During one of the group sessions at work (I volunteer at a drug and alcohol recovery centre) we were discussing times when the clients felt down and would therefore reach for drugs or alcohol. For a lot of people, this happened mid afternoon, around 3pm when they had a lack or energy and they mistook this for needing drugs or a drink. They were all really surprised when I told them that this mid afternoon energy slump was normal, and happened to most people and that they could get through it with healthy eating. They thought they were the only ones that suffered from this, because of their addiction, but why do you think some cultures have a siesta? Because they are naturally tired in the afternoon! The scientific explanation for this is that your core body temperature drops between 2pm and 4pm, which is a signal to your brain to feel sleepy. The same thing happens at night before you go to sleep too. What you need to learn to do, is stay awake through this temperature drop with healthy eating and exercise.
I think most of us suffer from this, and we usually reach for the coffee or chocolate to cheer us up, and give us an energy boost. This is the worst thing to do as it will initially give you a boost (albeit an unhealthy one), but you will have a massive crash a couple of hours later, leaving you feeling worse than you did before.
If you are not hungry, but you start to feel down, or tired in the afternoon, then a great thing to do is go for a walk. The fresh air will waken you up a bit and the exercise will make you happier.
There are lots of healthy things you can eat to give you an energy boost.
Firstly, you should be eating a good breakfast to set you up for the day so that the energy slump is not as bad as it could be. Eating something slow releasing like porridge and a banana is best. Sugary cereal will lead to a crash by about 11am. Yes, that "healthy" Special K cereal you are eating is full of sugar and very bad for you. Women should be eating around 300-400 calories for breakfast and men should be eating around 500. Carbs like porridge are a great option for breakfast because your muscles and brain function best when they have carbs to fuel them. Eating protein with carbs can increase concentration levels, so egg on wholewheat bread is also a good option.
It also goes without saying that an afternoon energy slump can be affected by what you ate for lunch. So avoid white carbs which will make you feel sluggish. If you are trying to lose weight, it might be tempting to just eat a salad for lunch. This isn't a good idea unless it is a protein filled salad (with chicken, beans, fish, egg or tofu) which will keep your energy levels up and stop you reaching for the chocolate later in the day.
If you want something sweet for an energy fix, then peanut butter on apple slices or celery sticks is a good option. Avoid a lunch that is full of fat, not only is this generally bad for your health, it will take longer to digest and will leave you feeling sluggish for longer.
So, that is how to prevent the energy slump. But what if it happens anyway. Sometimes it doesn't matter how well you have eaten for breakfast and lunch, you just feel a bit down in the afternoon.
Well, apart from taking a walk, drinking lots of water can help if you don't fancy eating anything. Try adding a slice of lemon if you are bored of normal water.
If that still doesn't help, then a snack is the way forward. Good options for energy boosting snacks are nuts, seeds, lean protein, low fast dairy and fruit.
Sunshine can also work wonders. If you have been in the house all day and have not eaten properly, then it is no wonder you are not feeling great. It is found that 20 minutes exposure to sunshine can boost your brain's responses. If you usually feel sleepy at 3pm, then go for a walk at 2.30pm to try and prevent it.
It can be tempting to take a nap, but this won't help the situation. If you normally take a nap, try to stop doing that. You won't feel the benefits immediately, but after a couple of weeks of no napping and healthy eating, you should feel great.
All you need to know is that this energy slump is normal. It could be due to an underlying health problem, but you would have other symptoms as well which would have led you to the doctors already. There are lots of things you can do to prevent lack of energy and boost your energy when it is needed. You just need to make sure that you have a healthy diet.