Fuel your body with healthy food that helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Blake
Fuel your body with healthy food that helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Crashing from the sugar high? There are ways to prevent that afternoon energy slump

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Sep 11, 2020

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Does the pandemic have you feeling stressed? Does your energy sag in the afternoon? Then you might want to take a closer look at your eating habits. If you’re coping with stress by eating – and especially if you’re eating the wrong things at the wrong time – it could be taking a toll on your energy levels.

It is hard for many of us to avoid stress during this “new normal”. Our inconsistent daily routines and schedules can increase anxiety and disrupt healthy eating. And for many, it is leading us to stress eat – often on starchy, sugary foods. The problem is that these foods – while they may provide momentary pleasure – can contribute to disruptions in your blood sugar levels that can contribute to an “afternoon crash”.

Most of us have experienced it from time to time – it’s that point at which your energy level takes a nosedive in the middle of the afternoon. And you might feel more than just a crash in your energy level. You might feel irritable, have a mild headache, or feel like you’re not thinking very clearly.

Susan Bowerman, senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition provides tips on how to eat to keep energy levels up

Eat well-balanced meals and snacks and eat every few hours. People who skip meals can’t keep going all day. When you don’t eat at regular intervals, your blood sugar will drop – taking your energy level with it.

Avoid overeating at lunch. Just as not eating enough can zap your energy, overeating at lunch can make you feel sluggish in the afternoon, too. When you eat a big, heavy meal, a lot of energy is required to digest it. As blood gets diverted towards your digestive tract to help the process along, you’ll start feeling the need to take a nap.

Stay well-hydrated. When you become dehydrated, it can affect your mood and your ability to think clearly. Keep water and herbal teas handy and sip on them throughout the day. Some people rely on caffeinated beverages to stay perky, which isn’t a problem unless caffeine interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re sensitive to it, it’s best to stick with caffeine-free beverages.

Make sure your lunch includes protein. Protein foods help to make meals more filling and satisfying. Ensure your lunch consists of some healthy low-fat protein to help fight hunger and good carbs to provide you with a steady energy source. A mixed vegetable salad with some grilled fish, a chicken-veggie stir-fry with brown rice, or a shake with fruit would all fill the bill at lunchtime.

Have a protein-rich snack in the afternoon. A mid-afternoon snack that includes protein should be part of your overall plan, too. Try a protein bar, a carton of yogurt with some fruit, some raw veggies with hummus, or a can of tuna with a handful of cherry tomatoes. Again, the combination of lean protein and healthy carbohydrates will help keep the afternoon slump away and help keep you satisfied – and energised – all afternoon long.

Find other ways to reduce stress other than eating. The relief you feel from stress eating doesn’t last very long and is often followed by feelings of guilt, which can stress you out even more. Rather than turning to food, try taking a few minutes to quieten your mind with some meditation, take a walk, phone a friend, or make a cup of herbal tea instead.

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