Do you feel tired in the afternoon?
Does your energy drop in the late afternoon? You're not alone.
It's not uncommon for individuals to have an energy slump between three and four in the afternoon. People describe feeling their eyes drooping, momentarily nodding off, wanting to fall asleep at their desk, feeling compelled to nap, and struggling to concentrate when driving.
In some cases, there is a medical reason for this fatigue. However, when there is no known medical explanation, it's helpful to look at the food we eat and our hydration.
A common explanation, is a lack of slow release carbohydrates, or low glycaemic foods (SLC) consumed in the earlier part of the day. SLCs are absorbed far more slowly than quick release carbohydrates and can be found in whole grains, some fruit, vegetables, and beans. These carbohydrates slowly release their energy so our bodies can run at a more constant rate, like a car engine sticking to one gear and a constant speed.
Quick release carbohydrates, however, are very easily utilised so will give the body a spike in energy but then a slump. This is rather like hitting the turbo button and blasting off, then suddenly running out of fuel. This ‘running out of fuel’ is quite possibly what is causing the energy slump in the afternoon that some people experience.
What can you do?
There are many opinions about whether breakfast should be eaten, what foods should be included and at what time. Let’s keep it simple; having a breakfast of whole grains and a little protein will provide the SLCs you require to have enough energy until lunchtime (maybe a snack as well).
Some examples of good quality breakfasts include:
- Whole oats granola with sunflower seeds.
- Whole porridge oats with a handful of blueberries.
- Buckwheat pancakes.
A tasty snack could include oatcakes with some avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice, or a simple apple or pear. Carrot batons with hummus, home-made flapjacks and buckwheat blueberry muffins are also great examples of slow release energy snacks.
When snacking, avoid the sweets, chocolate bars, biscuits, crackers, pastries and cakes as these are rapid release carbohydrates. They contain highly refined flours, sugars and sweeteners and have had the fibre removed. Unfortunately, the shops are full of these types of snacks, so planning ahead is critical so you're prepared and less likely to eat unhelpful foods, if you feel hungry.
For lunch, enjoy a whole grain bread sandwich with a filling or one of the following ideas:
- Rye bread with mackerel and rocket leaves.
- Sweet potato wedges with a chilli dip and beef tomato.
- Butternut squash soup with spelt sourdough bread.
All of the above suggestions will provide a long lasting source of energy to keep you going throughout the day, and help to avoid the slump. The benefits of these foods include improved memory, more motivation, increased concentration levels, increased activity levels and mood improvement.
Hydration is also important as thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Remember to sip liquids throughout the day and try and identify if you're hungry or actually thirsty but paying attention to the physical feeling.
As your energy improves, your motivation increases so productivity and ability to work more effectively follows.
Enjoy more recipes and ideas on my website.
If you feel your energy slumps are not related to food, always seek professional advice.