maintaining good physical health, it can also stabilise your mood and reduce cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone. By maintaining a consistent exercise routine of at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, you can help improve your mental and physical health, which in combination, help promote better quality sleep and help manage or even combat fatigue. However, exercise should be avoided at least two hours before bedtime as it releases endorphins, causing alertness.

  4. Consider your diet. The foods you eat can play a major role in your energy levels. Maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in wholefoods. Carbohydrates provide glucose, which the body converts into energy, and protein assists with brain function and alertness. Consider opting for foods with a low glycaemic index, as your body absorbs their sugars slowly, preventing the sudden slumps in energy that can occur after consuming refined starches and sugars. Low GI foods usually consist of proteins and healthy fats, including high-fibre vegetables, nuts and olive oil.[8]

  5. Watch your caffeine intake. A cup of coffee or an energy drink may provide a quick fix to low energy levels, but drinking too much can impact your sleep or cause you to develop a higher tolerance to caffeine. ‘Caffeine tolerance’ reduces the drug’s stimulant effects and may cause the body to experience withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, headaches, agitation and fatigue.[9] A gradual tapering of the amount of caffeine you consume will reduce your body’s tolerance and prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet and increasing water consumption, along with increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, will help you maintain sufficient energy levels throughout the day.[10]

  6. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can contribute to fatigue. Alcohol has a sedative quality that can increase tiredness, often resulting in night-time waking due to poor quality sleep. It can also increase the need to urinate at night, causing sleep disruption. In fact, 10 per cent of insomnia cases can be attributed to alcohol consumption.[11] Alcohol is also a known diuretic: it increases dehydration, which is a known energy thief.

Ultimately, if you are experiencing fatigue, it is important to consult your primary care provider or access a pathology test, such as the InstantScripts Why Am I Tired Test, to assess your iron, electrolyte, glucose, and vitamin B12 levels, which can help determine a physical cause. Your doctor may also refer to your medical history, including recent childbirth or surgery, or prescribed medication consumption, to check for signs of illness contributing to fatigue, as well as determine the best course of action to manage and combat it.

[3] MDPI Medicina Journal, 2021,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Victorian State Government Better Health Channel,

[9] Harvard School of Public Health,

[10] Harvard Medical School, 2019,

[11] Ibid.


About Dr Andrew Thompson

Dr Andrew Thompson is the Medical Director at leading telehealth and prescription service InstantScripts. Dr Thompson has nearly a decade of experience, including as an anaesthetist in the paediatrics, cardiology, trauma, and neurosurgery departments in hospitals, and as a telehealth doctor at InstantScripts, where he consults to 30-50 patients a day. His expert commentary has appeared in major media where he provides advice on maintaining good physical and mental health, and addresses issues around the accessibility and affordability of healthcare for Australians.


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