I'm a 15 yr old guy. I've been paleo for about 1 or 2 years. Before that I was on the standard industrial diet, but I wasn't fat. I reckon now I'm pretty healthy, except that I feel tired all the time. I also have this brain fog that I can't get rid of. I've tried to find the cause of this, but it's very difficult. Going paleo helped a lot, but it's still there. It's manageable now when before it was a major issue.
It can't be a hydration issue- i drink about 2 cups (400 ml) of water every so often maybe 30 minutes to an hour. In total I estimate that I drink about 3-4 litres of water a day. I find that if I forget to drink water or I get to tired to refill, I feel massively worse, I may not need that much, but it's just a precaution because I've once drank only about 1-1 1/2 litres of water a day and I felt 5x worse than I usually do. I think switching to paleo made me need more water.
It can't be a vit D3 issue- while in the winter in New zealand (auckland, which is 37 degrees south, which is approximately equivalent to california?) I feel worse. right now summer has ended, and I have been going out regularly to midday sun without sunblock. VitD3 does help, but I'm pretty sure I'm not deficient.
It may be chemical poisoning, but I've cut pretty much all chemicals (bathroom products, processed foods, cleaning products) but I don't filter my water or eat organic, so I may be getting poisoned there. However, my friends drink the same water, eat a lot worse, and have chemicals like deodorants and soaps and stuff on them, and they arent tired. I don't take any medication/drugs by the way.
It may be vit B/B12, but I eat meat a lot more than my friends do, but they arent tired.
It may be EMF radiation, but I don't use a microwave and I don't have a cellphone, which my friends use regularly. I do however use a laptop sometimes (most of the time im on a desktop). I also use wireless internet. and I have an Mp3 player I carry all the time.
It may be sugar or caffiene- the main source of sugar I eat would be dark chocolate (70% cocoa) because I need that caffeine to keep going. I eat about 200 grams of that a day. But I heard studies proved dark chocolate was healthy, especially with the healthy fat in it. I also sometimes eat white rice/potatoes because of parents it is impractical to go 100% paleo. So I try and eat the "safe starches".
It may be stress/sleeping issues- but although I was stressed most of my life, I'm not stressed now. Also while I may be sleeping approx 10 minutes less a day, I catch up on the weekends. which is more than I can say for my friends, who again aren't tired.
It may be adrenal fatigue due to the stress, but even with the stress removed, it helps, but its still there.
It may be candida etc due to sugar, but I eat a lot less sugar than most people.
I don't think it's excercise because I do weights and sprints regularly (high intensity)
Maybe everyone feels this tired, but I'm the only one complaining about it, so its unlikely.
It's not fair that I feel so tired and cant concentrate all the time, while my friends who eat 50%+ processed food/sugar have loads of energy. Also, my parents, while they are unhealthy(not that unhealthy, imagine the typical slightly overweight middleaged woman for my mom, while middleaged guy who looks thin with a slight pot belly for my dad) do not have this energy problem.
If anyone has any advice as to whats going on, I'd really appreciate it.
edit: Im going to try to add starches. But even when I was high carb once, I still was tired. Maybe it was due to other stuff, so I don't know for sure if starches helped.
Q1: Are you eating enough food?
At 15 you're still growing. You need a lot more calories than someone who's 38 and sedentary and trying to lose weight. Paleo food can be very satiating...perhaps too satiating. Try putting everything you eat into something like fitday and figuring out how many calories you're actually consuming...you may be surprised at how low the number is.
Q2: Are you eating enough carbohydrate?
Since you "do weights and sprints regularly (high intensity)", you'll want to eat more carbs than the aforementioned 38-year-old couch potato. Again, look at your macros in fitday (or whatever), and keep in mind that it takes about 40 calories to digest a pound of plant matter...so if you're eating nothing but meat, veggies, eggs, coconut oil, and an occasional fruit, you're probably in perpetual almost-ketosis, which is a bad place to be.
tl;dr try eating more food, including starch
You're 15 years old. You eat barely any carbohydrate at all. You are going to fuck up your development and be a freak your entire life because of low carb.
Hopefully you won't end up like this kid about your age and die http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12356106
One thing that struck me about your question is that you keep saying how your friends are different and how it's not fair, etc. And you know an awful lot about all the little things that could be wrong with you. It seems odd to me that a 15 year old would be so focused on these things which makes me wonder if maybe you could be dealing with some mild depression. Depression and fatigue go hand in hand. When I was dealing with depression, I was always worried about what could be "wrong" with my health. It was a strange sort of dread. Please, talk to your parents or any adult you trust about how you are feeling.
Foodwise, I think what you should do is eat all the starchy, sugary (as in fruit, not actual sugared foods/candy!) carbs as you please. You are a growing, athletic young man. You need lots of good food, lots of protein, fat and carbs. Eat it all to taste. Don't measure your macros, there's no need for you.
I honestly don't know why CW low-fat nonsense "studies" are (rightly) torn apart for the bad science, but things like Sisson's Carbohydrate Curve get a free pass when, as far as I can tell, Sisson basically made it up.
While I think it's really important to be healthy, you're 15, you shouldn't be this concerned about your diet. I can understand wanting to eat healthy, but it sounds like you're trying to be perfect. Not only is that impossible, it's unhealthy. Eat some carbs, sweet potatoes or something you enjoy.
Your body is telling you something. It might be time to go to a doctor.
I am really not great in giving advice to 15 year old growing young man because I never raised children of my own (I'm a 50+ female) and also I hesitate to give you advice that might be absolutely wrong and might make your situation worse.
But I was a teenager once myself. You suddenly grow several inches in height overnight, then you grow in all other directions overnight and not necessarily well proportioned (until you're 24 as a male, 21 as a female, that's when your bones stop growing). Your hormones are going crazy and causing all sorts of symptoms both physically and mentally/emotionally. Your brain isn't even fully developed yet and causing you to think and feel things that are confusing right now. You need more sleep than an adult but you keep waking up in the night and can't go back to sleep, you get up but you're not fully awake. Your energy levels seem low one day, then shoot up after you ate sugar (I'm sure that's what your energetic friends are experiencing). YOu might be overconcerned about your looks because they change dramatically overnight and some ignorant adults might be even commenting on them, including your own family. You look for role models because you want to find your right path in life.
If you like what Mark Sisson has to say then maybe ask him on his website what he is feeding his son, I think he has a teenage son himself. You might be surprised that his son's diet is completely different from his own, or not, I don't know.
If you feel that the symptoms you are experiencing are waaaaaay more extreme than what your friends are feeling than consult a teacher or doctor or parent or any adult you really trust well and talk to them and maybe do have bloodwork done.
But from my very personal experience and that of many other old folks I met in life, both male and female, the growing pain, the hormones going bananas, the brain playing tricks, the low energy, then high energy, the body feeling and appearance, and everything looking and feeling so extreme, and most of all that we are THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD who is experiencing this...well we've all been there, done that.
Please don't worry so much about chemicals in your food or environment. YOu live in the cleanest spot there is on Earth, except Antarctica.
Please eat as much meat, veggies, potatoes, eggs, etc. as you can and just skip the grains and sugar (and maybe legumes, depending on how you handle them). Limit drugs like caffeine and chocolate, they are for old folks like me.
Don't focus on disecting the paleo or any other diet and analyzing it to the detail. It's all in the making and you can worry about the details later in life. For now just skip the obvious junk and eat real food. Carbs are not necessary for the human body because they don't deliver nutrients we can't get somewhere else, but keep in mind that scientists "discover" new nutrients that are essential for us every year, the discovery of carbs and proteins and fats happened in my grandmother's lifetime, then vitamin C. Then B vitamins and A and D when my parents were growing up. I myself was already an adult when we first heard about selenium and other minerals and nutrients and that we all lack them and need to supplement them. Vitamin K, F, and what have you were all "discovered" during my lifetime, and there is more to come in the future. But we all survived for thousands of years without knowing what a vitamin or mineral or protein is. And we are the species that produces the largest amount of the enzyme necessary to digest carbohydrates already in their mouth. There must be a reason for that. Mother Nature is not stupid. Mother Nature is the smartest of all and will always win in the end.
Starving yourself through the day because of the lack of healthy food sounds like it's an issue for you. I agree that school food can often be unhealthy...if you are really concerned, what if you kept some jerky or nuts/seeds in your locker in case you forget again? That way, you'll have an emergency stash to take care of yourself instead of just not eating.
I urge you not to try to be "perfect" all the time, especially because you are still growing. Most people posting on here are adults, many who are much older than you. You may be reading about people going low-carb, very low-carb, exercising more, etc etc but they do not have the same physiological needs as you.
Please don't try to compare yourself to any "standards" because you are in a very different place than most people. You are a teenager, and this is a period where there is a great deal of variation in sleep needs and growth. Some teens need more sleep than others. Some teens go through puberty at earlier ages. Comparing yourself to others at this stage of your life will likely just make you more anxious.
I'd suggest you see a doctor, but keep in mind that just because you're feeling worn down doesn't mean that you are ill or doing something wrong.
Samuel - I think it is remarkable that you are this interested in your health at your age. While I mostly agree with all the other posters about you not eating enough and not getting enough carbs, I want to share with you some things I stumbled upon that improved a life long battle with brain fog and inexplicable exhaustion.
