Diet-to-Go Blog
  1. Beat the Afternoon Slump – 5 Tips to Stay Energized

    You know the feeling – that tired, slouchy, 3pm afternoon lull. Whether you find yourself reaching for unhealthful foods for an energy boost or adding extra calories to combat sleepy boredom, read on for tips to cure your afternoon slump!

    Snack Wisely

    Any type of food will give you a quick energy boost, but make sure you choose those calories wisely if you want your energy to last. Go for low-glycemic index (GI) foods which give a slow release of energy into the bloodstream, versus high-GI foods, which can spike blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise quickly, you’re often left feeling even more drained.

    This is often referred to as a “sugar crash” and is based on the idea that sugar-laden foods will spike energy levels almost immediately, but then drop them to below pre-food levels. Avoid donuts, coffee cake, pretzels and the like, all of which have a high GI, and instead choose low-GI foods such as a few whole-grain crackers with a cheese stick, a one-ounce portion of nuts, or high-fiber veggies like broccoli florets, celery sticks and pepper slices with a tablespoon of hummus.

    Caffeine has a similar “high-low” effect and should also be carefully monitored mid-afternoon to avoid energy slumps. And here’s more to consider: as we get older, our bodies are more sensitive to caffeine, according to LiveScience. Take note – you may have been able to drink coffee at 4pm and still fall to sleep in college, but does that still work for you today? A food journal can help you pinpoint your body’s limit for how much caffeine and what time of day you should drink it.

    Take Your Brain for a Walk

    In experiments conducted at California State University, a 10-minute walk not only boosted energy, but the benefits lasted for up to two hours. And here’s a reason to stick with that daily 10-minute walk - when study participants kept up with the walks for three weeks, overall energy and mood was elevated. Now that’s something to smile about!

    One explanation may be that exercise releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, stress hormones that in modest amounts can boost energy. According to WebMD, it’s a myth that exercising will make you tired. Exercise actually creates energy in your body and can fight fatigue. Even moderate exercise like walking can help, so what are you waiting for?

    Exercise increases the amount of blood pumped to your brain and therefore increases the oxygen and nutrient supply, helping you feel more alert and energized.

    In addition, any amount of additional exercise is sure to set you up for a better night’s sleep, which in turn will help eliminate an afternoon slump the following day. And speaking of sleep…

    Evaluate Your Quality of Sleep

    If you’re between the age of 25 and 45 years, you’re more likely to have chronic sleep deprivation. While the range is different among individuals, most people feel their best with between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. Since most of us can’t change the time we wake in the morning, this means getting to bed earlier at night to increase sleep time. Try starting with 15-minute increments each week – by the end of the month you’ll have gained an hour of sleep nightly and your body will thank you.

    The amount of sleep you get also has a connection to weight loss. In order for your body to shed pounds, the hormone ghrelin must be kept in check. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which tracked the sleep patterns and weight of over 68,000 women, shows that those who slept 5 hours or less per night were nearly a third more likely to gain 30 pounds than those who slept 7 hours a night.

    Stand at Your desk

    All rise! Did you know that recent research suggests that the excessive sitting that most Americans do daily cannot be counter-balanced by even the most intense exercise routines? It turns out that the key to living a long life and avoiding obesity is not hitting the gym every day but incorporating moderate, consistent movement into your daily routine.

    Avoiding sitting all day (or at least most of the day) also helps fight energy crashes including those all-too-familiar afternoon slumps. If you’re already standing, you’re more likely to walk over to ask a colleague a question instead of emailing them. Plus you can use your time standing to engage your core, straighten your back and roll your shoulders back to achieve better posture!


    Our bodies are made up of 60-70% water. Even slight dehydration can leave you feeling tired and zapped of energy. The Institute of Medicine has set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water -- from all beverages and foods -- each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water.

    Be sure to hydrate throughout the day and especially in the afternoon, when energy levels start to drop. Enjoy a tall glass of ice water or plan for an afternoon refresher such as unsweetened, decaffeinated ice tea or seltzer water with a lemon twist. Remember too, that foods can help you hydrate. Choose cucumbers, apple slices, watermelon or sweet red bell peppers, all of which consist of over 90% water. Milk and Greek yogurt are also hydrating foods – they contain about 80% water and can help boost hydration throughout the day. An afternoon smoothie break is another good way to hydrate, increase antioxidants, and beat your afternoon slump!

    Conversely, some foods can deplete your water stores. If you consume a high-protein diet, be sure to up your water intake to above recommended levels. Protein requires more water to flush out the naturally-occurring nitrogen found in high-protein foods. Herbal supplements can also dehydrate by acting as diuretics and increasing trips to the bathroom. Parsley, celery seed, dandelion and watercress, among others, have all been listed as culprits, so take notice of the ingredients list of any supplements you take regularly.

    Using these tips to combat an afternoon slump means that you’ll be less likely to reach for a calorie-busting afternoon snack (and your co-worker’s candy jar). In return, your waistline will thank you!

    Author: Kristen Ciuba
    Kristen is a Nutritionist at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. She tries to “practice what she preaches” by fitting in healthy foods and cooking, challenging exercise, and quality time with family and friends every day!  


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