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Say “Goodbye” to the 3pm Crash: Nutrition to Beat the Afternoon Slump

Does your energy come crashing down in the late afternoon, leaving you Googling “coffee near me”? Or, are you dragging through the afternoon at work and craving sugar or caffeine to power through? You're not alone - that notorious 3pm slump is a daily battle for many and a time where healthful nutrition may not be top of mind. But, by combining strategic eating with other lifestyle habits, you can minimize those afternoon energy dips and power through the day with consistent and stable energy.

Keep reading to learn why that 3pm energy crash happens, what role nutrition plays in preventing it, and explore other lifestyle tips to keep you energized all day long.

The Role of Blood Sugar

One of the biggest contributors to the mid-afternoon fatigue slump is a dive in blood sugar levels after a meal. When we consume refined carbs and sugary foods, they cause our blood sugar to spike initially, only to rapidly crash a few hours later. This rollercoaster effect prompts cravings for more sugar, as well as side effects like brain fog, irritability, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating.

Eating a snack between lunch and dinner can make a big difference in your energy. If you've had lunch at noon, it's expected that around 3 or 4pm, you'd start feeling low energy; this is your body signaling that it's time for a snack! Food provides us calories, and calories convert to energy. But, of course, not all snacks are created equal.

Avoid these crashes and keep your energy level by staying consistent through strategic eating. Choose meals and snacks centered around fiber-rich complex carbs (whole grains), lean protein, and healthy fats - all three of these nutrients digest gradually to provide a steady stream of energizing fuel for your body and brain. Fiber, specifically, promotes better blood sugar regulation by slowing down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. By avoiding foods that cause major blood sugar highs and lows, you'll feel even, consistent energy throughout the afternoon instead of that dreaded slump.

Energy-Boosting Nutrients

There are some key vitamins, minerals, and compounds that play vital roles in energy production within our cells. Instead of focusing on the one nutrient itself and having to take various supplements, think about how you can incorporate foods rich in the following into your diet:

B Vitamins: This family of nutrients is essential for the body to perform a variety of metabolic processes. Each of the 8 B vitamins has its own unique functions within the body, from energy production to the creation of neurotransmitters and DNA. B vitamins are water-soluble and not stored in the body, meaning it's important to consume them daily.

Foods like whole grains, lentils, eggs and leafy greens are full of B vitamins.

Iron: Iron carries oxygen to all your cells and tissues to power metabolism. When the body doesn’t have enough iron, these cells can’t receive the oxygen they need to function properly. Iron deficiency manifests as tiredness and weakness and can be especially prevalent during menstruation due to the large volume of blood lost.

Good dietary sources of iron include lean meats, seafood, spinach, lentils, cashews, and iron-fortified cereals and grains.

Magnesium: This mineral activates enzymes that aid digestion, absorption and energy creation from nutrients. Magnesium also contributes to protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar regulation – processes that influence energy levels.

Nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, avocados, and legumes are rich sources of magnesium.

Hydration for Energy

Even mild dehydration can prompt feelings of fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating, and if you're feeling thirsty, you're likely already mildly dehydrated. Prevent the afternoon slump by hydrating consistently throughout the day, starting with drinking water first thing upon waking. Instead of sugar sweetened beverages, opt for plain water, herbal tea, or water flavored with fresh lemon or fruits.

Research shows that having a reusable water bottle makes it more likely that you will reach your hydration goal, and studies also show that having a straw increases total water intake.

As a general guideline, aim to drink at least half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day.

Move for Momentum

While working out may seem like the last thing on your priority list when tired, moving your body can actually create an energizing effect, boost brainpower, and increase focus and concentration. Create 5-10 breaks during your workday to take a short walk around the block or do some simple stretches or bodyweight squats to get your blood pumping and heart rate up. This movement delivers a fresh flow of oxygen and nutrients, perking you up for the remainder of the day.

Rest and Recharge

Finally, let’s take it all the way back to the night before. Quality sleep is important for regulating appetite hormones and maintaining energy levels, which can indirectly support better nutritional choices. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, stop scrolling 30 minutes before sleep, and stick to a consistent sleep schedule (yes, even on the weekends), aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Practicing good sleep hygiene is essential for our Circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that regulates our sleep/wake cycle (more on that to come in a later blog post!).

Avoid the dreaded afternoon slump by fueling your body with a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and allowing time for both movement and rest. Nourish yourself strategically, and you'll have the energy to thrive throughout the entire day, without a 3pm crash!

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