Every day around 2:00 p.m., you feel it. That midday slump that has you heading to the break room to pour out the last dredges of burned coffee still lingering in the office coffee pot. At this point, it’s more habit than helpful. You wonder if this is how you’re supposed to feel at your age and what happened to the youthful energy you once had.
Afternoon energy slumps are common in adults, especially as we get older. While some of it has to do with the way our bodies change with age, our lunchtime diets also affect our motivation levels after we eat.
We’ll tell you what to put on your lunch tray to amp up your afternoon and what to avoid to avoid the midday crash.
What Causes Low Energy After Lunch?
Researchers have been looking for the reason we get tired after lunch for decades. What they’ve found is that there are several reasons for us to feel drowsy.
After lunch, our nervous system goes into “rest and digest” mode. Blood flow is actively sent to the digestive system to help aid in digesting the foods we just ate, which can mean there’s less blood flow to the brain to keep you sharp and mentally focused.
Amino Acids and Refined Carbohydrates
Proteins are made up of molecules called amino acids. One popular one you’ve probably heard of is tryptophan. It’s plentiful in turkey, which is why we assume everyone needs a nap after a big turkey dinner.
Tryptophan and other amino acids won’t make you tired, but combining them with refined carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates (think white bread, sugar, white rice, and white flour) can. If you’re eating meat and potatoes for lunch, the carbs could cause a spike in the amount of certain amino acids in the brain, which could cause an afternoon slump.
Poor Food Choices
Chances are the food options you’re surrounded by aren’t necessarily the most nutrient-dense, health-supportive choices you could make for yourself. Fried foods, trans-fats, and sugar are heavy hitters in restaurants and fast food joints. When you’re limited on time, they make quick and easy options.
The problem is that they cause you to feel drowsy in the afternoon. Studies of the food intake of long-haul drivers suggest that these food choices impair alertness compared with diets that focus on complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and vegetables. One reason could be the spike they cause in blood sugar levels which naturally leads to a rapid decline immediately after.
What Are Some High-Energy Lunch Foods?
If you want to enhance your afternoon, a good way to start is by choosing a better, healthier lunch. Even if you don’t have much time and aren’t surrounded by many options, you can make smarter choices that will help support your energy levels through mid-afternoon.
Getting bored with your regular peanut butter and banana smoothie? Try a smoothie bowl. A smoothie bowl is slightly thicker than a regular smoothie and has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, tricking you into thinking you’re eating dessert.
Blend a cupful of frozen berries with one banana until smooth. Add two to three tablespoons of your choice of milk or water. Add a scoop of L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens Powder in Tart Cherry to boost the flavor and the nutrient load. Top with fresh fruit, granola, or unsweetened coconut flakes for a dose of healthy fats.
When you add L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens Powder to your bowl, you get a dose of protective antioxidants, digestive probiotics and prebiotics, 30 superfoods, a full serving of nine greens, and our proprietary energizing blend, M-Charge Cellular Energizing Complex.
Veggies and Hummus
Eating vegetables gives you the crunch you want, the fiber your body needs to help with digestion and keep you full, and healthy protein and fat. Hummus is derived from chickpeas and mixed with a flavorful sauce called tahini. Chickpeas are a clean protein and fat source that can help stave off afternoon cravings.
Veggies like red peppers, green peppers, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and radishes are delicious raw and pair well with hummus. If you prefer your veggies cooked, you can top a baked sweet potato with hummus or even add hummus to a green salad or a low-calorie veggie burrito.
Quinoa Buddha Bowls
Buddha bowls are energy-packed powerhouses if you create them with the right ingredients. Start with a brown rice base to load up on complex carbs that help keep your blood glucose levels regulated and help your energy production remain constant throughout your afternoon.
Next, add a lean protein source, like black beans, salmon, grilled chicken, or cooked lentils. Top with as many vegetables as you can fit in your bowl. If you’re making your bowl with cooked vegetables, try switching your cooking oil for one with more health benefits. Olive oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help support your heart health.
We know what you’re thinking; yogurt isn’t enough for lunch. We agree if it’s regular, sugar-filled yogurt with sugary toppings.
Instead, try high-protein Greek yogurt. This rich, filling yogurt helps keep you full and also aids in digestion.
Mix it with energy-boosting foods like blueberries and raspberries. Try adding L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens in Chocolate to your Greek yogurt for a delicious, chocolate-pudding-like concoction. Top with unsweetened coconut flakes and a few dark chocolate chips for a lunch that doubles as dessert.
How Else Can You Avoid an Energy Crash?
In addition to better lunch ideas, here are a few energy-boost hacks you can try to enjoy sustained energy throughout your day.
It might seem counterproductive, but expending energy can help tell your body you need more energy. When you exercise, your muscle cells create more mitochondria, the batteries that keep them (and us) going. A brisk walk after lunch can help you avoid an afternoon energy crisis.
Cut Back on Coffee
The more caffeine you drink, the higher your tolerance becomes, and you need more and more to achieve the same effect. Too much coffee can interfere with your sleep cycles, causing you to be tired during your day.
Get Enough Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, there’s no quick fix remedy to help you feel energized. Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night is essential for most people to maintain energy levels and optimal health.
The Bottom Line
That lunchtime slump? You can work on it. Healthy eating on your lunch break plays a major role in how you’ll feel in the afternoon. Another solution is a high-quality greens powder. L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens help you fill in nutritional gaps and give your cells the nutrients they need to help your body function better.
Better function, better feeling, better you. It’s you, elevated, and you deserve to feel your very best.
Ask a Doctor: Why do I get sleepy in the afternoon after eating lunch?|Washington Post.com
Effects of normal meals rich in carbohydrates or proteins on plasma tryptophan and tyrosine ratios | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic
'Post-lunch' sleepiness during prolonged, monotonous driving - effects of meal size|PubMed
Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Does Exercise Really Boost Energy Levels?|Health.Harvard.edu