We’ve all battled the dreaded afternoon slump. Our eyes feel heavy, the coffee is never quite strong enough and we constantly fight the urge to succumb to the drowsiness. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to take back control of your day, so you can get right back to your A-game.
Why the Sudden Drop in Energy?
Our circadian rhythm works to regulate the timing of when we are awake and when we sleep over the course of the day. For adults, the strongest urge to sleep from our body’s internal clock occurs between 2:00–4:00 am; however, another dip occurs during 1:00–3:00pm — the time most of us need to be productive before the work day is over. So, even though it seems “hard-wired” in us to get sleepy mid-day, it doesn’t tend to be the only cause of our low energy.
What we eat
Certain foods can also zap us of our gusto. Foods that release energy rapidly and don’t require much digestion, such as sugary treats, can give us a quick boost but usually end up dropping our energy levels fast. Choosing healthy, nutritious foods over high-energy, but poor-quality junk food, will ensure you have enough fuel to get you through the day.
Replacing high carbohydrate meals for more protein and healthy fats may also help in fighting the daytime drowsiness. A study by Spring et al. found that consuming high-carbohydrate foods for lunch significantly increased fatigue, but not for high-protein or low-carbohydrate meals. Consider eating eggs and grilled veggies or a big salad with grilled fish for lunch instead of a plate of pasta or fried rice to keep your energy levels high over a longer period of time.
Consider starting a food diary. Making note of what you eat and how you feel after your meal can help you identify energy-depleting foods and empower you to experiment with different meal types.
Are you drinking enough water? In fact, fatigue is usually the first sign of dehydration. A recent study from Tufts University found that mild dehydration — of even 1 to 2 percent of the body’s weight as water — resulted in more fatigue, compared to those who kept hydrated.
How to Boost Your Energy
- Choose energizing foods
- Almonds contain magnesium and B vitamins. Research has shown treatment with magnesium helped to improve energy levels in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has been shown to improve memory and learning
- Kale contains L-tyrosine which can provide a mental boost
- Oatmeal supports sustained energy due to its high fiber content
- Pistachios are high in protein and fiber resulting in a steady release of energy
2. Drink water
Sensitive detectors throughout your body called osmoreceptors send signals to the brain when you are dehydrated. In the brain, the hypothalamus interprets these signals to stimulate thirst. Although your body is quite effective at managing its own water balance, increased physical activity or time in the sun can cause you to lose water more quickly. Recommended total water intake for adults is between 2.7- 3.7L per day for females and males, respectively. If you’re having trouble meeting the daily recommended intake, try adding lemon slices or mint to give a refreshing flavor to every sip.
3. Move your body
Regular exercise has shown to increase energy among those suffering from chronic fatigue, including cancer patients and diabetics. Aerobic exercise has also been shown to increase serotonin levels, which uplifts your mood. So not only can exercise make you feel more energized, but it can also make you feel happier.
By modifying your routine even in the slightest, you might be able to accomodate more opportunities to exercise throughout your day. For example, you can take the stairs versus elevator, or park your car further away from your destination and enjoy the walk, or better yet, leave the car at home. Consider centering your day around some aerobic activities such as biking to work, jogging, swimming, playing a sport or joining a community class.
4. Get adequate sleep
Not getting enough sleep is an obvious offender for depriving us of our energy. Adults should aim to get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, with teens (13–18) between 8–10 hours.
5. Play outside
Spending time in the great outdoors can boost your vitality. According to a 2010 study, a 15-minute nature walk can improve both your physical and mental energy. Consider eating lunch outside or taking a brief walk around the office garden in between coffee breaks.
Still Feeling Tired?
Underlying medical conditions like anemia or insomnia can cause chronic fatigue. Blood tests can reveal if there are nutrient deficiencies responsible for making you tired, such as low Vitamin B12, Vitamin D or iron. Talking with your healthcare provider can help you find the cause of your fatigue.