Whenever I give talks or workshops and mention the mid-afternoon slump, there is usually a murmur of understanding, nodding of heads and – especially if in a corporate environment – sudden sharing of how there is a cake/biscuit/chocolate bonding frenzy around the 4pm mark.
This is no mere coincidence; we typically have a blood sugar low at 4pm when our metabolisms shift from a more active daytime tone to start slowing us down to prepare for bed and stress can worsen this very quickly. Clearly modern work patterns don’t quite allow for the go-slow our brains and bodies are signalling, but whilst respecting that a break (or power-nap whenever possible) is natural at this time, there are also ways we can stop this descending into quick-fix sugar and junk fests that we’ll regret later.
If blood sugar levels are tending to fall between lunch and dinner, an energy crash is not only inevitable but it can also cause survival cravings for the quickest way to raise blood sugar. As this is usually sugar or caffeine, it works in the short-term but longer-term can start a pattern of relying on these for a boost. Consider the following nutritional considerations as preparation for energy sustenance throughout the day:
- If you’ve been slumping and then relying on caffeine to get you through mid-afternoon meetings, try switching to green tea. It still have some caffeine but about 10% of a regular cup of tea and doesn’t over-stimulate. For those not thrilled with the taste, the Genmaicha variety with toasted brown rice is delicious – the type often served in Japanese restaurants.
- Particularly if you’re feeling stressed and seeing your energy suffer as a result; eat protein (eggs, nuts, goat’s cheese for vegetarians) for lunch and include in a savoury breakfast where possible. Protein is crucial for metabolism, appetite regulation, adrenal support and energy. A carb-heavy breakfast like toast or cereal has shown to cause poor food choices and cravings later in the day.
- Healthy fats satisfy appetite and curb cravings without setting off cycles of addiction. Too few and we can crave sugar, which has shown to have addictive qualities. Include a good regular mix of avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, butter and eggs for vegetarians. For others, organic free-range meats, eggs and sustainable oily fish balance these sources well.
- If this is your time of least resistance eat a healthy snack at this time or just before. Although satisfying full meals and less snacking is the ideal scenario for digestion, weight and metabolism, it is preferable to mindfully choose a better snack at the right time than mainline the sugar in later. A piece of fruit, berries, coconut chips or nuts 20 minutes before your crash/craving time can pre-empt a sugar low.
Most importantly treat your body as it is designed; move every hour, get fresh air, sunlight and allow yourself to rest and relax regularly throughout the day. It is unreasonable for your brain to expect your body to simply keep going without recharging.
Quick brain wake-up tips to curb the cravings:
- Tap your whole head with your fingertips to wake up your brain and motivate your body. Keep your fingers moving in a drumming action until you feel the effects. This can be particularly effective in areas where you may feel tension and may want to go a little more softly, with more of a massage, like around the back of the ears and base of the skull.
- Rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue; this might feel ticklish to start but this is a good sign that the nerves close to the brain are firing off. Keep going until the tickling feeling subsides.
If your afternoon energy is on the wane, a consultation with Charlotte may help – see more info here
This article was first published in Om Magazine – see the full version here