7 Hacks to Avoid the Mid-Afternoon Energy Lag

Dump the slump!

If you regularly feel ‘hangry’ or sleepy when the clock strikes 3pm, follow these top tips from registered nutritional therapists at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition to stay fully fuelled for the afternoon and avoid that energy lag:

1. Limit caffeine to the morning 

Caffeine has a half-life of around six hours, so whilst that 4pm coffee may seem like a good idea at the time, half of it will still be in your system when you go to bed, potentially affecting energy levels the next day.

2. Limit processed and sugary foods

Sugar-filled or processed foods such as pizza, fried foods and package meals may cause sharp, rapid increases in blood sugar, followed by subsequent ‘crashes’ soon after, and accompanying mood swings, hunger and sleepiness.

3. Eat meals that contain good quality protein and fat

Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, tofu, lentils and nuts. For fat, opt for oily fish, avocados, nuts, olives and olive oil. Avocado and poached egg on rye bread would be perfect or try this delicious recipe for Bubble and Squeak with Poached Eggs.

4. Eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit

energy lag

These are a great source of fibre, which helps to support healthy digestion. For a warming winter lunch, blitz leftover vegetables into a soup, which is quick and easy to make just by adding stock and herbs. If you do find yourself craving something between meals, think ‘thirst first’. Drink some water or even a cup of tea, get up and move around the house. Then see if the hunger is genuine after 10-20 minutes. If it is, you don’t have to reach for chocolate or crisps. There are lots of healthy options that won’t cause your blood sugars to spike, such as fresh fruit with a small handful or nuts or a sliced apple with nut butter.

5. Choose wholemeal and wholegrains over refined carbs

energy lag

Wholegrains have more of the goodness left in them, providing fibre, minerals and antioxidants; and the fibre also helps to keep you fuller for longer. After the outer layers are removed, refined grains are left with only the endosperm, which is mostly made up of carbohydrate. Wholemeal and wholegrain help to keep blood sugars more stable throughout the day, rather than causing sharp spikes and crashes. Common wholegrains include brown and wild rice, bulgur, millet and oats/oatmeal; quinoa and buckwheat are also good alternatives, but are technically seeds not grains.

6. Make time to sit down, eat and enjoy meals

energy lag

Stress can impact digestion, so make sure you are taking a proper lunch break away from your desk if possible. Set aside time, step away from the screen and enjoy preparing and cooking a healthy lunch; if you can fit some exercise in too that’s an added bonus and will help you to feel refreshed and alert when back at your desk and definitely avoid that energy lag.

7. Keep a good quality snack with you for emergencies

energy lag

If you are out of the house and need something to get you through until dinner, keep a snack on you so that you don’t turn to vending machines or convenience stores. Good options include a handful of nuts, whole fruit, and vegetable sticks with hummus. Avoid crisps and chocolate, which will ultimately cause a sugar crash and that nasty energy lag.

The Institute for Optimum Nutrition is an independent, not for profit educational charity. Its mission is to educate and enthuse, instilling optimum nutrition as the foundation of health for all.

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