How To Increase Energy Levels and Beat The Afternoon Slump
By: Julie Mancuso, founder of JM Nutrition, a nutritional counselling service by registered dietitians and nutritionists: about JM Nutrition
In this post:
ways to increase energy levels during the day
how to beat the afternoon slump
In today’s fast-paced world many of us are run ragged, invariably looking to increase energy levels and beat the afternoon slump. Sadly, there is little we can do to change the ways of the world. What we can do, however, is increase energy levels by following a number of relatively simple steps.
Before we launch outline steps to increase energy levels, it’s important to recognize that it’s natural for energy levels to rise and fall throughout the day.
The problem arises when these dips and slumps are frequent, severe and long-lasting. When they are, they can have an enormously negative impact on our well-being.
There is, however, good news in the fight to beat the afternoon slump. That is, there are many ways to prevent your energy from dipping dramatically during the day.
18 ways to increase energy levels and beat the afternoon slump
1. Eat a healthy, wholesome, nutritious, high-energy breakfast
So what does a healthy, wholesome, nutritious, high-energy breakfast look like?
Here are a couple of quick and easy breakfast ideas:
- Plain (read: no sugar) Greek yogurt, a handful of blueberries or raspberries and a ¼ cup of mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts preferred).
- 2 boiled eggs,1 slice of sprouted bread with a ½ mashed avocado used as spread.
Additional breakfast tips
i) Make sure to include a healthy protein source with each breakfast. Perhaps throw in some fibre, if possible. Both protein and fibre will help to keep you full for longer, reducing the chance of experiencing hunger soon after breakfast. This is a highly effective method that can help prevent you from giving in to some unhealthy coffee break temptation as soon as it appears before your eyes.
ii) Avoid loading up on refined carbs, which include mostly sugars and refined grains. Essentially, these are empty calories that rapidly spike up your blood sugar and are followed by a swift crash. When this happens, your energy levels plummet.
Therefore, be sure to avoid refined carbs such as white flour, white breads, white rice, pastries, most breakfast cereals and so on.
2. Keep water by your side and sip frequently throughout the day
Not drinking enough water throughout the day can certainly contribute to fatigue. Studies show that a fluid loss of just 1-3% impairs focus, mental sharpness, energy and mood. To help increase energy levels and beat the afternoon slump, keep a bottle of water by your side and make it a habit of sipping on it regularly.
Drinking water can be effective in reducing the amount of caffeinated coffee you drink. Similarly, water is a great replacement for high-sugar sodas which can cause the previously mentioned crash, leading to a feeling of depletion.
In addition, many people report feeling hungry when they are, in fact, thirsty. By sipping on water throughout the day you are likely to be in a much better position to be able to refuse that delicious-looking pastry in the lunch room at work.
Related: How much water should I drink?
If you don’t like the taste of water on its own, add a slice of lemon or lime to give it some zest. Another alternative for water haters is herbal tea. Peppermint, ginger and hibiscus are all wonderful choices.
Benefits of drinking water
If you’re still not convinced you should be drinking water here are a few more benefits that come with being properly hydrated:
- helps the kidneys and liver
- helps to balance bodily fluids
- aids muscles
- improves athletic performance
- prevents cramping
- improves skin health (Related: skin health nutritionist)
- aids digestion (learn more about gut health 101)
- and much more
Related: Summer Nutrition Tips
3. Do not overeat, especially at lunch
To help increase energy levels and beat the afternoon slump, adopt the rule to eat until you’re no longer hungry rather than eating until you’re full. This simple shift can prevent afternoon energy depletion.
In addition, avoid carb-heavy lunches–a major contributing factor to post-lunch fatigue. Carb-heavy lunches can cause your digestive system to work harder, leading to tiredness, lethargy and even sleepiness. Instead, eat a smaller meal that is lighter in carbs.
To help the cause even further, add a healthy fat (olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts) to slow down digestion, preventing quick spikes in blood sugar and an ensuing drop.
Here are some examples of lunch ideas:
- Sprouted whole grain wrap with tuna salad, lettuce, celery and red onion.
- Salad with grilled chicken breast, cheese, tomato, cucumber and vinaigrette dressing.
- Mixed bean salad, celery, peppers, onion, olives, feta cheese and olive oil.
4. Take a brisk walk during the day
Taking a walk outside at least once per day can be a great way to increase energy and beat the afternoon slump.
What’s the purpose of a brisk walk?
Fresh air can reinvigorate, get the oxygen flowing as well as boost energy and alertness.
Because sitting at a desk for a long time places you in an energy-saving state, be sure to get up and get moving. Instead of sitting at our desk in our office or in the staff room at lunch, simply take a 10-15-minute brisk walk outside and reap the benefits.
5. Avoid coffee (or any caffeine) in the afternoon or late in the day
Caffeine can no doubt disrupt sleep, even if taken in the afternoon and even if you don’t notice it.
The habit of drinking coffee throughout the day becomes… well, a habit, an artificial crutch used to prop you up, and eventually, one that you cannot do without. Once the artificial support wears off, you can experience a steep energy dip.
Although drinking coffee can result in improved mood, boosted energy and increased alertness, it can disrupt sleep for some if taken in late in the day–even in the afternoon, for some. Studies show that taking in more than 400mg of caffeine in any given day can disrupt sleep for many.
How much caffeine does 1 cup of brewed coffee contain?
(1 cup of coffee = 237mL or 8 fluid ounces)
1 cup of brewed coffee contains approximately 95mg of caffeine. This means that you should avoid drinking more than 4 cups of coffee per day.
As a comparison, a single espresso has 64 mg of caffeine and 1 cup of brewed black tea contains 47mg of caffeine.
Caffeine content in Starbucks and Tim Horton’s coffee
Let’s give this guideline more perspective.
