Tips to Beat the Afternoon Crash

We all know the feeling of the mid-afternoon energy slump.  A sleepy, low-energy period in the afternoon is natural and most of us experience it.  You might reach for a sugary, caffeinated drink or a processed snack from the vending machine, but beware: These foods and drinks may give you an energy boost, but it won’t last. There are much better strategies to overcome the afternoon crash and refocus on what you need to get done.

  • Go Protein. For real and sustained energy, you need protein, not sugar. Protein actually stimulates brain cells and can keep you alert. Nuts, like almonds, are a great high-protein snack, but also consider keeping protein powder and a shaker bottle at your desk.  Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that may give you a quick burst of energy- a “sugar high”- but you might feel even worse after your blood glucose falls back down.  Protein will give you a boost without the crash.

  • Not all carbs are bad. Complex carbohydrates can provide you with sustained energy. These carbs have a low glycemic index and that you metabolize slowly. Whole grains are the key to getting this type of carbohydrate into your snack. Look for whole grain breads and crackers, or add low-sugar granola and nuts to your yogurt.

  • Plan your snacks. The secret to sticking with the snacks that you know are better for you and will give you the energy you need is to plan ahead. Think ahead and prepare single serving bags of nuts and seeds or crunchy veggie sticks.  The more you plan, the less likely you will be to give into the temptation of easy, quick snacks that may let you down later.

  • Always eat breakfast. It is easy to skip breakfast, but it will help you resist the urge to have unhealthful snacks later in the day. Make sure your breakfast is rich in protein and whole grains to give you that lasting energy.

  • Drink more water. Most of us don’t drink enough water, which can make us feel hungry and sluggish. Adults should drink two to three liters a day. Keep fresh water on hand at work so you never go thirsty and so that you don’t turn to high-calorie, sugary drinks.  Make it more interesting by adding lemon or cucumber slices to your water in the morning.

  • Avoid over-caffeinating. Some caffeine can be good for you and can provide you with a helpful kick of energy, but too much caffeine, especially consumed during your afternoon slump, may affect your sleep at night. And of course, if you’re not getting enough sleep – that afternoon sluggishness will become an inevitable cycle.  To avoid it, stick to morning coffee only and stay away from sugary caffeinated soda during the day.  We recommend avoiding soda entirely.

You can fight back the afternoon urge to nap in a healthy way with water, protein, complex carbs, and a little advance planning.  Be sure to eat breakfast and get a good night’s sleep as well, and you can break the cycle without affecting your nutrition plan– or your afternoon.

Josha Krueger is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, an AFPA Sports Nutrition Consultant, and owner of Kru Strength + Fitness.

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