We all know the feeling well, 2 or 3 PM rolls around and you find your eyes are suddenly feeling very heavy when sitting at your desk. Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best ways to avoid the afternoon slump. However, even with adequate sleep, you may still feel a slight dip in your energy level. A few simple changes to your eating habits could help you feel more alert all afternoon. The following are 7 tips for avoiding the afternoon slump.
1. Grab a healthy snack. The best snack options include fiber, protein, and some healthy fat to keep you going. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chopped vegetables, whole grain crackers, and hummus
- Fresh fruit and 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- Yogurt topped with walnuts
- Trail mix
- One serving (ie. 23) almonds and 1 ounce dark chocolate
- Popcorn and mozzarella cheese stick
2. Stay hydrated. One of the symptoms of dehydration is sluggishness. So when you start to feel a bit sleepy mid-afternoon, try pouring yourself a glass of cold water rather than reaching for a snack. Practice staying hydrated everyday by keeping a bottle of chilled water on your desk. Make a goal for yourself to drink at least 48 ounces of water while at work.
3. Take a short walk. Getting up and moving can improve your mood and boost your energy levels by increasing blood flow. If you can, get outside as the sunshine combined with exercise can be even more beneficial as exposure to sun light can increase alertness.
4. Limit simple carbohydrates at lunch. Eating a lunch laden in simple carbohydrates may have you feeling good for a bit, but after your body has processed the sugars from those carbs, you are likely to crash mid-afternoon. Avoid this by eating fewer carbs at lunch or choosing more whole grains which take longer to digest and won’t lead to that mid-afternoon blood sugar crash. Try whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or whole grain bread. Beans are also a great source of carbohydrates as well as fiber and protein.
5. Eat a smaller lunch. Remember how you feel after eating Thanksgiving dinner? Eating too large of a meal at lunch can lead to the afternoon slump. Keep your lunch on the lighter side by packing a large salad and fruit or soup and a sandwich.
6. Don’t skip breakfast. When you skip breakfast, you are more likely to overeat at lunch which can contribute to mid-afternoon drowsiness. Instead, keep your blood sugar and hunger in check throughout the day by eating a healthy breakfast. A few of my go-to favorites:
- Plain yogurt with berries and chopped nuts
- Oatmeal with fruit and nuts or nut butter
- Smoothie made with fresh fruit, yogurt, baby spinach, and milk
7. Nibble on some dark chocolate. A recent study found that dark chocolate consumption increased alertness and attentiveness. Just make sure that your chocolate contains at least 60% cacao and limit your serving size to 1.5 ounces.
Try out one or all of these tips and see if you don’t feel more alert throughout the afternoon.You may not only feel more alert, but will likely be more productive which is a win-win!
Deborah Davis MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian who practices clinical dietetics in Chicago, Illinois. She shares practical nutrition tips and healthy recipes on her personal blog, Dietitian Debbie Dishes. In her free time, you’ll likely find Deborah in the kitchen, camera and spatula in hand, developing recipes for her blog and freelance pieces. You can also connect with Deborah on Twitter and Instagram.