For Nutrition Month, League is asking pros from our Health Marketplace to offer tips on how to encourage your team to make healthier choices—all month long. Because we know you can’t have a healthy business without a healthy team.
You’re at the office, having a pretty typical day—when 2 o’clock rolls around and you’re suddenly so tired you’re seriously contemplating a catnap. Maybe the afternoon slump, sound familiar?
We’ve all been there. Some of us may have even googled “how to get over the afternoon slump.” And yet, here you are again. It’s mid afternoon, and you’re trying everything in your power to forego that fifth coffee of the day.
Two solutions you’ve likely already considered? Getting a decent night’s sleep and avoiding heavy meals at lunchtime. But what else can you do to avoid afternoon drowsiness, and how can you get a burst of energy without resorting to coffee and a sweet treat?
Read on for some simple ways to help keep your eyes open at your desk, and some suggestions for those times you still need an afternoon pick-me-up.
On why we can take on the day in the morning, but are exhausted by mid afternoon…
It turns out your parents were on to something when they only let you eat sweet, sugary cereals on the weekends. Sugar and simple carbs, like white bread and processed cereals, give us a quick burst of energy—which is great if we’re about to do a sprint, but not so great for a day of back-to-back meetings. Not all foods give our bodies the same quality of energy, so if we start the day with some complex carbs (e.g., oatmeal, quinoa, vegetables), protein (e.g., eggs, nuts and seeds, protein powder in a smoothie), and healthy fats (e.g., avocado, nut butters, coconut oil/coconut milk), our bodies will digest these foods more slowly and help us maintain our energy until the next meal.
Keeping our blood sugar balanced is also key. A great trick is combining healthy fats and protein with sugar and simple carbs, as they slow down the rate of digestion of the carb, resulting in a more sustainable form of energy. So if you love eating fruit, like apples and bananas, or are in the habit or starting your day with a piece of toast, try adding some nut butter to your fruit slices or some mashed avocado to your toast. That way, you can avoid the insulin spike that will leave you feeling tired even before lunch break rolls around—at which point the same rules apply.
If you want to maintain energy throughout the afternoon, fuelling yourself properly at lunch, by eating whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice, veggies, protein and a small amount of healthy fat, will help you go a lot further than a meal predominantly consisting of simple carbs.
If you cut out the crap and you’re still feeling tired…
Though eating energizing foods should help, it might not be a cure-all, and even the healthiest nutritionists often need a little afternoon boost. While I personally love a cookie just as much as the next person, there are better options if sustainable energy is what you’re going for. Snacks that are free of refined sugar, energy/bliss balls or granola bars made with oats, nuts, seeds, coconut oil or nut butters, are great options, as are high protein snacks like veggies and hummus, roasted chickpeas, trail mix, or chia pudding.
And instead of an afternoon coffee (which likely won’t help with a good night’s sleep), try another stimulating—but caffeine-free!—hot drink, like peppermint or ginger tea. If you’re still feeling like you need a little caffeine fix, green tea or matcha (a more potent, powdered form of green tea) will give you the energy and focus you need without some of the negative effects of coffee. Green juice (ideally organic) is also a great option as it provides a quick and concentrated mega dose of vitamins and minerals that will energize both your mind and body.
Pro Tip! While there are plenty of snacks and drinks that will help revitalize you mid afternoon, nothing beats getting up and moving around. So in addition to your new healthy, mid-afternoon snack, why not grab a co-worker and go for a little stroll or walking meeting? Or, if you need a hot drink, opt for the cafe a few blocks away. That way you’re getting a little physical activity, some fresh air and a nice change of scenery—all great ways to wake yourself up without resorting to quick fixes like caffeine and sugar.