What Causes The Mid-Afternoon Slump?
It may be an all-too-familiar feeling: The afternoon slump. Characterised by exhaustion, lack of energy, and an inability to concentrate. But what is the underlying cause?
When that pesky afternoon slump happens, it can be a challenge to take control of your energy levels again. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve hit a wall. Other times it comes on slowly, sapping your energy levels sometime after you’ve finished lunch. Either way, the afternoon energy slump is a common phenomenon that affects many people. It’s often caused by one or a combination of factors, including diet, your natural circadian rhythms, and lifestyle habits.
How To Naturally Beat the Afternoon Slump
Here are some simple things you can do to improve your daily energy levels and help reduce the afternoon slump.
Eat nourishing food
One of the most overlooked causes of afternoon fatigue are poor dietary habits. When you nourish your body with the essential nutrients it needs, you can help eliminate the potential for this energy slump and feel better overall. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and quality proteins throughout the day can help keep your energy levels stable and curb cravings for unhealthy snacks. Eating smaller, more frequent meals that are nutrient-dense can also help you maintain your energy level during the day.
While intermittent fasting has some incredible health benefits, missing breakfast can sometimes have negative health effects later in the day. If you're starving by the time lunch rolls around, and you haven't prepared yourself a nourishing meal, chances are you'll go for something convenient and potentially unhealthy. This is because we don't tend to make good decisions when we're hungry. So, if you're not a breakfast person, set yourself up for success by ensuring lunch is light, filling and nutritious without weighing you or your energy down.
Have a snack and make it healthy
When drowsiness strikes after lunch, we often believe that finding something to eat is the answer. However, if we absolutely must eat something, it's important to make it as healthy as possible. Processed food, sugar-laden snacks and treats can lead to a quick spike in blood sugar, followed by a further energy crash - which exacerbates things even more.
Junk food tends to make an appearance at this time of day, as our body is attempting to ameliorate the uncomfortable feeling of fatigue. Sometimes the desire to eat at this time is just your body feeling tired, dehydrated or restless.
So, it's good to ask yourself some reflective questions around afternoon snacking if this is your vice.
- Do you really need something to eat or do you just need to move your body?
- Can you take a power nap or some form of active rest for 10 minutes?
- Am I just dehydrated?
Try these interventions and then see how you feel. If you're genuinely hungry after this, your body will let you know.
Snacks that are full of healthy fats and protein are best during this time of the day. Things like trail mix, cheese and crackers, yoghurt, an apple or a handful of nuts should do the trick nicely. These foods will help boost your mood and give you more energy for enhanced thinking during the day.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is also essential to keeping your body energised throughout the day. Not only does water help keep you alert, but it also helps your body maintain its normal metabolic temperature, aids in detoxification and supports cellular energy production.
Find ways to make drinking water interesting and enjoyable. Set yourself up at the beginning of the day by having a glass of water upon waking, even before your morning coffee. Then, have a jug or bottle of water at your desk, so there are fewer barriers to keeping your body hydrated during the day. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, mint leaves, or some fresh berries to your water. It's the perfect way to add an all-natural flavour boost that ensures you're staying properly hydrated at the same time. Maintaining hydration is essential for your body to function at its best, and can give you a much-needed energy boost later in the day.
Get enough sleep
One lifestyle factor to consider when it comes to finding the root cause of that post-midday energy dip is sleep. Your circadian rhythm is a master metabolic regulator, and as such is partially responsible for when we feel tired or alert throughout the day.
A great bio-hack for ensuring you’re getting quality sleep is to make sure you go to bed at a consistent time each night, so your body can establish its natural rhythm. Also, make sure you’re not using screens before bed as the blue light emitted from phones and computers can disrupt your sleep patterns, making it harder to concentrate during the day. Similarly, if you're trying to pick yourself up after lunch with a strong coffee or (god forbid) an energy drink - just stop! Caffeine consumed past 1 or 2 pm can actually make it harder for you to fall sleep.
Take a break
Remember to get some fresh air, sunshine and move your body! Preferably all at the same time. Of course, not every job or circumstance in the afternoon allows you to duck outside for a few minutes to replenish your body and mind with life-giving oxygen, sunlight and movement. However, if you can manage to do this at some point in your day, every day, you'll be better off for it. Taking regular breaks throughout the day and including movement can boost your energy levels and help clear your head.
Beat The Dreaded Energy Slump With These Simple Tips
These are just some ways to beat the afternoon slump and stay energised throughout your day. Other than these common causes of low energy, other factors to consider are side effects from medications, low iron, thyroid dysfunctions or cardiovascular issues. If you're concerned about ongoing energy drops, it's best to consult the advice of a trusted health professional.
Remember, you still have the power to evaluate the situation at hand and make some diet or lifestyle changes so you can enjoy increased energy and alertness.
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