Updated: Nov 26, 2020
You know the feeling; somewhere between 1 pm and 3 pm things steadily go downhill.
Your eyelids are getting heavy and the only thing you really feel like doing is curling up in a quiet corner and falling asleep.
The solution for some is to grab a coffee or a sugary snack, however, there are a few simple tips you can implement to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place.
If your energy levels are declining every afternoon, below are a few tips to avoid the afternoon crash.
1. Eat a High Protein Breakfast
How can breakfast be relevant to the afternoon crash? But, it’s very important.
The first meal of the day plays a major role in your energy levels for the rest of the day. The quality of your breakfast will set the tone for your blood glucose levels, which controls your energy levels. For example, if you start your day with too much sugar and/or refined carbohydrates such as cereals, store-bought granola, croissants or fruit juice concentrate, this will spike your blood sugar levels creating blood sugar imbalances first thing in the morning, which will lead to an energy crash shortly thereafter.
Instead, opt for a high protein breakfast that will help balance your blood sugar levels in the morning and heading into the afternoon. High protein breakfasts to help kick off your morning can include; veggie egg omelette, chia seed pudding, avocado + seasoned hard boiled eggs.
2. Don’t Forget The Fats
Eating the right kind of fat is absolutely essential for energy and balancing blood glucose levels as it is incredibly satiating and serves as a source of energy for the body.
Try adding more fat to both your breakfast and your lunch by including food sources such as nuts (walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts), seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and chia) olives, avocado, cold-pressed coconut oil and olive oil, grass-fed butter, eggs (yolks included) and fatty cold water fish like salmon.
3. Eat a Well-Balanced Lunch
Protein is actually the most satiating and satisfying macronutrient, keeping us fuelled and full the longest. So ensuring you include protein in your lunch will help balance blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sweets.
By balancing blood sugar levels, it helps us achieve better concentration, mood, alertness and an increase in energy levels throughout the afternoon. Make sure that your lunch has a good source of animal or plant-based protein, lots of healthy fats, lots of veggies, and sources of whole food carbohydrates.
4. Drink Water
Although it is often overlooked as an essential nutrient, water is so vital for your brain.
Your brain needs to be well hydrated in order to function optimally and to stay alert. Studies indicate that increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration and headache symptoms resulted from mild dehydration. (1), (2)
Practical tip: Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day. This can help you stay hydrated to optimise your abilities. You can also add either cucumbers, berries or lemons to add some flavour.
5. Avoid Refined Carbs As Snacks
Although items like muffins, crackers and granola bars may seem like convenient options, they can be part of the problem.
Refined carbs contribute to spikes in blood glucose levels. Remember, spikes in blood glucose levels can lead to dips in blood glucose - which ultimately lead to afternoon crashes. Not only is it important to limit refined carbs at breakfast and lunch, it is also important to do so if you are going to have a snack.
Instead, opt for well-balanced snacks such as an apple + nut butter (or a handful of nuts), plain full fat yogurt + berries or veggie sticks with hummous.
6. Keep a Food Diary
You may want to consider monitoring the foods you are eating to help detect food intolerances or reactions to certain foods that may contribute to you feeling tired.
Writing down what you eat and how you feel afterwards can help you realise what foods your body might be sensitive or intolerant to. It could be beneficial to know as some foods can actually affect your energy levels and mood. Once you are able to see the pattern, you can make alterations to your diet and try different foods to see how they impact your energy levels in general and during the afternoon.
7. Power Naps
They are termed ‘power naps’ for a reason. Napping/siesta/qailulah during the day is a phenomenon which is widely practised around the world.
Planned naps have been shown to improve alertness, performance and to be effective in restoring attention. (3) A nap of less than 30 minutes in duration during the day (preferably post lunch but before 4 pm) promotes wakefulness and enhances performance and learning ability. (4)
In conclusion, balancing your blood sugar levels, staying hydrated, knowing which foods affect you in which way and utilising naps effectively can all help in maintaining productive and optimised energy levels throughout the whole day!
1) Lawrence E. Armstrong, Matthew S. Ganio, Douglas J. Casa, Elaine C. Lee, Brendon P. McDermott et al. (2012). Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. The Journal of Nutrition. 142(2):382–388.
2) Ganio MS, Armstrong LE, Casa DJ et al. (2011). Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. Br J Nutr. 106(10):1535-43.
3) Rebecca Smith-Coggin, Steven K.Howard et al. (2006). Improving Alertness and Performance in Emergency Department Physicians and Nurses: The Use of Planned Naps. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 48 (5) 596-604.e3.
4) Dhand R, Sohal H. Good sleep, bad sleep. (2006). The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 12(6):379-82.