If you find your energy fizzling out in the afternoon, you aren’t alone. These common energy dips lead to poor productivity, mistakes, accidents and an overall miserable feeling of wishing you could just go to bed. While this may be common for many people, it can be avoided through some simple lifestyle changes.
Diet is one of the main causes of the afternoon slump, and luckily, it is one of the easiest things you can change. Diet affects our energy levels most when we eat foods that cause a reduction in our blood glucose. To get a consistent flow of energy from the foods you eat, stick to slowly-absorbed glucose sources. These are foods that are processed the least, therefore they take longer for your body to digest, which means you won’t use up energy as quickly as you would with rapidly-absorbed glucose sources.
Many simple adjustments can be made to ensure you are eating slowly-absorbed sources instead of rapidly-absorbed sources. For example, instead of eating angel hair white pasta, choose a thicker noodle that is made out of whole grains and make sure it is cooked al dente. Instead of eating instant oatmeal or even old-fashioned oatmeal, choose steel cut oats. If you are going to eat pizza, using flour made from 100% stone ground whole wheat flour is best, but if that isn’t possible, adding a garden salad topped with olive oil and hard boiled eggs, or bean salad, and 500 mg of vitamin C will help slow down the rate at which you absorb the pizza.
EXTRA TIP: There are two easy ways to reduce the glucose absorption rate of most rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates:
The following chart will help shine some light on what foods fall into what glucose categories:
|Rapidly-Absorbed Glucose||Moderately-Absorbed Glucose||Slowly-Absorbed Glucose|
|Bagels||Rye Bread||Bagels made from Stone-Ground Whole Wheat|
|Bran Flakes||Life Cereal||Kellogg’s Complete|
|White Bread or Whole Wheat Bread||Whole Grain Bread||Stone-Ground Wheat Flour|
|Fruit Roll-Ups||Frosted Flakes||Cookies made with Olive Oil, Organic Maple Syrup, Stone-Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Raw Sugar, and Nuts|
|Pretzels||Whole Grain Toast with Olive Oil||Baked Stone-Ground Wheat Pita Chips made with Olive Oil|
|Gatorade||Coca Cola||Apple Juice (unsweetened)|
|Granular or Table Sugar||Raw Sugar||Maple Syrup|
|Angel Hair Pasta – cooked soft||Angel Hair Pasta – cooked Al Dente||Whole Wheat Spaghetti|
|Instant Oatmeal||Old Fashioned Oats||Steel Cut Oats|
|Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil||Olive Oil||Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|Rice Cakes||Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter||Whole Grain Crackers with Peanut Butter|
|Mashed Potatoes||Potatoes with Olive Oil||Potato Salad made with Olive Oil and Vinegar|
Eat Consistently Throughout the Day
Instead of skipping breakfast, chowing down on an unhealthy bagel or muffin mid-morning, and then eating a big lunch and dinner, eat smaller meals and snack in between. Eat a small breakfast, lunch and dinner containing slowly-absorbed glucose sources and nutrient-dense foods. In between meals, snack on smart snacks, such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, Kind Bars and Go Raw Bars. This strategy keeps your glucose levels balanced throughout the day and provides consistent energy for the body and mind.
Dehydration reduces the blood flow to organs and leads to fatigue. Most of us are dehydrated on a daily basis without even realizing it. It is important that you don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink because by then, you are already dehydrated. Drink at least 8 cups of water per day.
Staying hydrated with the wrong drinks won’t do you any good, however. Filtered water has always been and will always remain the best source of hydration. Other good choices include green tea and other herbal teas. You should avoid drinking soda, sports drinks and energy drinks, as they provide large amounts of unnecessary calories, additives and toxic chemicals.
Exercise provides the body with increased energy levels. As you begin a new exercise routine, you might feel lethargic afterward, but after you exercise consistently for a week or two, you will start to feel the invigorating, energizing effects of physical fitness. Avoid exercising after dinner because it can disturb your sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep. If, however, you do exercise consistently earlier in the day, you will notice your sleep patterns getting better and better, which means you can enjoy more energy during the day and more restful sleep at night.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is not overrated. Your body requires 7-8 hours of sleep per day for it to function properly. When you sleep, your body heals and recovers from your daily activities. Sleep will help you stay focused and alert, and it will help you handle stress.
Breathe Deeply & Stretch Frequently
Deep breaths serve to cleanse the body, eliminating stuck energy, increasing oxygen flow and stimulating the flow of energy throughout the body. Likewise, stretching increases blood flow and oxygen, causing a stimulating effect.
Go For a Quick Walk
Getting outside into the fresh air and moving your body is uplifting. It can often serve as the change of pace you need to feel more awake and alert, and five minutes is all you need.
Avoid Sugar & Caffeine
Yes, that’s right! While both sugar and caffeine can provide an immediate boost of energy, that energy is short-lived, and you’ll find yourself crashing and reaching for more shortly after. It is better to avoid the stimulants and get your energy from the other sources suggested in this article.
There is nothing more taxing on your energy supply than stress. If you don’t get a handle on it, it will rule your life and wear you out. If you find yourself always saying, “I’m so stressed out,” you need to learn to manage your stress better. If you feel there is no way to reduce your stress or that there is no time for stress management strategies, you need to make changes in your life so that reducing your stress is possible.
Stress will take its toll on every part of your health and well-being. Don’t wait until you’ve developed a chronic disease and it’s too late, and if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the people who love you. Seek the help you need, whether it be taking yoga classes, getting massages, learning how to meditate, changing your career, getting counseling or any other stress management strategy. Make it a priority!
Rule Out Medical Conditions
If you have tried all of these energy-boosting strategies, but you are still having afternoon slumps, there could be something else going on. Get checked out by a doctor for conditions like sleep apnea, diabetes, anemia, hypothyroidism, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.