When it comes to the dreaded afternoon energy slump, most people have come to think of it as a daily rite of passage. But that simply doesn’t have to be the case. Not only can you minimize that energy-depleted feeling , you can prevent it with a few simple steps that don’t include caffeinated beverages or mid-day snacking.
What Causes the Afternoon Slump?
If you had a high-carbohydrate lunch, the calories you consumed increased your blood sugar and spiked 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. And the more you slow your own physical activity to compensate for the fatigue, the less you’ll burn those available carbohydrates and the sleepier you’ll become.
Why Fewer Carbs Equals 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 less equals 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 starving well before lunchtime. Your increased appetite is going to push you toward eating more high-carbohydrate foods to recover, and the cycle will repeat again causing the 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. Here are the top four steps to stomping out the afternoon slump:
1. Breakfast Calorie Burn
Breakfast is one of the joys of a Paleo diet, 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 your day if you eat them in the morning. So, limit your serving size, 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 meals.
Not sure what to eat? Check out this Paleo Roasted Fall Salad for inspiration!
2. Hydrate, But Not with Caffeine
Hydrate, but not with caffeine. Water not only reduces fatigue, it helps your body excrete the byproducts of metabolism and lubricates your joints, and 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. And, as already mentioned, avoid caffeinated beverages, because caffeine is a diuretic and can, therefore, lead to more dehydration.
3. Exercise for Efficiency
Exercise helps stabilize blood sugar levels for about 24 hours by increasing your muscle cells’ ability to take up glucose. So, 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 mean less hunger and more energy.
4. Sleep Like It’s Important—Because It Is
Sleep influences how your body regulates blood sugar. According to the National Institutes 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 and stick to your plan.
By consuming a healthy Paleo diet, the dreaded afternoon energy slump you’ve come to except on a daily basis will be eliminated from your routine. Living a Paleo lifestyle will feed your body for productivity, and support steady energy throughout your day.