What to eat to beat the mid-afternoon energy slump

Leslie Beck, RD See Bio

Copyright © Leslie Beck, 2015.

Leslie Beck, Registered Dietitian, is the best-selling author of 12 books on nutrition and health, writes a weekly column in The Globe and Mail, and is a regular contributor to CTV News. Based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto, Leslie offers one-on-one diet coaching, personalized meal plans and evidence-based recommendations on the use of nutritional supplements. www.lesliebeck.com

Hide

If you have trouble getting in gear in the morning, feel drained by mid afternoon, or just want to crash on the couch in the evening, the culprit could be your diet.  Diet blunders such as skipping meals, overindulging, running low on water and drinking too much coffee can leave you feeling sluggish.

For many people, low energy – and how to have more of it – is an ongoing concern. How energetic you feel can impact your mood, your motivation, your productivity, your self-esteem, even your ability to control overeating.

Maintaining a steady stream of energy requires eating the right foods at strategic times.  The following dietary adjustments can help fend off your mid-afternoon energy slump.

Include protein

Meals and snacks that include protein will help you feel more energetic compared to carb-only meals. That’s because protein stimulates certain brain cells, called orexin cells, to keep us alert.

Divide your protein intake among three meals and snacks. At meals, choose lean versions of protein such as lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, tofu, beans and lentils.

Protein-rich snack choices include nuts, soy nuts, edamame, hard boiled eggs, flavoured tuna (85 g tins), part skim cheese, yogurt (Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt) and unsweetened soy beverages.

Choose the right carbs

Your body needs carbohydrates for energy. Carbohydrates are metabolized into blood glucose, the only form of energy that the body can use immediately. Carbohydrate stores (glycogen) in your liver is used to replenish blood glucose, while that in your muscles fuels exercise.

Low glycemic carbohydrates are digested and converted to blood glucose slowly. As a result, the body gets a balanced and sustained release of energy rather than a quick burst.

Such slow-burning carbohydrates include dense, grainy breads, 100% bran cereals, steel-cut and large flake oatmeal, milk, yogurt, kefir, soy beverages, apples, bananas, pears, oranges, dried apricots, berries, nuts, seeds, and beans and lentils.

Eat breakfast

Studies show that eating the morning meal improves mood, memory and feelings of energy in adults and kids.

Breakfasts that deliver protein and low glycemic carbohydrates include bran cereal with milk, fruit and nuts; steel cut oatmeal topped with ½ cup Greek yogurt; a smoothie made with milk (or soy milk), berries and ground flax; and 100% whole grain toast with egg whites and fruit salad.

Plan mid day snacks

To prevent your energy level from fading, go no longer than three hours without eating.

Snacks should boost your blood sugar and keep it relatively stable until mealtime – think carbohydrate (low glycemic) and protein. Try fruit and nuts, a decaf latte (or yogurt) and fruit, bean soup, whole grain crackers (Wasa, Ryvita and FinnCrisp are low glycemic) and part skim cheese.

Energy bars can also be used for snacks. Choose a bar that contains 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrate and 7 to 18 grams of protein. Look for products made from whole food ingredients that limit refined sugars (e.g. Elevate Me Bar, Vega Snack Bars, Simply Protein Bar, Larabar).

If you’re concerned about weight gain, keep snacks to 150 to 200 calories (women) and 200 to 250 calories (men).

Drink water

Water in your bloodstream circulates oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and removes wastes and it’s an essential ingredient in the production of energy molecules.

A 2011 study conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that mild dehydration – defined as a 1.5 per cent loss of normal water volume in the body – triggered headaches, caused fatigue, worsened mood and impaired concentration in men and women.

Men need 12 cups (3 litres) of water each day; women need 9 cups (2.2 litres). With the exception of alcoholic beverages, all fluids counts towards meeting water requirements. That includes water, milk, unsweetened juices, even tea and coffee.

Limit caffeine

Caffeine might perk you up during the day but it can also keep you awake at night, particularly if it’s consumed late in the afternoon.  Caffeine can disrupt sleep by blocking the body’s production of adenosine, a brain chemical that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity.

Women of childbearing age should limit caffeine intake to 300 milligrams per day; other healthy adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams daily.  (One 8-ounce cup of regular coffee has roughly 180 milligrams of caffeine.)

If you feel you consume too much caffeine, gradually cut back caffeine over three weeks to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headache and muscle soreness.

Meet iron requirements

An iron deficiency, even without anemia, can cause fatigue, lethargy and difficulty concentrating.

Iron rich foods include beef, oysters, clams, turkey, chicken, tuna, pork loin and halibut, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, soybeans, lentils, baked beans, black beans, firm tofu, cooked spinach, raisins and prune juice.

If you’re concerned about your iron level, speak with your doctor about having your iron stores (ferritin) tested.


Copyright © Leslie Beck, 2015.

Leslie Beck, Registered Dietitian, is the best-selling author of 12 books on nutrition and health, writes a weekly column in The Globe and Mail, and is a regular contributor to CTV News. Based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto, Leslie offers one-on-one diet coaching, personalized meal plans and evidence-based recommendations on the use of nutritional supplements. www.lesliebeck.com

 

 

Other articles you might like

 

 

 

 

take hold of your future

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to friend