Simple tips to boost your energy in the afternoon
We have all experienced the dreaded afternoon slump at some point! That sluggish feeling that hits between 1pm and 3pm which has your eyelids drooping, concentration flagging and energy plummeting.
Whether it hits at work, while out shopping or at home when taking care of the kids, there are lots of simple things you can do to boost your energy levels and beat that midday tiredness.
Why do I feel so tired in the afternoon?
Before we look at how to beat the afternoon slump it’s important to understand what’s causing your tiredness at this time.
It’s actually completely normal for us to feel sleepy in the afternoon! The main reason for this is our circadian rhythms (our internal body clock), which many experts believe is actually programmed for us to take an afternoon nap. Our circadian rhythms control many of our bodily functions, including our energy levels and our sleeping and waking patterns, all of which determine when we feel sleepy and when we feel most alert as they rise and dip throughout the day and night.
For most adults, the biggest dip (the one that causes you to feel sleepy) usually happens in the middle of the night when they are fast asleep (between 2am and 4am) and just after lunchtime (between 1pm to 3pm), so it’s no surprise that this is when we start yawning and struggling to keep our eyes open.
But don’t just blame your body! While you can’t really prevent this natural drop in energy, there are many other factors that can make it worse, which you can prevent.
9 ways to boost your energy in the afternoon
Other factors, like what we eat for breakfast and lunch, hydration levels, and how inactive we are during the day, can also affect our energy levels and make our natural sleepiness in the afternoon more extreme.
So, let’s look at some easy ways to combat these factors, as well as simple things you can do to feel more energised in the afternoon.
1. Eat a good breakfast
There is a reason why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day so don’t skip it. Skipping breakfast can cause you to run on empty, crave sugary snacks during the day, make you more likely to make poorer food choices and eat a larger lunch to compensate for your missed meal, which then uses up energy in the afternoon as your body works overtime to digest it.
Avoid breakfasts which are high in sugar and low in fibre, like breakfast pastries and most cereals, as these can cause a mid-morning energy crash. Instead, choose a breakfast that includes protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to help keep you going until lunchtime. Try some wholegrain toast with avocado and egg, porridge topped with fruit, low-sugar, high-fibre cereals such as bran flakes or Greek yoghurt with berries and nuts.
2. Don’t eat a carb-heavy lunch
As well as your circadian rhythm, one of the biggest causes of afternoon tiredness is your blood sugar levels spiking and then quickly dropping and the most common food culprit at lunchtime is simple carbohydrates, such as sandwiches made with white bread, white pasta or white wraps. These common lunch choices all cause your blood sugar levels to surge, followed by a serious dip.
The best energy-sustaining lunches as those that combine protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats and fibre, such as a tuna salad with a small portion of whole wheat pasta, a whole-wheat peanut butter and banana sandwich, chicken and avocado sandwich or fish with brown rice and vegetables. These are better lunch options because they will give you a slow release of energy, which will last all afternoon.
Oh and just like breakfast, never skip lunch! This would cause your blood sugar levels to seriously drop leaving you not only tired but also very hungry and angry – or ‘hangry’ as some people call it!
Try not to overeat at lunch. As mentioned above large meals can drain your energy. A good alternative to eating three big meals per day is to try eating 6 smaller meals. This can help you maintain a more balanced blood sugar and experience fewer energy slumps.
3. Eat an energy-boosting snack
If you find you’re starting to run out of steam in the afternoon then eat an energy-boosting snack to top up your blood sugar levels again. While it’s tempting to reach for a sugary snack or a cup of coffee to raise your energy levels in the afternoon, these can actually make things worse!
Not only do they spike your blood sugar, they also deplete your body of essential energy-sustaining nutrients so they may give you an initial boost of energy but it’s not long-lasting and the crash can sometimes leave you even more tired than you were before.
Instead, you want to look for snacks which provide sustained energy release to fend off tiredness such as a handful of almond or walnuts, a hard-boiled egg, apple or banana, or some veggies with hummus (such as carrot sticks and sliced bell peppers).
Look out for lots of energy-boosting food inspiration tomorrow, when we will be looking at the best foods to eat to help increase your energy levels. Then, on Day 4 it's all about those pesky foods that drain your energy!
4. Drink up
When we are busy it is very easy to forget to stay hydrated but one of the most common causes of tiredness in the afternoon is dehydration. Even just being slightly dehydrated can result in you feeling tired, sluggish and struggling to concentrate.
Drink regularly throughout the day and aim to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water – or more if you are sweating due to warm weather, exercise or menopause.
So, if you start yawning and feel your energy starting to flag, drink a glass of nice fresh plain water. I bet you notice a difference to your energy levels afterwards!
Water can help in other ways too. Just like a cold shower can wake you up in the morning, running cold water over your wrists for a few minutes can pep you up. This works by stimulating the nerve endings in your skin. Splashing your face with water can work too.
5. Get moving!
If you have been stationary for too long, then get your body moving. A brisk 10-minute walk around the building or a longer walk in the fresh air at lunchtime can help. A recent study found that park walks at lunchtime were related to better concentration and less fatigue in the afternoon.1
Even some jumping jacks or stretches (depending on where you are and how silly you don’t mind looking!) can help get your blood flowing and energy levels increasing again.
Look out for day 6 for lots of simple tips to help you feel more motivated to exercise.
6. Turn up the tunes
If you can, listen to some music as it’s known to stimulate the brain. Research done by the University of Toronto found that upbeat music can boost your energy levels and increase your creativity. Also, according to the study, if you know the songs you’ll get an even bigger boost.2
7. Light it up
While it’s not so easy to have an afternoon nap, especially in the middle of a workday, you can turn on lights such as a lamp on your desk or step outside to embrace the daylight to get similar benefits. A recent study found that exposure to bright light during the post-lunch dip results in similar beneficial effects as a short nap on cognitive performance.3
8. Get Enough Sleep
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but poor sleep can affect how energised you feel throughout the day. People tend to notice the afternoon circadian dip less if they have slept well the night before, and more if they are sleep deprived, so those with a well-rested body are less prone to tiredness in the afternoon.
Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Day 5 will be all about sleep and ways to get a better night's rest to help boost your energy throughout the day.
9. Balance your mineral levels
If you can’t shake that tired feeling in the afternoon and need an extra boost, our Balance Mineral Drink can help.
If all these tips don’t help improve your tiredness in the afternoon then we recommend you consult your doctor to rule out other things which could be causing your tiredness, such as anaemia, a mineral deficiency or menopause – these can all cause symptoms of fatigue, lack of energy and poor concentration.