Years ago when I worked in an office, without fail by 2-3pm my energy levels would crash and I would consistently turn to something, anything to get me through the rest of the day (which by then felt like it could not come sooner). A friend of mine and I would message each other over whether one had access to any contraband: chocolate? cookies? coffee? Yes please to all three. And since this seemed to be everyone’s story I didn’t think much of it. This is normal, right? Actually, it really isn’t.
It’s now rare for me to need any kind of energy pick-me-up at any point of the day. My energy levels are steady from when I wake up to when I get ready for bed and I’m here to share with you some common culprits that cause the energy slumps that many experience mid-afternoon.
Our food is our fuel. If you were to fill your car’s gas tank then find that your car sputtered and stopped and couldn’t drive more than 30km/h, you would rightfully be concerned. You just gave it exactly what it needed to drive smoothly and efficiently. The same is true for how we fuel our bodies. When we feed our body the right foods, foods that are balanced, nutrient-dense and as close to their natural, whole form as possible, we are giving our body exactly what it needs, including high-quality sources of energy. Conversely, when we make poor choices at our meals with refined, fried, heavy foods, our body is required to expend more energy to process these. We are in fact depleting our energy stores and making ourselves more tired as a result.
So, if you’re experiencing the 3pm slow-down, it might be time to reconsider how and what you’re eating. Instead of that pasta bowl or burger and fries, try half a plate of non-starchy vegetables (roasted sweet potatoes, grilled broccoli, garlic sautéed spinach, a beautiful salad) with some good quality protein, healthy fats and/or whole grains (brown rice or quinoa).
It’s not hard for us all to understand that if we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re going to be tired. Insufficient sleep has been linked to numerous health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Even if you’re not overly concerned about these yet, getting good quality sleep can help with weight loss, improved mental clarity, improved memory and improved mood, to name a few. Unless you have a newborn in the house or do shift-work, or have some other inflexible reason for a crazy schedule, try making getting quality sleep more of a priority. This may mean giving up that last hour of watching TV, checking emails or working late at night. If it’s affecting your quality of life, this won’t be so much of a sacrifice as an investment.
Exercise & Movement
We can get into all the benefits of exercise in a future post, but if you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon (or in general), there are a few reasons that exercise can help. Exercise helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, it increases oxygen to the body and revs your circulation. These can all have a direct and immediate impact on your energy. So while it’s important to have a regular exercise routine, no matter where you’re at try a little exercise break in the afternoon. Starting to feel your energy drop? Go for a walk around the block outside, do some jumping jacks or even a few pushups. See who else around you wants to join. Most people are interested in doing some light exercise if they have someone to do it with.
Hydration Et. al
A few other possible culprits are dehydration, adrenal fatigue and the infamous sugar crash. Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated? Dehydration (even mild dehydration) can affect your brain and make you feel sluggish. Get the jump on this by avoiding it entirely. Drink lots of water. Only drinking one glass a day? Increase your intake to 2-3, then keep upping it. Wherever you’re at, your body might be telling you that it needs more so keep increasing your water consumption and see how you feel. If you’re not into drinking water, try jazzing it up by adding fresh fruits and herbs. I drink nearly twice as much when I have a pitcher of lemon/lime/rosemary water available. It’s so refreshing!
Can you relate? Are you experiencing the 3pm slump?