We’ve all been there. You jump back into work after the lunch break, making calls and getting things done.
Then about mid-afternoon, it happens.
First, you find yourself searching Pinterest for crafts made from cat fur because you’ve been easily distracted. You force yourself to get back on track, only to find yourself considering the merits of a mid-afternoon coffee because you’ve yawned seven times in the past ten minutes.
On extreme days, you wake yourself up snoring because you’ve fallen asleep sitting up at your desk.
The mid-afternoon slump is real, and its impact on your productivity can be huge.
What to eat for lunch to avoid the afternoon slump?
The mid-day slump that we all joke about is usually caused by the food that you’re eating. A carb-loaded lunch is inevitably going to be followed by a crash as your body processes the glucose that you consumed in the bread that was in that yummy sandwich.
While reducing your carbs will help alleviate the mid-day slump, there are some other food-based solutions that can help, both in the long and short term.
Grab a Salad
This is the most basic way that you can ease your way through the afternoon with steady blood sugar. A salad can feed your body and brain without the later crash.
The best salad has lots of leafy greens; consider bringing your own from home rather than going to a local salad bar. You have a better selection of vegetables to include if you’re putting together your own salad with ingredients purchased from the store. Make sure to include some protein such as lean meat, eggs, or beans.
Let’s face it. Even the healthiest of us can’t live on salad alone. Nuts are a great side to a salad or a higher protein meal.
When you’re really craving something sweet, some no sugar added nut butter can give you a bit of natural sweetness without the associated sugar crash. Pairing that nut butter with crackers or toast will, unfortunately, undo the benefits because of the carbs involved.
Increase Your Protein
Having a higher protein lunch will stave off that heavy sleepy feeling. Eggs, lean meats, and beans are all good suggestions here. While beans do have carbs, they are fairly low on the glycemic index, so a bean soup is a good option on a cold day.
Carnitas in a bowl (or over brown rice), a chicken and vegetable soup (omit the potatoes), and grilled chicken on a bed of spinach will bring some variety to your lunch choices.
Just don’t choose turkey. While it’s a perfect lean choice for the health benefits, the tryptophan in turkey can still make you feel sleepy.
Don’t Forget About Seafood
Seafood offers an abundance of vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and selenium. These support your thyroid to keep the production of hormones on an even keel. If you have thyroid issues, avoid spinach at lunch; try broccoli instead.
Eat Spicy Foods
Foods containing spices such as capsaicin can temporarily speed up your metabolism enough to help you burn extra calories during the day.
When your metabolism is working that well, you’re not going to feel tired later in the day. That carnitas I mentioned earlier, curry, or any other spicy foods will help to keep you going throughout the day!
Of course, water is the best thing you can drink. But green tea gives you a bit of a caffeine burst without the overload that coffee brings.
Having a glass of unsweetened green tea will help you get over that hump and shouldn’t keep you up at night. If you absolutely need some extra flavor, infuse some fruit. If you’re not having hot tea, having it ice cold will help, too!
Coconut Oil/MCT Oil
There’s a reason that fatty, or ‘bulletproof’ coffee is so popular. It’s a combination of coffee and medium chain triglyceride oil, usually coconut oil. The combination of MCT oil and coffee is definitely going to help you get past that mid-afternoon slump.
Drink it cautiously if you’re consuming it in the afternoon; the one-two punch may leave you struggling to fall asleep at night.
Also, be aware that fatty coffee has been known to cause diarrhea in some people. It would be a shame if all of your extra-productive time was spent in the bathroom. Start out with small doses of coconut oil and gradually increase until you’re at about a tablespoon.
The reason you may feel extremely tired in the afternoon
One of the reasons that lunch triggers that mid-afternoon slump is that we tend to eat huge lunches. A burger and fries is a huge meal; fast food burgers average between 500 and 700 calories, while a medium serving of French fries has about 365.
That’s almost half of your target daily caloric intake, and that’s not counting the soda. If you’re eating three meals and a snack, your lunch only needs to be between 500 and 700 calories total.
When you eat smaller portions, you’re less likely to feel tired by mid-afternoon. As you’re changing what you eat, make sure to work on changing how you eat, too!
If you’re having a difficult time reducing calories in your lunch, start small. If you normally grab a fast food lunch, start bringing your own lunch.
A sandwich or cup of soup with a salad is still a better choice than McDonald’s. Over time, you can increase the size of your salad and decrease the size of your sandwich. That will help you to reduce the number of calories you’re consuming.
Eating healthier is the best way to beat that mid-day slump that happens to all of us once in a while. Being mindful of what you’re eating, as well as your portion sizes, will not only help you to be more productive during your busy afternoons but also be in better overall health!