Between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., our workload rarely decreases. If only we could say the same for our energy levels…
If you’re like most people, you probably experience a bit of a slump in the afternoon – when the boost from lunch fades, the work seems monotonous and you’re still facing a few hours before dinner. Snacking can be a great way to give yourself a bit of a lift between meals, but it’s important to make strategic choices so you’re not fueling up on empty calories. The last thing your afternoon needs is a sugar crash!
Hydrate to Stay Awake
Dehydration is a common cause of mid-day drowsiness, so one relatively simple way to stay awake is to make sure you’re getting enough to drink. Water is a great choice, of course, but if you’re looking for a bit more flavor, try a cup of green tea, which has a small amount of caffeine and L-theanine to beat fatigue.
Conquer Cravings with Complex Carbs
While simple carbs may lead to sluggishness, the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and legumes (including chick peas and lentils) may, conversely, boost your energy without slowing you down. Plus, their relatively high fiber content helps you feel full longer and prevents future cravings. Try some hummus on veggies, whole grain crackers or pita for a simple and portable snack you can enjoy anywhere.
Protein for Productivity
When you need a snack that will keep you going for a while, reach for a serving of nuts, hard-boiled egg or plain greek yogurt. They are packed with slow-burning protein for sustained energy, and protein in the afternoon can increase mental alertness by elevating levels of certain substances such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Just make sure that you pre-portion a single serving-sized amount since their fat content, while fine in moderation, could easily become a meal if you consume carelessly. For example – 20 almonds, 12 cashews, etc.
A Sweet Treat with Staying-Power
The sugars in fruit take longer to metabolize than refined sugars, so opt for an apple or banana if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. Plan ahead by packing a small serving (1 tbsp) of nut butter for a protein-packed dip to supplement this snack.
Dark chocolate is another great choice – it contains natural caffeine, heart-healthy flavonoids, and brain-boosting polyphenols. Choose bittersweet to avoid a spike in blood sugar and go as dark as you can (at least 70%). Stick to a portion that is 120 calories or less. Check labels as calories vary depending on the size of the squares. As with anything else, enjoy in moderation.
When choosing snacks, aim to get the same nutritional benefits that you look for in healthy meals. Armed with the right options, you can combat afternoon cravings and keep going strong until dinner.