Do you feel fatigue set in by mid-afternoon? This is a common problem. And, as you reach for that pick me up such as a coffee or granola bar snack, you may be unknowingly exacerbating the problem. Read on to find out what creates the slump in energy, why the traditional “pick me ups” are counterproductive, and what you should do instead.
Our internal circadian rhythm regulates our wake and sleep cycle by adjusting our hormone levels. Our energy levels respond to these cycles with dips and rises throughout the day. It is actually normal to have dips in energy levels around both the 2 am and 2 pm mark! However, if you are well rested, the effect of these dips will be less intense.
There are a number of factors that can cause our natural rhythms to intensify that afternoon slump (and sometimes a corresponding wakefulness at night). Here are my top dos and don’ts to maximize your afternoon energy so your day can be great!
Reduce sugar consumption
Of course, sugar is a culprit! I have written about the negative health effects of sugar here, here and here. But sugar also has a significant impact on your afternoon energy. How it works is like this …
- you eat a food that is high in sugar
- your blood sugar spikes too high (your body doesn’t like this)
- your body overreacts with insulin (a sugar storage hormone)
- the glucose is sent to storage and is not readily available for energy
- your energy drops
So if you have consumed a breakfast and lunch that is full of refined carbohydrates (think muffins, cereal, juice, white bread, pasta, and rice), you’re likely headed for the dreaded slump.
Use this sugar-free and delicious meal plan to get you started on the right track.
While research studies have shown some beneficial effects of coffee on certain conditions, if you are experiencing afternoon fatigue and poor sleep, it is likely that your body may be a slow metabolizer of caffeine leaving you at increased risk for negative health symptoms. Poor sleep and fatigue are two common symptoms associated with caffeine, discussed in more detail here.
Eat healthy fats, protein, and fiber
The nutrients that can even out blood sugar spikes are proteins, fats, and fiber. These 3 all provide for a slow release of energy so that you feel satiated and are less susceptible to energy slumps throughout the day. Making sure you have adequate amounts at each meal is important. Examples of foods to include are:
- Proteins – eggs, antibiotic-free poultry, wild fish, grass-fed meat
- Healthy fat – nuts, coconut oil, avocado
- Fiber – legumes, flax, chia
Drink more water
Are you drinking enough water each day? We are all unique and need slightly different amounts of water for optimal health, but many of us fall short of what we actually need. Drinking adequate amounts of water has great benefits for your skin, but did you know that your fatigue can also be a sign of mild dehydration?
Take a break
Sometimes a simple change of scene can re-energize you, especially if it takes you outdoors and into the sunshine. The body responds to light by signaling the internal clock that it is time to be awake. So, grab that herbal tea and take a quick walk outside at lunchtime to reset your energy for the afternoon.
Go to sleep by 10 pm
The body responds to darkness by increasing melatonin levels which promotes sleep. This is where the blue light of our devices can hamper our sleep, setting us up for fatigue the next day. Put tech devices away 1 hour before bed or use an app like flux to reduce the effects of blue light and help your body get the rest it needs. I’m still working on this one!!