The Afternoon Slump
You’re going full steam ahead in the morning, plowing through your work assignments. You’ve had a decent night’s sleep. Your brain is on fire! You feel like you are on top of the world! After a sensible lunch you plan on getting right back to your routine of “getting things done”. Instead, at about 2 p.m. you find your attention wandering and your focus fading, and all you really want to do is take a nap. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t it frustrating?! This same tired pattern happened to me every day for many years. My solution to the afternoon slump was to reach for a nice giant mug of sugary coffee to spark myself back to life and sustain me until dinnertime. I found myself repeating this never-ending spiral day after day. It became a bad habit. The good news is that I stopped the madness with a simple change to my afternoon snack routine, and you can too.
First, it’s helpful to understand why so many of us experience a sudden afternoon crash. It’s Biology. “There seems to be a natural rhythm or set clock in our bodies, so many people tend to feel a little sleepy around 2 or 3 in the afternoon,” says Lona Sandon, RD, MEd, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
It’s comforting to know that feeling sleepy at 2PM is a natural part of your body’s biorhythm (and not that you’re just getting older) but it’s not enough to blame it solely on cycles alone. Your body may be making you sleepy but if you fuel your body with the right kind of snack, you can give yourself the afternoon energy burst you need. So dump that sugary coffee down the drain, it’s time to stave off the afternoon slump by swapping it for a light, low-calorie bite. A nutritious snack will fight the tiredness you feel and keep you going between meals.
Here are some of my favorites:
A Small Apple with 1 Tablespoon Natural Peanut Butter
Midday snacks should contain about 200 calories or 15 grams of carbohydrates. The natural sweetness in fruit takes longer to metabolize than the processed sugars you’ll find in your favorite candy bar. And the protein in peanut butter provides a long-lasting form of energy.
4 Whole-grain Crackers with 1 Tablespoon Hummus
Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains are some of the best energy boosters out there, and can fill you up without making you sluggish. Hummus contributes fiber and a little olive oil, both of which help satiate hunger pangs.
1/4 Cup Dried Fruits and Nuts
Thanks to their mix of good fat and protein, nuts are a slow-burning food and provide sustained energy. Dried fruit provides a touch of sweetness, but with the added benefits of fiber. Just a small handful is best, though: Too many carbs can cause low blood sugar; resulting in the mid-afternoon sleepiness you’re trying to avoid.
6 Ounces of Nonfat Yogurt Mixed with 1 Tablespoon Granola
Granola’s mix of grains, nuts, and dried fruit is the perfect crunchy complement to creamy, protein-packed yogurt. You can also grab nonfat, plain yogurt – just stir in a dab of honey and sliced fresh berries.
A Whole-grain, Protein Bar
Pre-packaged cereal bars aren’t just for breakfast, and they’re the perfect snack at work or on the go. Choose bars with at least 5 grams of fiber and protein, but with less than 15 grams of sugar.
If you need even more guidance on foods that keep your energy up during the workday, here are some helpful websites: