Beating burnout – how nutrition therapy can help

Are you feeling tired and worn out? Do you suffer fatigue or memory loss?

You might have burnout!

What is burnout, and why is it a problem?

This 2016 Guardian article neatly describes burnout as:

“…not just feeling a bit knackered in the mornings, missing a few deadlines…or crying when there’s no soya milk in Costa. Burnout is total system breakdown, after prolonged, unmanageable stress, and emotional fatigue. People suffering from burnout often experience emotional, cognitive and physical exhaustion, and this can have serious physical and mental health related consequences, from which it can take a long time, and a lot of treatment, to recover.”

Burnout is a serious health condition which has huge implications for individuals, organisations, and healthcare providers. But fortunately, nutrition therapy can go a long way towards healing your body and helping you on the road to recovery.

How can nutrition therapy help with burnout?

We now know that our diet affects our physical and even mental health to an astonishing degree, so it makes sense that in recovery from burnout, it is essential to properly nourish yourself with good food, plenty of water, and sleep. The trouble is that change can seem difficult and overwhelming, especially when it may go hand-in-hand with slowing down the pace of your life to allow for burnout recovery.

We are often told, for example, how eating 5-7 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits each day, swapping processed foods for whole foods, and increasing “good” fats in your diet, i.e. fish, nuts and seeds, along with other strategies, will help us lose weight, increase our energy and feel better, but it can be hard to take action. This is where nutrition therapy comes in. Bespoke eating plans designed to make healthy eating easy and enjoyable can help enormously on the road to recovery from burnout.

What would that look like in practice?

Some of the meal plans and nutrition advice I give my clients may look something like the following:

For sustained energy and efficiency it’s important to have stable blood sugar. To help with this I would recommend the following:

  • Eat breakfast within an hour of rising.

Meal suggestions – Greek yogurt/live natural yogurt with unsweetened muesli or ground flaxseed, scrambled eggs and tomato, with rice cakes or wholegrain bread, or porridge with berries sprinkled with mixed seeds or chopped nuts. N.B. Avoid fruit juice at breakfast due to the fast-releasing sugar.

  • Combine slow-releasing carbohydrates with protein in a ratio of 1:1 to slow down digestion (see below for examples of protein and carb containing foods).
  • Eat 3 small meals and 2 snacks a day containing “healthy fat”, carbohydrate and protein. Eat at regular intervals; avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
  • Only eat sweet foods as a very occasional treat and only after a meal or healthy snack. Refined sugars in sweets, white bread, pasta, white rice and processed foods, as well biscuits and cakes, are fast-releasing which causes a peak in blood sugar followed by an energy slump. Caffeinated drinks have a similar effect, so overall these are best avoided to maximise energy and efficiency throughout the day. Choose slow-releasing complex carbs instead to maintain blood sugar stability. Examples include: wholemeal pasta, wholegrain bread, wholegrain cereals, brown basmati rice, oats, bananas, beans, chickpeas, sweet potato, nuts and sweet corn.

Try swapping coffee and breakfast tea for green tea as research evidence suggests that green tea extract enhances the cognitive functions, in particular the working memory.

High-quality proteins include: organic or wild fish, a small amount of lean meat, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy/substitutes, nuts (Brazils, walnuts, almonds) and seeds.

Easy lunch meal suggestions: wholegrain sandwiches with avocado, sprouted seeds, humus, and salad, or mixed bean salad with brown rice, tomato, onion, tofu, sweet corn, parsley, crushed garlic, or egg and potato salad with water cress or rocket , or home-made soup (flask for lunch) – potato, leek, pumpkin, spinach etc. with lentils or beans.

Good snack suggestions: Nuts and seeds are fantastic portable options – they have good protein content and are high in essential fats. Portion size is important – stick to a small handful.  Other suggestions – half avocado, celery and grapes, a medium glass of vegetable juice and four Brazil or other nuts, 2 oat/rice cakes spread with almond/cashew nut butter.

Even if you are only able to implement two or three of these strategies at any one time, they will all help greatly with recovery from burnout and could help steer you away from it if you are at risk. As Virginia Woolf said: ““One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well!”

Interested in learning more? Visit if you’re looking for bespoke dietary advice and support, from tailor made menu plans to recipe ideas.

Request a quote for a Nutritional Workshop in your workplace – go to our contacts page.