Do you always feel like you need a nap after lunch? Are you struggling to maintain enough energy just to get through your work day? If so, you’re normal. Everyone’s energy ebbs and flows, but there are some things you can do nutritionally to make life easier. Here are some tips for how to keep your energy up throughout the day:
1. Eat small, frequent meals. Rises and falls in blood sugar are largely what make your energy slump, and eating something every few hours will help keep your blood sugar levels steady. While there’s no specific number of meals you should eat each day, at each meal you should eat as much as you think will fill you up for 2-3 hours. A good way to do this at work is to eat your lunch in shifts — half a sandwich now, half in a couple hours; or your sandwich now then an apple and some nuts in a few hours. You’ll find this method helps prevent the late afternoon crash.
2. Make sure each meal or snack includes fiber and protein. Fiber helps slow the absorption of food, and protein helps keep you satisfied, so paying particular attention to these two nutrients will again help keep your blood sugar regulated. Some good snacks: an apple or pear with a small handful of nuts, 2 hard boiled eggs and a piece of 100% whole grain toast, or 1/2 cup black beans and 1/4 cup shredded cheese melted onto 2 corn tortillas with salsa. Here are some more easy snack ideas.
3. Go easy on caffeine. Coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas can be helpful in a pinch, but drinking them all day long can cause major ups and downs in energy. Stick to one or two caffeinated drinks per day…and if possible, have them in the morning so they don’t disturb your sleep. If you’re experiencing energy loss in the afternoons, drink a glass of cold water and get outside for a few minutes. This will likely provide the same pick-me-up, without the crash afterward.
4. Reduce consumption of refined grains. Refined carbohydrates — white bread, white rice, low-fiber cereal (less than 3g per serving), low-fiber crackers (less than 2g per serving), chips, sweets, etc — cause your blood sugar to rise quickly and then fall. So while you may have an intense craving for these types of foods around 3pm at work, indulging in your craving will probably make you feel worse. Instead, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, and if so, eat a protein & fiber-rich snack like one of these.
5. Get more sleep. It’s a no-brainer, but most of us don’t rest much. After I’ve been lagging for a couple days, I make a pact with myself that when I go to bed that night, I’ll set my alarm for no less than 8 hours from when I’m going to sleep. If that puts me past the time I must wake up, I make sure that bedtime the next night is earlier. Doing this even a couple times a week can make a big difference in your energy level.