It’s 3 p.m. and your eyelids are starting to feel heavy. You feel your concentration waning and scrolling through Facebook is the only thing you can do All of a sudden it’s all you can do not to grab that sweet treat you wish weren't hear your desk or in your pantry.
Prior to being diagnosed with Celiac disease, I used to experience this almost every day (and I totally thought it was normal!), and it is still a common complaint I hear from my clients. When I changed my diet to go gluten free, I suddenly realized I wasn’t experiencing that slump and fatigue I was so used to. Why? Well one of the reasons was that I had to eliminate common foods that cause those dips in energy, like breads and higher starch foods.
For me, it was a matter of switching up my lunch foods. Though you may not be Celiac or gluten free, here are some of the most common reasons you might be getting the dreaded 3 p.m. slump and what you can do about it:
Not only is breakfast important for energy, but it is one of the best habits you can have for weight-loss. It’s easy to feel like you don’t need breakfast and that coffee can sustain you, and while it can certainly do that for the short term, come the afternoon, fatigue will set in.
By eating breakfast you are going to start the day with balanced blood sugar, a key factor in determining your energy. There's more to it than just eating breakfast, though. Can you make it consist primarily of fat & protein, and very little sugar/starch? Just for your first meal of the day. Have something like eggs, avocado and steamed greens, or a low fruit smoothie. By low fruit, I mean no more than 1/2 cup of fruit. Make sure your smoothie also has 25g protein and at least 2 TBSP of healthy fat.
Think about popular lunch foods and you will realize they have a couple of things in common: they tend to be white in colour and processed. Foods like bread, white potatoes and pasta, while filling, do nothing for your blood sugar and result in low energy and excess belly fat when consumed too often.
You might not think of lunch foods as high in sugar, but they digest very quickly into sugar in the body leading to the same spike and blood sugar crash you experience after eating a sweet food.
Aim to create your lunch plate as follows:
You know water is good for you and important, but when the day gets busy it's easy to forget it! Make a point to have a 500mL or 1L bottle of water with you throughout the afternoon so that you can stay hydrated. Even just a 5% drop in hydration can lead to a 25% drop in energy! Don't let dehydration be the culprit.
You may already have a great breakfast and lunch routine, but are still feeling sluggish in the afternoon. In this case, I would suggest looking to your adrenals. Fatigued adrenal glands can also cause your cortisol levels (a stress hormone) to be out of balance, resulting in lower than normal energy levels.
Have you gone through a period of chronic stress that you never fully recovered from? Often my clients don’t realize that a highly stressful time in their life, like job stress, relationships ending or death, will require adrenal repair, even if it’s years later. Every person is different, so for this I would recommend you work with a natural health care practitioner to assess if you need to increase or decrease your cortisol levels and what specific foods and supplements would be best for you.
If you suspect adrenal fatigue, certain nutrients are incredibly important to restore regular adrenal function: vitamin C, the B vitamins and magnesium. In the HEAL Weekly Meal Planning Program, we focus on recipes full of leafy greens - high in all 3 of those nutrients, colour vegetables - high in Vitamin C, clean protein - high in B Vitamins and healthy nuts and seeds which are high in magnesium.