A short (237mL or 8 fl. oz.) cup of brewed coffee from Starbucks contains 130mg of caffeine, making your daily limit about 3 short coffees.
On the other hand, a small (286mL or 10 fl. oz.) cup of Tim Horton’s brewed coffee contains about 140mg of caffeine. The daily limit then is just under 3 small cups.
Unfortunately, many of us consume coffee in excess of these guidelines. Therefore, in order to increase energy levels and beat the afternoon slump the following day, caffeine intake should be limited. Albeit this is only one step to boost energy, it is an important one.
6. Replace sugary snacks and treats with nutritious, high-energy ones
The reasons to kick the sugar habit are many and varied, and certainly worthy of a post in and of itself. For the purposes of this post, however, we will only refer to the impact sugar has on energy levels.
As said before, sugar can no doubt provide a satisfying, quick lift in energy. Though virtually immediate, this surge of energy is short-lived, resulting in depletion shortly thereafter.
For this reason it’s important to avoid sugary snacks and treats throughout the day. This includes sugary cereals for breakfast or the seemingly healthy but sugar-laden muffins at morning coffee break. Healthier, high-energy alternatives exist. These can help increase energy and beat the afternoon slump.
Examples of healthier, high-energy snacks:
- Apples with nut butter
- A handful of nuts and seeds
- Low-sugar protein bar
Learn about sugar and other nutrition myths
7. Avoid alcohol at lunch
To boost your energy and beat the afternoon slump be sure to avoid drinking alcohol at lunch. Although having a glass of wine may seem like a good idea to take the edge off during a stressful day, alcohol’s sedative effects can lead to mid-afternoon energy depletion as per Harvard Health.
It is, therefore, important to find better, healthier beverages that can bolster our energy rather than draining it.
8. Avoid dieting
Unquestionably, dieting can wreak havoc on our energy levels, leading to the afternoon slump.
Again, there are a number of inter-connected reasons for this. One of the fundamental reasons why diets are detrimental to how you feel during the day is the inadequate fuelling of the body.
Typically, diets centre around the concept of some form of restriction, which can often lead to nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies can, in turn, manifest themselves in insufficient energy and a general prolonged feeling of running on empty.
Related: Pros and Cons of Keto Diet
9. Get adequate sleep at night
Because sleep restores energy, “improves concentration, productivity and cognition” (Healthline) it’s important to get adequate sleep as much as possible. Ideally, try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
To maximize the chances of getting the best sleep possible, do not take in caffeine late in the day and do not eat at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep. Doing so can increase energy levels and help you beat the afternoon slump the following day.
Related: Brian and mental health nutrition
10. Reduce stress
Without a doubt, stress has an enormous impact on the body including energy levels.
When experiencing chronic stress, adrenaline and cortisol are released regularly, fatiguing the body over time. Frequently, this leads to a sustained feeling of sapped energy, lethargy and sleepiness.
For this reason, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage and reduce stress with nutritional interventions or otherwise.
Speaking of stress, meditation can be an effective stress reduction method. Not only does meditation reduce stress, it also helps with breathing, stretching and overall relaxation. This allows our body to rest, repair and recover, getting it primed for the next day.
12. Listen to music
Much like meditation, soothing music can also help to calm you down and allow the body to relax and recharge.
Conversely, fast-paced music can be uplifting and motivate you to get moving. This is precisely why music is often used in fitness classes.
Allow music to work for you. When you feel run down and drained, listen to soothing music to help restore the mind and body. On the other hand, when you feel you need stimulation or motivation, play music that is conducive to this goal.
Finding such ways to relax and recharge can help to increase energy levels and help beat the afternoon slump.
13. Limit exposure to computer, laptop, phone or tablet
Too much screen time no doubt has a number of side effects.
Spending a great deal of time in front of the screen is not only a sedentary activity, it can also lead to strained eyes, potential headaches and general fatigue. Combine that with insufficient sleep, diet and hydration and you have a recipe for afternoon burnout.
To help increase energy levels and avoid the mid-afternoon slump, reduce screen time as much as you can. Periodically, place the laptop aside, get up, grab some water, go for a walk, get some fresh air and allow your body to take a break.
14. Avoid sitting at desk for extended periods of time
Sedentary activities can certainly lead to muscle fatigue, a lack of focus and mental clarity.
As mentioned before it is important to periodically stand up and move around. If you can manage getting fresh air, even for 15 minutes, even better.
Learn more about the risks associated with sitting from Mayo Clinic.
15. Work in a well-ventilated room
If you must sit at a desk for an extended period of time, be sure to work in a well-ventilated room. Working in a well-ventilated room is more comfortable, more relaxing, more revitalizing and more conducive to focus and creativity.
16. Take a short nap
If possible, take a short 15-minute nap during the day. Even lying down and closing your eyes can be an effective way to refresh. With many people now working from home, at least for the foreseeable future, taking a power nap may just be possible.
17. Maximize work during during high-energy peaks
Because our energy ebbs and flows throughout the day, it’s important to tackle the most important, challenging or creative tasks during your energy peaks.
Conversely, the easier, less-demanding should be attempted during your ‘energy valleys’. Doing so can maximize productivity.
18. Prep your meals
Learning to plan and prep your meals can be of great benefit for many reasons, not the least of which is boosted energy. Doing so effectively will allow you to have nutritious, high-energy foods available at all times. When you fuel your body properly and consistently, you are less likely to succumb to the rigours of the day.
There you have it, 17 ways to help increase energy and beat the afternoon slump. Don’t feel obligated to try them all at once. Attempt them gradually, one by one or in combinations. Eventually these strategies will become firmly embedded in your routines, helping you to maintain high energy levels throughout the day.
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