Do you really struggle with waking up by find it very hard to fall asleep at night? Like, you are tired all day but suddenly become more mentally alert around the time you should be falling asleep? Do you feel disconnected from your body and sort of like you are "watching" yourself? Do you have trouble concentrating on things you aren't interested in, but become completely absorbed by things you find rewarding? I know the answer to that last question is that everyone feels that way, but I mean is it very pronounced in you? Like, is it torture to do homework for a subject you hate, but you can lose HOURS on the internet researching a subject you like?
I ask the above questions because I went through this stuff for most of my young adult life until I was diagnosed ADHD. I never thought I was ADHD because I could always sit down and read for hours and I thought people with ADHD couldn't do that. But, I would start reading a book at night and stay awake all night without sleeping to finish the book - I remember starting to do that when I was nine. It is a common misconception that ADHD is the lack of focus. Really, it is just that you have SO MUCH focus on certain things and you can't apportion your focus appropriately. So, you'll get absorbed in a ticking noise but miss that math lecture completely. Or, get absorbed in a book, but miss that sleep thing entirely.
I don't medicate my ADHD. I did at one point and it dramatically improved my symptoms and calmed me down overall, but I am reluctant to advise anyone to take those drugs - especially a teenaged guy whose brain is still developing. They're a low level methamphetamine and no matter what big pharma tells us, we can't know the very long term effect of those drugs on brain development and personality. I will say that learning more about it and how to naturally address it will definitely help. My first recommendation would be to eliminate grains and dairy, but it sounds like you're on top of that! If any of this sounds like you, write back and I will write more about my coping tactics.
If you have gotten this far in this long winded post, maybe you don't have ADHD....
EDIT: Sorry Samuel! I misread your original post. You said it is WORSE in the winter. Ignore this part, then. I'll keep it in just in case it helps someone else, but I don't think it applies to you.
Just a stab in the dark, but maybe the sun is taking it out of you? You said that it was worse in the summer time. I think the majority of people benefit from the sun. But, not everybody. I have a really rare autoimmune disorder called Tumid Lupus. It means I am pretty much "allergic" to the sun. Even very low levels of sun give me a rash and wipes me out. IT SUCKS. But, not the end of the world. I was exhausted all through high school, when I should have been feeling my healthiest. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't healthy. All during that time I was eating a ton of grains, my sleep schedule was screwed up because of the ADHD thing, and I was worshipping the sun. Wish someone had told me then...
Going primal solved a lot of my energy problems, but the best steps for me involved avoiding the sun, eliminating grains (especially beer) and dairy, forcing myself awake earlier so I would go to sleep, not letting myself read at night, exercising when I don't feel like it, and using different coping tactics for ADHD.
All that being said .... you know your body. If something feels really wrong, ask your parents about seeing a doctor and getting some blood work done.
You may have inherited a less than ideal genetic profile - you eat so well yet don't feel well, while others around you eat badly and feel fine (well at least on the surface and at this moment anyway). One reason for brain fog is high ammonia levels which are due to eating protein - if our genetics are optimal, it is possible for the ammonia levels to be broken down. If not, the ammonia is backed up. There is a relatively common genetic issue called MTHFR A1298C which produces BH4 to neutralise ammonia....read more here:
That site is an Ohio doctor that treats methylation disorders that are genetic in origin. As I said, these problems are not rare.
You may be able to do some testing to get this assessed - organic acids testing via Metametrix looks at metabolic markers to assess ammonia levels in the body and you can also get the genetic testing done - both are not cheap but worthwhile if you have significant issues you can't resolve with diet.
As others have said, maybe you could try increasing carbs and limiting protein. The protein may be the issue.
You said that you drink a lot of water and that if you don't drink several litres, that you end up feeling worse.
A nurse took my blood pressure and told me that it was "The low end of good". She asked "Do you drink a lot of water?" I told her that I did and she told me that a lot of people with lowish blood pressure tend to drink a lot of water. I know that if I get thirsty, I pretty soon start to feel worn out so I naturally drank a lot of water.
One thing I have noticed. Since drinking lots of meat and bone stock every day, I don't get so thirsty. I know the stock is still fluids but believe me, I'm not drinking the same volume of stock as the volume of water I was drinking. Maybe the stock is raising my blood pressure to a better level? I don't know but I feel pretty good.
You also said that you sometimes eat rice and potatoes, the so called "safe starches" (I can't get over how silly that phrase sounds). How do you feel after you have eaten them? If they make you feel good then maybe more starches will help but if not then I doubt the other starches suggested above are going to help either.
Do you eat much fat? How tall are you? Are you under-weight? Do you know how many calories you eat per day?
Anyway, it's all just something to think about but I think that you should go to your doctor and tell him how concerned you are about this problem and that you have been trying to figure it out for yourself and are at a loss. He may take it seriously enough to run a few tests.
Hack my tiredness/lack of energy! 4 Answers