Written by: Cally Worden
The mid-afternoon energy slump is a common phenomenon. It’s 2pm, you’ve enjoyed your lunch, and home time seems a lifetime away. You find yourself wondering if anyone will notice if you take a sneaky nap. Yawning, you seek to rouse yourself by lurching for caffeine and chocolate. The short-term energy buzz is fine until the quick-fix rush wears off; by 4pm you’re back where you started. You’re not alone – research suggests that around 8 million of us in the UK experience this post-prandial desire to sleep and the snack-attack blues that follow. So what can be done to avoid it?
Why does your Energy Dip?
Experts in these things have several theories to explain why our energy dips after lunch. One popular theory is that it is our internal body clocks at work. Our natural circadian rhythms control many of our bodily functions, including our metabolism, appetite, and sleep patterns. Studies have shown that our circadian rhythms lead to a natural energy dip between 1pm and 3pm each day.
Other things that influence our energy levels are more within our direct control – our hydration levels, the types and amounts of foods we eat and how rested we are can all affect our mood and energy levels every day.
Ways to Boost your Energy
Knowledge is power, and knowing that our body clocks are setting us up for a slump means we can prepare in advance:
- Always Eat Lunch and Breakfast – maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key to keeping your energy levels up. If you skip breakfast or lunch, you are automatically triggering a dip in blood sugar that will leave you hungry, sleepy, and craving a quick-fix that will do you no good in the long run
- Eat Carbs – forget the fad-diet of the moment. A high fibre, low GI lunch will boost your body with slow-release energy foods that will sustain your through the afternoon. Eating a portion of wholegrain or whole-wheat carbs as part of your lunch is one answer. But do keep the amount you eat sensible – too much will increase serotonin levels in the brain – a chemical that makes us feel contented (great!) but sleepy too (not so great!)
- Protein Rules – foods rich in protein (such as tuna, eggs, beans and chicken) seem to help block the release of serotonin, while boosting levels of energy chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These help to keep us alert and aid concentration
- Drink and Be Merry – not alcohol, sadly – don’t think the boss would approve – but guzzling water throughout the day will keep your body hydrated, helping to prevent you from feeling tired
- Snack Savvy – if, despite your best efforts, you do hit an energy slump mid-afternoon then try to avoid reaching for sugary snacks. These offer a near instant boost, but the effects are short-lived and can leave you feeling even worse once the benefit has worn off. Choose fruit, yoghurt or crackers instead
- Exercise in your Breaks – a walk in the fresh air at lunchtime, or a brisk stride out during a natural work-break will help to stimulate your circulation and keep the sleepy-chemicals at bay. Your body and brain need oxygen to function effectively, make your heart work a little and reap the benefits of the extra oxygen intake that is generated
- Get to Bed – even minor sleep deprivation can have a significant knock-on effect on your energy levels throughout the day. Look on sleep as a way of recharging your batteries – if you neglect to recharge your body you have nothing in reserve when the energy slump bites. So hit the hay as early as you can each night and set yourself up for success