Struggling to keep your eyes open after lunch? Most of us find it really hard to feel bright and energetic at work, post lunch. Good news: you can wipe away the afternoon blues by eating right and ensure that your body gets sustained energy release from food.
Why the energy slump?
What you've eaten to kick-start your day, the lunch you have had, the amount of water you have sipped all through the morning, and if you have slept well the night before-all of this can determine whether you experience a mid-afternoon slump or not.
'What you put inside will certainly fuel the type and level of energy that you get out,' says Jennifer Salib Huber, a naturopathic doctor, registered dietician and owner of Pillars of Health in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. According to Huber, those who opt for a doughnut or a cake are making a poor choice of energy production, because these foods are simple carbohydrates that are broken down rapidly by the body to give a quick but short boost of energy. 'However, your blood sugar will then have a resulting drop that's fairly quick too,' she adds.
This is not unusual in the middle of the afternoon; one, because people are tiring out after the morning burst of work and their breakfast sugar and coffee highs are coming to an end around that time or lunch means that we are robbing the body of essential nutrients and putting it at a disadvantage to be able to manage blood sugar levels efficiently. Ensure that you eat small portions, but often. Avoid starting your day with a caffeine boost. Opt for herbal teas and fresh fruit/vegetable juices with your breakfast instead.
Balance your meals:
Always include a wholegrain/complex source of carbohydrates with lean protein in every meal, as they break down slowly to give the body sustained energy release. Wholegrains are rich in fibre (they are known to slow down energy release) and in B vitamins- essential for energy production. Ideal wholegrain choices are brown rice, whole-wheat chapattis, jowar/bajra chapattis and oats. To get more proteins you should go for fish (oily fish is even better), chicken, tofu, beans and pulses. Note Protein-rich foods at lunchtime can help block the production of sleep inducing serotonin or increase the levels of two other brain chemicals-dopamine and norepinephrine-which make us feel more alert and increase our ability to concentrate.
Avoid quick pick me-ups:
Sugar-laden, simple-carb foods and caffeine drinks are 'uppers' that are a no-no. Simple carbs such as white rice, white bread, white pasta, fried snacks, are best avoided. A sugar-laden bar of chocolate, coke and coffee (which have caffeine) will also rapidly boost blood sugar levels to give you a quick energy boost but your blood sugar levels will drop just as rapidly, taking you back to square one (read: slump).
Keep up with your water intake:
Being even slightly dehydrated can affect your concentration levels and make you feel tired. Tea and coffee are diuretics (that make you urinate frequently) and definitely can't substitute plain water. Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Enjoy herbal and fruit teas as they are naturally caffeine-free.
Exercise for energy:
Go for a short, brisk walk before lunch. It will help improve your digestion and invigorate you, as exercise boosts endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in the body. Ensure that you build a 30-minute exercise regime into your lifestyle, at least 3 times a week.
Get enough sleep:
Make sure that you get at least 7-8 hours sleep every day, as sleep deprivation can have a devastating effect on your body and energy levels.
Take care :)