By Hilary Sheinbaum
Oh, the dreaded midday slump. One minute, you’re plowing through work tasks — as productive as can be. Before you see the clock striking 3 p.m., you feel it: the familiar tiredness kicking in. Suddenly, you’re craving carbs, caffeine, and a cuddle sesh with your comfiest pillow. The sluggishness isn’t a figment of your imagination: the sudden energy lull is a real thing.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to combat this natural dip. Options include getting more sleep at night, listening to music in the moment, and practicing breathing exercises to get more oxygen and supply a boost.
Another slump-fighting remedy is food and drink — but chew on this: only specific snacks help. After all, you want to make the plunge dissipate, not intensify!
This sounds like an obvious recommendation because it is — but the amount of H2O is key. Brigid Titgemeier, RD, says you need to consume half of your body weight in fluid ounces by the end of the day — and a portion during your midday slump. “Include 1-2 large glasses of water in your afternoon routine to help support energy and cognition,” she says. “Dehydration is an extremely common cause of fatigue and cognitive impairment. Research has demonstrated that when you restrict fluids from a person, the most common symptoms include fatigue, increased sleepiness, confusion, and decreased alertness.”
This breakfast staple isn’t limited to the first meal of the day. “They actually have all the right components for a pick-me-up afternoon snack. And if you prepare them at breakfast, they are ready in time for that 3 pm slump,” says Danielle McAvoy, MSPH, RD, senior manager of nutrition and culinary product for Territory Foods. To maximize afternoon productivity, McAvoy suggests mixing in blueberries, chia seeds, or an adaptogen powder. (Speaking of adaptogens…)
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that has been part of Ayurvedic Medicine for many years, says Titgemeier, who notes their research that shows Ashwagandha’s ability to offset the stress response and help consumers feel calm. “The more stable your cortisol and adrenaline are in the afternoon, the more consistent your energy will be”. Titgemeier says people typically use 150-300mg of ashwagandha, depending on their cortisol/stress levels.
You don’t have to train like an Olympian to eat like one. “Sweet potatoes are a popular snack among athletes because they provide easily digestible energy. Though you may not think of yourself as an athlete at work, your brain is actually working hard during the day and requires the same fuel as active muscles,” says McAvoy. “Roasted or mashed sweet potatoes are a great afternoon snack because they provide a nutrient-rich source of carbs along with fiber to help moderate blood sugar levels. Topping the potatoes with a small handful of nuts will balance the carbs with some protein and healthy fats.”
If you’re hungry but prefer to sip your calories — and avoid the midday slump — Titgemeier says smoothies are a great way to load up on nutrients and antioxidants in foods like berries, chia seeds and flax seeds that help to create steady energy. “I would specifically recommend adding a leafy green vegetable like spinach for a great source of B vitamins and alpha-lipoic acid,” she says. “Both of these nutrients are very important for energy production. Be sure that you have at least one source of protein (protein powder) and fat (chia/flax) to prevent blood sugar fluctuations that can result in mid-afternoon crashes.”
Now that you’re equipped with food and beverage ideas to improve your afternoons — let’s get to snacking!