That afternoon dip in energy can be a real drag especially if you are in the middle of a work day and need to get tasks done.
This is a common experience for many individuals to feel low energy after lunch and even lose motivation and focus.
It is normal to experience a dip in energy between 1 and 3 PM due to the body's natural shifts in its circadian rhythm, aka your sleep and wake cycle.
There are many factors that can influence our circadian rhythm and as a result our energy and sleep. If you find yourself relying on caffeine and sugar to get through this slump or if it interferes consistently with your quality of life, it's time to investigate a little deeper.
The good news is that when you understand what factors can contribute to the afternoon energy crash, you can make the necessary changes that will make a difference.
Lifestyle factors that can contribute to or worsen the afternoon slump:
- sedentary lifestyle
- carbohydrate heavy diet or meal
- dysregulated circadian rhythm
- blood sugar spikes
- lack of sleep
It can be tempting to reach for the coffee or sugar for a temporary boost in energy and brain power however this doesn't actually address the root of the problem and increases dependency on these sources of stimulus.
Learn what you can do instead to overcome the post lunch fatigue and naturally support your energy levels while boosting alertness when you need it.
Natural ways to beat the afternoon slump
Swap the refined carbohydrates
The common choice of lunch these days that consists of a sandwich or bagel, or sometimes nothing but a coffee, is not doing you any favors.
We all know the feeling of needing a nap after a heavy meal, and certain foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates can make this worse by triggering large surges in insulin which inevitably lead to crashes in blood sugar, leaving you tired and irritable, also known as hangry.
In order to combat this, we recommend opting for a lighter lunch and choosing whole food sources of complex carbohydrates that provide plenty of fiber so as not to cause a jump in your blood sugar. Examples of fiber rich carbs include fruit, oats, quinoa, potatoes, rice, beans, legumes, and vegetables.
Add a fat and protein to your meals
Adding to the above, when we eat meals that are carbohydrate dense and neglect healthy fats and protein we create a roller coaster ride for our blood sugar but also our hormones.
Carbohydrates trigger the biggest spike in blood sugar compared to protein and fat which promote a gradual or limited release of glucose into the bloodstream.
This is why it's best to avoid carbohydrate only meals and include fats and proteins to make it a complete and balanced meal that is blood sugar friendly.
Get some sunlight
Sunlight is a natural energizer that triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, a natural mood boosting hormone associated with feelings of calm but also focus and attention (1).
What's more, sunlight exposure can boost vitamin D status which plays a significant role in mood and energy.
It's important to be aware though that the vitamin D benefits from sunlight will vary greatly depending on season, location, and skin color (2).
On a final note, if it's winter time or you live in a place that doesn't receive much sunshine, this doesn't mean getting outdoors won't benefit you! Even on overcast days you do receive the benefits from 20 minutes of daylight exposure and the fresh crisp air is a great way to shift your attention away from the digital world and at the same time improve productivity.
Move your body
Motivating yourself to exercise may feel like a challenge in itself yet moving your body always makes you feel better.
Humans aren't meant to be sedentary and this shift in our lifestyle is affecting our health in numerous ways including energy, productivity, brain function, and mood.
Sitting at a desk all day does not help your energy levels and can contribute to that afternoon crash especially if you combine it with a heavy meal. Countering the sedentary work day by breaking it up every 30 minutes to an hour with a quick walk around, or simply standing up and stretching can make a world of difference to your mental and physical health. Glued to your desk? There are plenty of chair exercises you can do!
Grab a healthy snack
The afternoon crash usually has us reaching for caffeine or sugary snacks to keep us going yet this doesn't actually provide sustainable energy to our bodies.
If you are feeling a dip in energy or need a snack to keep you going until your next meal, choose healthy options or make your own that you can bring with you to the office. This way you receive that much needed energy boost without the jitters.
Some foods that are sustainably energizing and brain boosting include green tea, dark chocolate, high quality animal protein, wild fatty fish, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, berries, and herbs like rosemary and turmeric.
Get plenty of sleep
We want to emphasize again that it's completely normal for your energy to naturally fluctuate throughout the day.
However, if you find yourself consistently crashing in the afternoon this may be an indication that your body's natural circadian rhythm is dysregulated.
One of the most important factors to having good energy during the day is of course, sleep. Inadequate sleep is becoming increasingly common as sleep is often put on the back burner due to busy lifestyles, increased responsibilities, and electronics and artificial lights that keep us up at all hours of the night.
The reality is that we can't just overlook or neglect sleep and expect to feel energized and optimal the next day. Your sleep will directly influence your day time energy but also additional factors such as appetite, cravings, focus, and brain function.
Chronically sleeping less than 6 hours per night is not enough so make sure you are aiming for 7-9 hours to ensure your body is properly rested.
Now we know it can be a struggle at times to get a good night's sleep so we're giving you some of our top tips for you to sleep better.
Take a break to recharge
As mentioned our natural circadian rhythm does influence our energy due to rising and falling cortisol levels. If you feel a little bit of a dip, your body may be asking you to take a break. Whether you take a walk, a nap, or a breath of fresh air outside, this can help you to feel more energized.
In our fast paced society it may have been demonstrated to push through, neglect rest, and keep going at all costs however this isn't how our bodies were designed to function and can keep us from thinking and performing optimally. What's more, concentration and productivity can decline when we don't take some time away from what we are doing especially if the tasks are tedious and repetitive.
Taking a break isn't a waste of time, it might just be the boost you need to come back into the work day more awake and alert.