Fight mid-afternoon doldrums without reaching for coffee or sugary snacks with tips from top doctors and a nutritionist.
The midafternoon slump often happens because your internal clock is set for an energy sag between 3 and 5 p.m. The solutions most people reach for, such as caffeine or a candy bar, won't actually help. Instead, try one or more of the following:
- Go for a walk. Just ten minutes can do the trick, particularly if you're outside in the sun.
- Stretch. Gentle stretching revitalizes the whole body.
- Take time to relax during a hectic day. Stress can wear you out and keep you from getting the rest you need to recharge. To unwind, practice deep breathing: Sit in a chair; slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose; hold it for a second; and slowly count to four while you exhale through your mouth. Repeat five to ten times.
- Take a nap. If you don't get your seven to eight hours of sleep at night, a short power nap (no longer than 20 to 30 minutes) can ditch fatigue and increase productivity.
—Michael Smith, MD, New York–based medical editor-in-chief for www.WebMD.com
Men and women experience an afternoon energy drop for different reasons. For men, frequent energy dips at this time of day are typically due to a tired-blood syndrome resulting from overwork and a poor diet. To fight this, you should drink a chlorophyll-rich drink in the afternoon—preferably a combination of alfalfa, chlorella, spirulina, and barley grass. Chlorophyll has a similar molecular structure to human hemoglobin and acts like an instant transfusion to boost tired blood.
Women, on the other hand, often experience an energy slump because of adrenal fatigue. Herbal adrenal-support supplements can prevent crashes and keep you energetic. Look for sarsaparilla (Smilax), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), astragalus (Astragalus), and ginseng (Panax ginseng). These herbs are cumulative so, to reap benefits, take them consistently for the period recommended by your health care provider.
—Linda Page, ND, of Pebble Beach, California; author of Healthy Healing: 12th Edition (Healthy Healing, 2004)
To combat after-lunch carb overload, which causes blood sugar to plummet, include protein, nonstarchy vegetables, and fat in each meal and snack you eat. This ensures long-lasting, even-keeled energy. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean meats, and omega-3-enriched eggs; seek out healthy fats in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and flaxseed oil.
If you do eat carbohydrates, emphasize those that release glucose gradually and steadily, such as broccoli, green beans, Chinese vegetables, and salad greens. Good examples of balanced combinations include a large Greek salad with olives, assorted vegetables, and cooked chicken breast; or a shrimp and Chinese vegetable stir-fry. If you still get hungry in the midafternoon, apply the same principles. Have a balanced snack, such as veggie sticks with almond butter, low-fat cheese, or a turkey slice.
—Melissa Diane Smith, Tucson, Arizona-based nutritionist and author of Going Against the Grain (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, 2002)