We’ve all been there; it’s 3:00 pm and things are steadily going downhill. You’ve been productive all morning, but now your eyelids are getting heavy, you’re having trouble concentrating, and all you want to do is surf the internet at your desk. Although the solution for many is to grab an afternoon coffee or sugary treat, there are actually some very simple things to consider to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place. So here are my top tips on how to avoid the afternoon crash.
Tips to Avoid the Afternoon Crash
Here are 7 simple yet effective ways to help beat the afternoon slump.
1. Eat a Savory Breakfast.
You’re probably asking yourself How on earth is my breakfast relevant to my afternoon crash? but the truth is, it’s very important. Although people tend to look for a solution in the moment, the root cause of the afternoon crash is often linked to what you did earlier on in the day, which begins with breakfast. What many people fail to recognize is that your first meal of the day plays a major role in your energy levels for the rest of the day. Your breakfast sets the tone for your blood sugar, which controls your energy levels, and a sweet breakfast can kick things off in the worst possible way. Starting your day with too much sugar, or sources of refined carbohydrates will spike your blood sugar first thing in the morning which will lead to a crash shortly thereafter. Items like bagels, cereals, muffins, and even granola, can simply be too much sugar (be it from added sugar or refined carbs) to start your day. Instead, opting for a savory breakfast that is high in protein and fat will help keep your blood sugar stable and balanced heading into the morning and afternoon. Opting for something like my Kale & Egg Breakfast Skillet or my Western Omelette Muffins can be a much better option to help kick off your morning.
2. Fill Up on Fat.
At both breakfast and lunch, ensure that you eat a substantial amount of fat in your meals. Although many people are freaked out by fat, you shouldn’t be. Not only is fat a very important part of a healthy diet, but fat is also incredibly satiating and serves as a source of energy for the body. By adding more fat to your meals you are providing your body with a source of fuel that helps to keep your blood sugar balanced and a source of fuel that is very long-lasting (i.e. no afternoon crash). So instead of forgoing the fat, try adding more fat to both your breakfast and your lunch by opting for whole food sources such as avocado, olives, cheese, nuts, seeds, butter, or olive oil.
3. Limit Crumbs at Snack Time.
I’m going to tell you right now, any food that makes crumbs is going to contribute to your afternoon crash. Although items like bagels, muffins, crackers, and granola bars may seem like convenient options, they are undoubtedly part of the problem. Food items that create crumbs are typically made of flour, which is refined carbs, and these operate a lot like sugar in the body by contributing to spikes in blood sugar. Remember, spikes in blood sugar lead to dips in blood sugar which lead to afternoon crashes. Not only is it important to limit crumb-based foods at breakfast and lunch, but it is important to do so at snacks as well. Instead, opt for whole-food snacks that are well-balanced such as apple + almonds, plain yogurt + berries, or pistachios + olives.
4. Stay Hydrated.
I know, I know, you are sick of me telling you to drink water, but here is the deal. Your brain needs to be well hydrated in order to function optimally, stay alert, and be energized. So if you rush through your morning on two cups of coffee and get to 3:00 pm without having any water, it’s really going to struggle to stay alert for you. I would actually argue that although most people reach for an afternoon snack, many people are not hungry, they are simply dehydrated. Your brain is in need of a boost of energy and the quickest way for it to get stimulated is via simple sugar, which is why it makes you crave cookies and your vanilla latte. Instead, focus on drinking water throughout the entire day, especially the morning. Aim to drink a glass of water before you leave the house and another between breakfast and lunch before you grab that extra coffee.
5. Eat a Protein-Packed Lunch.
Protein is one of the most satiating macronutrients, so ensuring that your lunch is rich in protein will help to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the afternoon so you can avoid the afternoon crash. By eating a good source of protein at lunch, in addition to avoiding refined carbs, you will set yourself up for an energized afternoon. Although your leftover pasta is easy to pack or your PB&J sandwich is quick to make, they are low in protein and high in refined carbs making them a less-than-ideal choice. Instead, create a balanced meal and ensure that your lunch has a good source of animal or plant-based protein, lots of healthy fats, tons of veggies, and sources of whole-food carbohydrates instead.
6. Get Outside.
Guess what? That office lighting and your computer screen are doing you no favors when it comes to avoiding the afternoon crash. Sunlight exposure helps to set our circadian rhythm for the day; our internal clock runs in the background of our brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Taking the time to get outside, feel the fresh air, and get some sunlight will keep down the amount of melatonin (sleep hormone) your body produces down while keeping your serotonin (mood-boosting hormone) up.
7. Keep a Food Journal.
If you are doing all of the above and still can’t seem to figure it out, try keeping a food journal. Pay attention and log all of your meals and snacks for a while, and note the times and days when you feel the most sluggish. Doing so will really help you be mindful of what you are eating and potentially connect a certain food, or type of food, to your mood and energy levels. Eating foods that you might be sensitive or intolerant to can actually affect your energy levels throughout the day. Once you are able to see the pattern, you can make adjustments to your diet and try different foods to see how they impact your afternoon crash.