It is commonly known as the post-lunch slump. It usually strikes around 3pm and can make the remainder of the afternoon feel like an insurmountable task. For many of us it is an unwelcome daily occurrence. And what do we do? We reach for the coffee and raid the biscuit tin we have so admirably been resisting all day. Sound familiar? You’re certainly not alone! The good news is that the mid-afternoon energy dip that leaves you counting down the seconds until home time can be avoided by some simple changes to your diet.
Here are some top tips to avoid the brain fog, and keep you energized and clear-headed until home time:
Don’t overdo the caffeine- One or two coffees can boost energy and mental alertness. However, heavy caffeine consumption puts the body under stress, and can lead to anxiety, irritability and poor mental performance. On top of this, it can affect sleep which then has a knock-on effect the next day. Try green tea, which is still caffeinated but is rich in antioxidants and L-theanine- which has been shown to aid concentration and alertness.
Drink water: Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of dehydration, and when we are rushing round at work it can be very easy to forget to drink. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can affect an individual’s mood, energy levels and mental clarity. If you reach a point where you are thirsty, it’s a signal that you are already dehydrated, and this may already be effecting your body’s ability to function efficiently. You should be aiming to drink 8 glasses or 2 litres of water a day.
Avoid the sugar rollercoaster: Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes) that cause a sharp spike in blood sugar, followed in quick succession by a rapid fall in blood sugar and subsequent crash in energy levels. Instead opt for “complex” carbs such as whole grains, beans and pulses which provide a slow, steady release of energy.
Coenzyme Q10: this power-nutrient is required by every cell in the body for energy production. It enables our body to convert the food we eat into useable energy.
The importance of protein- Protein contains tryptophan which your body needs to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes a calm, relaxed feeling that helps fight emotional fatigue. Protein rich foods also contain tyrosine that your brain uses to synthesise the neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline, which help keep your mind attentive, motivated and alert. Always make sure your lunch contains a good source of protein such as lean meat or fish, beans, pulses or nuts.
Boost your nutrients: Vitamins & minerals are needed for every single process in the body, not least the conversion of food into energy. You can boost your intake by ensuring your diet is rich in fruit & raw vegetables. In addition there are a few supplements you may also consider, with some research suggesting even the timing of your vitamins and supplements is crucial.
Magnesium: this mineral is required for over 300 chemical reactions in the body, including the conversion of glucose to energy.
Pump up your iron: Our bodies need iron to produce haemoglobin which is the carrier of oxygen around the body to the cells where it is used to produce energy. Increase your intake of iron-rich foods such as red meat, spinach, nuts, beans, seeds and dried apricots. Eat in combination with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits to boost its absorption.
Get up from your desk: A brisk walk around the block, 20 star jumps (if you can ignore the odd looks), or even a good stretch can help to improve blood flow and give you an instant energy booster.
Incorporate all of these into your daily routine, and your challenge will become what to do with your new-found energy!