Falling asleep at your desk after your lunch break? Do you experience constant drops in energy during the afternoon period?
I sure as hell did.
It made the day drag and killed my productivity.
So: I did some self-experimenting to find out why, I wanted to put an end to the dreaded afternoon blues once and for all.
Here are my solutions:
Make Better Food Choices
What you eat during the day has a direct impact on your energy and focus. Eating the wrong foods, especially at lunch time, will guarantee you brain fog come 3 pm.
Avoid Sugar At All Costs
Spikes in blood sugar will give you a temporary energy boost, but the energy crash afterwards will leave you tired and weak.
Keep in mind, fruit is a type of sugar (fructose). The ratios of fructose and glucose are pretty much the same in both fruit and table sugar. Neither type of sugar is better or worse for you so don’t think you’re making the healthy choice by snacking on fruit – of course fruit has vitamins and minerals you won’t find in table sugar, but the spike and crash in energy will be similar.
Avoid high GI (Glycaemic index) Foods
This includes things like breads, pastas, and pastries. These foods are broken down in the stomach and converted to sugar, although not as rapidly as fruit or table sugar. High GI carbs will spike insulin (the hormone used to absorb blood in the cells) which satisfy hunger and energy levels for a short while but come mid-afternoon you will be craving another snack.
Food cravings are an indication of wrong food selection; as a general rule, craving food within 5 hours of your last big meal is an indication of wrong food selection.
Focus On Quality Not Quantity
Ensure your lunch is filled with lots of healthy fats, small amount of protein, lots of vegetables and a moderate amount of starchy carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, quinoa, and rice).
Try to keep the meal light, large calorie dense meals require more energy to digest.
But don’t I need to eat lots of carbs for energy?
Not quite, unless you exercise a lot, too many carbs will reduce your energy. The reason you feel tired after a large meal is as the quantity of food increases, so too does the amount of insulin released as a normal part of the body’s digestion. The insulin, in turn, increases the amount of serotonin and melatonin that flood the brain, two chemicals associated with drowsiness.
If salads don’t satisfy your hunger, load up on vegies and healthy fats.
Eating healthy fats are the best way to feel satiated after a meal. Vegetables also provide a fast, efficient, energy source – this will help keep you on task and productive throughout the afternoon.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
It goes without saying… soft drinks are your worst enemy when it comes to beating the afternoon crash. They excess calories that will leave you depleted and should be avoided at all costs.
Basically on par with soft drinks are fruit juices.
As I mentioned earlier, Most people get fooled in believing they have made the healthy option with choosing a fruit juice. Studies such as one published in the British Medical Journal found fruit juice is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The fact is that some fruit juices have the same amount of sugar in them as soft drinks, and will result in the same effects on energy.
Milk based drinks often contain large amounts of sugar as well.
Stick to natures trusted energy drink: Water.
For me, I like to sip on a green tea in the afternoon. This helps with digestion, brain function, and provides a mild lift in energy due to the small amount of caffeine.
Caffeine has been intensively studied before and consistently leads to improvements in various aspects of brain function, including improved mood, vigilance, reaction time and memory.
If you’re someone who can handle an afternoon coffee without it affecting sleep, stick to black coffee, avoid adding milk and sugar for the same reasons I mentioned earlier.
Move Your Body
Make the most of your lunch break, get the body moving. I like to go to the gym during my break– This not only fulfils my daily exercise needs, but it also improves my cognitive performance.
The many cognitive benefits of regular exercise include improved concentration, sharper memory, quicker learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and stress reduction. There is still no certainty on the best time of the day to work out, but body temperature tends to rise between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., suggesting a midday workout can mean greater benefits.
Studies also show workers who spent 30 to 60 minutes at lunch exercising saw an average performance boost of 15%. A majority said their time management skills, mental performance, and ability to meet deadlines improved on days when they exercised. The employees who worked out were also less likely to suffer from post-lunch fatigue.
If you don’t have time to go for a workout, go for a walk instead. Get outside if possible, get some sun – natural sun exposure (vitamin D) is great way to boost energy and mood.
The afternoon can be your best friend or worst enemy.
Make the right decisions and the afternoon can become your most productive time of the day. Be self-aware of your own energy, and remove behaviours that result in a deficit.
Apply the information I have suggested and make note of what works for you.
If you want more ways to boost your mood and energy you can join my mailing list, you will also receive a free copy of my Happiness Handbook, a simple guide to improved happiness and energy.