We all have our down days and we all experience that fatigue in the afternoon. When it becomes harder to concentrate and when you find yourself losing patience or feeling cranky, you are most likely having an energy drain. Here are some helpful nutrition tips to fight that low energy.
Don’t skip meals!
People who often skip meals tend to do so by habit, lack of time or even with the purpose of losing weight. If you are one of those people, it’s time to think of changing this habit. In fact when you are skipping meals you are not providing your body the necessary fuel to keep moving. Simply imagine a car without fuel!
On the other hand, when you eat three small meals with healthy snacks in between you would be providing a steady supply of nutrients. This will help maintain a normal blood sugar level. The trick is to make sure to have on hand some power snacks so when you feel hungry; they will be at your reach. The best snack would be a combination of protein and fibers. Both will give you long term satiety and will keep your hunger level controlled until you have your next meal. Nonetheless, the idea of snacking should not be confused with overeating. If you had a big meal and you’re not really hungry 3 hours later, then adding a snack is not necessary. Always listen to your hunger cues.
Avoid big fatty meals at lunch time
What you choose to eat at lunchtime might very well affect your energy level in the afternoon. If you choose to eat a high fat meal such as fried chicken wings or pasta with heavy cream, your body will take time to digest the fat and you won’t get that energy needed to make it through the afternoon. In fact, these fatty meals might make you feel sleepy and lazy.
So what’s the best combination for a balanced lunch? The answer is: complex carbohydrate+ protein+ a little bit of healthy fat. Here are some examples of healthy lunch:
- Quinoa salad with a good sources of protein such eggs, tuna, chickpeas, turkey or chicken breast
- Tuna or salmon wrap made with whole wheat tortilla. Add some lettuce, onions or any vegetables you like
- Lentil soup with whole grain crackers and low fat cheese
Use caffeine in moderation
A little bit of caffeine does help increase alertness and sharpen the mind. However, too much caffeine might cause some side effects such as nervousness, irritability, upset stomach, insomnia (if taken in the afternoon)… Usually it’s safe to drink up to 400 mg of caffeine a day which is roughly the equivalent of 4 cups of brewed coffee. Pregnant women are advised to limit their intake to less than 300 mg a day. You could also try to drink in the afternoon green tea which has lower caffeine content than coffee.
Be careful when it comes to energy drinks! Most usually contain a significant amount of caffeine reaching up to 240 mg of caffeine in one bottle of 5 hours energy drink!
One of the first signs that your body is in need of water is a feeling of fatigue. Dehydration will affect energy level. Try keeping a glass of water next to you and fill it up every now and then. Your urine color will tell you if you are dehydrated or not. Ideally it should be light-colored. If it’s darker you should get more fluids.
To conclude, if you are feeling tired in the afternoon and it’s not related to a medical condition or sleep hygiene, ask yourself what did I eat for breakfast and lunch? Your answers might explain why you’re feeling the way you do. If you skipped your breakfast and you just had a coffee and a muffin all day, it’s very probable that you might feel drained in the afternoon.
Want to know how to fight stress with food? Check my previous article here