Defeating the Afternoon Energy Slump for Good
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Defeating the Afternoon Energy Slump for Good

By Isabella Mead, Production Manager
March 8, 2023
Photo by: Shutterstock
Photo by: Shutterstock

You look at the clock from your desk just as it strikes 3 p.m. and the dreaded afternoon energy slump kicks in. Most people have accepted this as a regular part of their afternoon, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a feeling that can be easily prevented with a few simple steps that don't include caffeinated beverages or midday snacking.

What causes the afternoon slump?

If you had a high-carbohydrate lunch, the calories you consumed will increase your blood sugar and spike your insulin. This gives you a burst of energy, but soon after, your insulin levels plummet and you feel tired. Your core body temperature drops in the afternoon too, stimulating the release of melatonin, the chemical in your brain that causes a feeling of tiredness and encourages you to sleep.

Why fewer carbs equal more energy

Carbohydrates are present in most foods. On The Paleo Diet®, we get them in fruits and vegetables, and in starchy foods like sweet potatoes, plantains, chestnuts, and some squashes. But when it comes to carbohydrates eating fewer of them can lead to longer-lasting energy.

A carbohydrate-rich breakfast is going to give you a boost of energy in the morning, but by spiking your insulin to cover that rise in blood sugar, it will burn off quickly and have you feeling hungry again before lunchtime. Your increased appetite is going to push you toward eating more high-carbohydrate foods to recover, and the cycle will repeat, causing that dreaded mid-afternoon slump. If you want to avoid the crash, cut back on those morning carbs so you're burning mostly fat and not sugar for fuel. Keep your lunch carbohydrate intake low as well.

Four Tips for Beating the Afternoon Energy Slump:

1. Eat a Low-Carb, High-Protein Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but to avoid that afternoon slump, keep your starch and sugar intake to a minimum in the morning. Sweet potatoes, plantains, and acorn squash are all healthy food choices, but they will fuel the cycle of blood sugar spikes and energy crashes throughout the day if you eat them for breakfast. Try to limit your serving size of carbs in the morning, or better yet, save them for your last meal of the day when feeling relaxed and sleepy can be productive in promoting a good night's sleep. Instead, focus on high-quality protein, healthy fats, and colorful vegetables for breakfast and lunch.

Not sure what to eat for breakfast? Check out these Homemade Bison Breakfast Sausages!

2. Hydrate well

Drinking plenty of water not only reduces fatigue, but it also helps your body excrete the by-products of metabolism, lubricates your joints, aids in digestion, circulation, pain tolerance, and brain function. Drink before you're thirsty, because by the time your body signals your need for fluids, you'll already be dehydrated. Be sure to avoid (or limit) caffeinated beverages, because caffeine is a diuretic and can lead to more dehydration.

Let’s face it, water isn’t the most exciting thing to drink. An alternative way to stay hydrated, have a little flavor, and increase energy levels is to consume natural electrolytes. Electrolytes actually help move water and nutrients to the cells and help remove waste from your cells. Take a look at our top 10 Paleo-approved natural electrolyte drinks, and bring one to work with you next time for a tasty hydration treat.

3. Exercise for efficiency

You’d think that exercise would actually make you more tired and contribute further to your late afternoon energy deficiency. However, exercise actually helps stabilize blood sugar levels for about 24 hours by increasing your muscle cells’ ability to take up glucose. This means your muscles are able to burn the carbohydrates in your food more efficiently. This can help reduce the insulin spikes and drops that can lead to afternoon sleepiness. Fat doesn't need insulin—and less insulin means less hunger and more energy.

4. Take Sleep Seriously

Sleep plays a major role in how your body regulates blood sugar. According to the National Institute of Health, "two hormones that play a major role in appetite regulation—leptin, a satiety hormone, and ghrelin, a hunger hormone—are influenced by sleep." Make sleep a priority. The better you sleep at night, the more energy you'll have during the day, the less likely you are to get sick, and the more stable your hormones.

Develop a routine of winding down before bedtime, so your body knows it’s time to relax. Be sure to put your phone away at least an hour before bedtime. It’s a tough habit to kick, but the blue light that your phone screen emits actually prohibits melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. Instead, unwind by making a cup of hot tea, reading a book, or listening to your favorite playlist. Make this your bedtime routine and be sure to stick to it!

By adapting The Paleo Diet to your lifestyle, that dreaded afternoon energy slump you've come to accept every day will be eliminated from your routine. Living a Paleo lifestyle will feed your body for productivity and help provide you with steady energy throughout the day.

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Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

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Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

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Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.