Ugh. It’s almost two o’clock — you know this, not by looking at the time on the bottom right corner of your screen but because your body has hit the seemingly unavoidable afternoon slump, right on cue.
You’re feeling tired, groggy, irritable, and all you want to do is nap even though there are a few hours left before the end of the day.
But before you reach for a coffee for a quick energy boost, what is this dip in energy really telling you, and how can you overcome it?
Eat a healthy breakfast
Sure, mornings can be hectic, but if you want to beat the midafternoon slump, start the morning with a good-quality breakfast. We teach our kids about how important it is, so why not take our own advice?
Eating a healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, will feed your brain and give you good, long-lasting energy for the day. The best breakfast is one that has balanced nutrients, such as healthy carbs, protein, and fiber. Why not try:
- Smoothie made from greek yogurt, banana, berries and spinach
- Overnight oats with milk, nut butter, and berries
- Avocado toast with whole grain bread and hard boiled egg
These only take a few minutes, and the eggs, oats and smoothie can be made in batches so you have breakfast covered for the week.
Drink plenty of water
Often during the afternoon slump, we experience lightheadedness, mood changes and fatigue, all things that tend to result from dehydration.
If you feel tired, sip some water first and see how you feel. While you might turn to coffee for an instant energy boost, it’s actually water that can improve your overall energy levels.
The brain functions at its best when it’s hydrated, so to avoid hitting that slump at all, keep a water bottle at your desk, drink up and say goodbye to fatigue.
Choose lunch wisely
Since the slump tends to hit after lunch, it’s important to choose what you eat wisely. Don’t go heavy on the carbs, don’t head to the nearest vending machine and definitely don’t skip lunch altogether.
Your choice of carbs will impact your energy levels in one of two ways:
Simple carbs are digested quickly and provide you with a quick surge of energy, but then it fizzles out fairly rapidly. That’s why you feel tired after a bowl of pasta or high carb foods. Other examples of simple carbs are:
- Baked goods (including bread) made with white flour
- Chocolate and sweets
- Chips and fries
- Fizzy drinks and fruit juices
Complex carbs on the other hand are more slow burning and provide you with sustained energy while being slowly digested. Complex carbs also keep you full for longer, support beneficial gut bacteria and balance mood, hormone and energy levels. Examples include:
- Brown rice
- Multi-grain bread
- Carrot, celery and cucumber
- Skimmed milk and soy milk
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, found that the order different types of food are consumed has a significant impact on post-meal glucose and insulin levels. They found that if you add more protein to each meal and eat that first, you’re less likely to suffer from a blood sugar-dropping slump. Here are some protein-packed lunch ideas:
- Stuffed wholemeal pitta with chicken breast, avocado and greek yogurt
- Whole wheat pasta salad with pinenuts, broccoli and parmesan
- Lentil or a bean-based soup
- Roasted red pepper, hummus and veggie wraps
‘But what if it’s too late to prevent the energy slump?’
You gulped down a flat white for breakfast, ate a meagre salad for lunch, and now you’re close to nodding off during your afternoon meetings. So what can you do for a quick energy boost?
Resist the temptation to hit the biscuit tin and make another coffee. Instead:
Get up and move or go on a walk
Getting outside will switch your focus to something other than work, and a change of environment will revive your mind and make you feel a little more alive.
Just opening a window helps. Taking a break can be a great reliever for both the mind and body and can give you a source of renewed energy that helps you to get back to being productive and alert.
Bypass the crash by choosing healthier snacks that could actually boost your energy and alertness.
Some snacks you could try are almonds, peanuts, raspberries, and citrus fruits like grapefruit and mandarin. And, as well as tasting good, the flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve mood, and potentially increase mental focus.
It’s tempting to reach for coffee and carbonated drinks during the afternoon slump, but drinking high levels of caffeine in the afternoon can mess with sleep patterns, concentration, and stress levels.
The next time you’re feeling sluggish, why not try reaching for one of these alternative drinks instead?
- Green smoothie. If you include the right ingredients, including superfoods like spinach, açai and chia seeds, you’ll increase your energy levels while simultaneously filling your body with nutrients. But be careful with shop-bought smoothies, which can have high levels of sugar.
- Green Tea. With a slight kick of caffeine and plenty of antioxidants, green tea is great when it comes to a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Iced or hot, green tea is well known for its benefits, like improving cholesterol and preventing many heart-related health issues.
- Peppermint Tea. Even without caffeine, this tasty brew can perk up your brain. Studies have found that the scent of peppermint is associated with reduced anxiety and fatigue, and enhanced motivation and performance.
All in all
Ultimately, beating the post-lunch slump is going to be up to you. You must choose what you are and are not willing to do to fight back against those long afternoon hours.
But by altering the foods and drinks you consume throughout the day, you’ll ease your way into a healthier and more energising lifestyle. With a little effort and commitment, you’ll soon see the results you’re looking for.