Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegetarian Fatigue: Is It Normal?

Knowing I am a vegetarian, a collegue from work approached me the other day to ask about fatigue. She's about 4 weeks into a vegetarian diet and loving it.

However, her body is not in complete agreement. She has read the Suzanne Havala book on Vegetarians for Dummies and followed it but fatigue or low energy seems to be a problem. She gets tired easily and asked me if I knew any foods out there to deal with low energy.

I'll repeat here what I told her, because I think it could be helpful for anyone who just started a vegetarian diet and is experiencing fatigue.

With only 4 weeks under your belt, you may be detoxing. I know I felt horrible for the first couple of months. But then I was doing lots to juicing, eating raw etc to detox and clean out. Try juicing and making sure you are grazing during the day with nuts and fruits.

When you become a vegetarian you can start eating more carbs and less protein. Your body needs protein to release the energy from the carbs. Nuts, legumes, and seeds can be great to boost your energy. Eat a handful before activity. Nuts (especially Almonds, Cashews, and Hazelnuts) are great because magnesium can also contribute to low energy and they will help replenish this, along with whole grains.

Also make sure you eat progressively throughout the day, instead of having only 3 meals. I eat probably 6 small times a day which really boosted my energy. Eat a good breakfast. It can help boost your energy throughout the entire day.

Also watch your sugar intake this can cause extreme highs and lows. If you need a quick boost, I always find a dallop of honey in a cup of steaming hot green tea is a great pick me up. Green Tea also is naturally energizing!

Your body is going through changes and needs some time to adjust. It needs to detoxify itself and become adjusted to this sudden change. I too felt bad for a while, but now feel better than ever and have not been sick once in more than two years!

I don't know about other people, but for me, when I'm lacking energy and feeling worn out, if I eat broccoli and lentils, it makes me feel a whole lot better.

Lentil soup gives me the boost to get through the afternoon. I try to limit myself to just a serving, not 2, or else, I then get too full and want to sit down and do nothing. They are filling, but in the correct amount, give me a nice amount of energy.

I have been veg for some time and in the beginning I used to feel tired, cold, and out of it for a while. After many tests, I found out I was simply anemic.

You should not try to self medicate with vitamins until you know if there is a deficiency, but it could be something simple that you are lacking. If the fatigue persists after 3 or 4 weeks, make sure you have your blood checked to see if your sugar level, blood count, thyroid, etc. are OK.

However, don't be discouraged if your doctor is not supportive of your vegetarian diet. Some old school doctors don't "get it."


  1. Hey thanks so much for this, because I thought I was going crazy or just getting old =). I am also a wife but a mother of one who's almost 2. I decided to be a vegetarian somewhere in my teens and of course after a few years I visited a doctor who made me go back to eating meat.
    I just recently found out that I have polcystic ovaries and decided to go back to being vegetarian to give my body less work (with all the hormones they use in meat). I realized lately all I wanted to do was sleep and linked it to the same time I started my vegetarian diet. So of course googled to keep my sanity and found your blog. Thanks for the tips, I'll try them and see how it goes.

  2. hi there, thanks for sharing this, three months as a vegetarian I feel supper good but a little tired now and then...thanks for sharing, I will never eat meat again. :-)

  3. i have only been vegetarian for 4 weeks and find that by 5pm i am exhausted and need to sleep. I will try the 6 small meals and see if thats sustains my energy. Loved your blog, was worried it was just me. :-)

  4. I would like to a eat vegetarian diet; however nut allergies and a demanding profession (12+ hours a shift) where the chance of eating more than one meal or snack is slim to none makes my diet goals very difficult if not impossible.

  5. Thank you for your advice. I have been feeling wiped the last week and I too am about 4 weeks in. Just the general body and seemingly eye (specifically) fatigue has worked me this week. And suddenly introducing coffee in to my diet to compensate was not a very good idea. All that I ate digested very quickly and I was unable to stay fueled in that capacity either. Green tea, and lentil soup. I will definitely be keeping a stock of these.

  6. Hi, your article really helped me. I was a Vegan for two yrs. but in the last few mo. have started to eat seafood which I love and missed. All was well. I got the flu and was very sick for 3 weeks. I haven't been able to get my energy back. It's been two mo and I can hardly pick myself up to do the simplest things? I don't eat right since the flu, whatever is easy cuz I'm too tired to fix it. I'm going to get some nuts to pop and start making my legume soups again which I love. I know I haven't been getting any iron, living on smoothies mostly. Thanks again, I'm going to change my eating habits and I also have an upcoming doctor app to make sure I'm not anemic. Thank you.