We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? You get to the office, start the day strong but go to lunch and come back feeling like you need to sleep for a week. This afternoon fatigue is a common complaint, and it can affect your productivity at work. To avoid it, many turn to coffee, energy drinks, or sugar. These provide a temporary boost but set you up for failure again the next day.
This slump in energy in the afternoon is a sign that your metabolism isn’t working like it should. Let’s review the ways our bodies use fuel. There are two major ways our cells can get energy; we can burn sugar or we can burn fat. Most people have spent too many years training the sugar burning system making the fat burning system inefficient. This leads to insulin resistance, weight gain, pre-diabetes, and if not changed, it eventually causes diabetes.
How does this affect your energy in the afternoon? When you’ve trained your body to burn sugar but not fat, you’ve signaled your pancreas that you need lots of insulin when you eat. Insulin is the hormone that allows us to use the sugar we eat as fuel for our cells. The more insulin you secrete the faster your cells gobble up sugar. Sounds good, right? Wrong. When your cells use up your blood sugar quickly, your blood sugar drops precipitously. This is when you start to feel a sloth stuck in quicksand. The drop in blood sugar leads to fatigue, sleepiness, mental fog, and the desire for a short (or long) nap.
To prevent this from happening follow the tips below, and in no time you’ll be feeling energetic and productive in the afternoon.
Retrain your metabolism
Begin this process by changing your diet. Remove processed carbohydrates and add in healthy fats. Instead of that bagel for a mid-morning snack, have some nuts. They are loaded with good fats and other nutrients. Have a salad at lunch instead of that burger and fries. Use olive oil and vinegar for dressing and add an avocado to the salad. Make sure you get enough protein. Protein provides the building blocks for the neurotransmitters in your brain. Without these, you’ll feel foggy and disconnected. Instead of having cereal for breakfast, have a couple of eggs. They’re nutrient dense and provide a good source of choline, which is essential for memory function.
Regular exercise will help regulate insulin levels. A hallmark of the sugar burner is high levels of insulin in the blood, even when you’re fasting. By exercising these levels will fall and your pancreas will begin to secrete normal levels of insulin. Your cells will also become more sensitive to insulin. Through multiple feedback mechanisms, this will also help keep you from producing too much of it. The end result is better blood sugar control with no more of the precipitous drops and associated symptoms.
Also, consider getting up from your desk and moving during the day or afternoon. This is often a good way to reset and refresh
This one is rather obvious, but a lack of sleep sets you up for failure. Along with being tired, not getting enough sleep will make you crave sugary, processed food. As has been discussed, this is ultimately the cause of the afternoon slump. Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour, and at the same hour, each night. This trains your body’s internal clock to be ready for bed at the same time every night so you don’t spend hours laying awake waiting to fall asleep. Turn off all the lights in your room and even consider covering any LED alarm clocks, too. Do not watch TV or use a handheld device in bed either. They’re likely to keep you awake. Shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Drink More Water
Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue. How will you know if you are dehydrated? Just listen to your body. If you have other symptoms like headaches, dizziness, constipation, or dry mouth there’s a good chance you’re dehydrated. To rehydrate do not drink sports drinks. They are loaded with sugar and are only appropriate for vigorous exercise. Aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water throughout the day. This will prevent you from becoming dehydrated.
Have A Mid-Afternoon Snack
Having a snack in the afternoon can be a great way to prevent your blood sugar from falling. The key here is to make it a healthy snack. A quick, sugar-filled one will only be a temporary fix, leaving you vulnerable the next day.
Making these simple changes will profoundly affect how you feel in the afternoon. What’s better is they will also be good for your health in the long run. Whether you’re going after that promotion or just trying to feel more alert and productive at work, taking these steps will work for you.