We have all been there. You just got back from lunchtime and you have the irrepressible desire to take a nap.
All that food you just ate has made you sleepy and tackle that to-do list It looks like a mountain you’d rather not climb.
The 4:00 pm energy slump is a real thing and can be very counterproductive, however, there are simple ways to not only beat it but also avoid it altogether.
We spoke with nutritionist Alice Mackintosh from Equi Londonwho has given us all the expert knowledge to fight against the afternoon snooze-fest.
So how do you kick that 4:00 pm blues for good?
Eat energy foods for breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason, but it’s not just about getting some food, it’s about eating the Correct stuff.
Alice tells Metro.co.uk: ‘If you want to stay energized all day, you have to start by getting it right from the start.
Carbohydrate-based breakfasts like cereal or toast can give you an initial boost of energy, but they don’t last long.
‘A better option is protein at breakfast, something that will give you a steady supply of energy throughout the day.’
But what foods provide that protein?
“Eggs are a great source of protein, as are smoked salmon, nut butters, and flaxseed,” advises Alice.
‘If you don’t have time to cook, try an overnight chia pudding with coconut yogurt, nut butter, and berries for a hearty and satisfying breakfast.
Smoothies are often high in sugar, but it’s easy to make them healthier by adding more protein and vegetables.
“Use vegetables like kale, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, and avocado instead of fruit as a base, add plain yogurt, and sprinkle on some hemp seeds or a tablespoon of nut butter and protein powder.”
Get good quality sleep
Getting those Z’s is key. But it’s important to make sure it’s good sleep, not interrupted sleep.
Alice says: ‘To get a good night’s sleep, you need to establish a regular bedtime routine and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
‘Get daylight into your eyes (without sunglasses) in the morning, even if it means sitting near a window, as it helps set your circadian rhythm.
But what if you’re having a hard time falling asleep in the first place?
“Avoid watching TV or using your phone or laptop right before bed because the blue light emitted from these devices disrupts the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone,” says Alice.
‘A relaxing epsom salt bath or reading a book can also help you prepare for sleep.
‘Magnesium is great for relaxing muscles and tension and can really help you wind down and calm down because it helps induce the release of GABA (a calming neurotransmitter).
‘If your muscles are sore from exercise or work, or if you’re a little nervous, eat more green leafy vegetables, whole grains and raw cacao.
“When it comes to magnesium supplementation, it’s a big, bulky nutrient, so most multivitamins fall short of what you need.
“Look for a supplement that contains 200-300 mg of magnesium glycinate or chelate for the correct dosage.”
Say goodbye to your dose of caffeine
You don’t have to stop consuming caffeine cold turkey, but you should be cautious with it.
Alice says: ‘It’s a good idea to limit your intake to 1 cup in the morning. This is because caffeine releases cortisol (our stress hormone) into the bloodstream, which gives us energy and increases our alertness.
“It is important to note that it has a half-life (the time it takes our body to break down half of the amount consumed) of 12 hours, which means that half of the caffeine in a cup of coffee that is drunk at noon it can be in the bloodstream by midnight.’
Some of us may feel like we can fall asleep easily despite consuming a lot of caffeine, but Alice says that just because we fall asleep doesn’t mean it’s a good sleep.
“Many say that caffeine doesn’t affect their sleep, but they may naturally wake up early and not be able to get back to sleep,” says Alice.
“They may also be unaware of the fact that even though they’re asleep, the body’s natural cycles of deep sleep and REM sleep can be disrupted by caffeine, meaning they don’t wake up feeling fully rested and restored.” .
“As well as disrupting our natural sleep/wake cycle, leading to poor quality sleep, caffeine is also known to suppress your appetite, which can mean you run out of energy all day, which is not a good thing for evening energy”.
‘Replace caffeine with a nutrient- and protein-dense snack if you feel low on energy. Otherwise, try decaf options like decaf tea, rooibos tea, or sparkling water.
Consider your B vitamins, iron and iodine
A lack of these three crucial components can leave you feeling drained and sluggish, sure to cause that afternoon blues.
Alice says: ‘Iron is a mineral that plays an important role in the cardiovascular system and helps transport oxygen throughout the body so you can perform at your best.
“Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, so if you’re feeling run down, it’s worth getting tested for low iron levels and also checking your ferritin (which tells us how well your body is storing iron) at the same time.” .
Most of us know that it’s important to keep our iron levels high, but what about iodine?
“Iodine plays an important role in regulating the production of thyroid hormones, which in turn supports healthy metabolism,” says Alice.
‘Research has shown that up to 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels feel tired and sluggish. If energy is an issue, consider supplementing iron and iodine in their ideal forms and at the correct dosage.’
It’s also important to eat to get your daily dose of B vitamins, especially if you’re vegan.
Alice explains, “The B vitamins are absolutely critical for good energy because they also help us make the right brain chemicals, deal with stress better, and also help balance thyroid and female hormones, which can also affect our energy.
B vitamins are found in meat, fish, shellfish, lentils, beans, whole grains, and vegetables such as avocado, beets, and sweet potatoes.
‘If you’re vegan, it’s a good idea to have your B12 levels checked annually because this is only found in animal sources of food like meat, eggs and dairy.
‘Also look for a all-in-one formula that contain energy-boosting ingredients such as B vitamins, magnesium and adaptogens.’
Change your afternoon snacks
It can be so tempting to reach for that packet of chips or that candy bar that’s just waiting to be unwrapped, but try not to.
Alice says: ‘As a general rule, snacks should follow these principles: they should have a protein source, they should not contain refined carbohydrates or added sugars, and they should be balanced in terms of nutrients.
White or refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and sweeteners with a higher glycemic load can make us feel tired, crave more sugar, and fight brain fog. This may be the reason why we feel tired around 4 in the afternoon.
So what should we be eating?
‘Substitute snack bars, rice cakes and dried fruit with apple and some nut butter, oatmeal cakes with hummus or a protein shake. This will help you avoid that ‘carb crash’ and 4pm energy crash,’ says Alice.
‘If you often feel a lull in energy after meals, try getting up and walking around for 15 minutes after each meal and take deep breaths to oxygenate the body.
“By adopting this simple habit, people can avoid spikes in blood sugar and high insulin levels that can cause feelings of fatigue and stress throughout the day.”
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