I have a 2:00pm crash everyday, which makes me feel tired and lethargic. Sometimes it goes away and other times it stays for a few hours. I always feel like eating during this time even though I just had lunch at 12:00! I tend to make really bad choices. I’ve had this forever and I’ve even had labs done to see if it is a health issue, and it’s not. How can I change my diet to give my body more energy during this time of day?
1. Early Day Light Eater turns Late Day Werewolf. I suspect you might be hungrier than you think. Consider a hunger scale that goes from 0 to 10, with 0 being starving, 5 being comfortably full, and 10 being uncomfortably full. How would you rate your hunger at 2pm? If it is less than a 3, then I suggest you have a small snack. I find that people often do not eat enough in the first half of the day and then find themselves struggling with hunger and low energy in the second half of the day. This is a recipe for overeating in the PM hours. If you have a snack, avoid simple carbs (no candy, cookies, chips) and go for complex carbs and/or a protein. The simple carbs will be a recipe for an even worse crash in a couple of hours.
2. Calorie Shifting. Related to my previous response, another option is to consume a slightly larger lunch. In an effort to move some of your calories to earlier in the day, move some of your dinner calories to lunch or snacks.
3. Eat When You’re Hungry Not By the Clock. Be sure to assess your hunger at lunch time as well. Are you hungry then? If not, push lunch back. If you are at a hunger rating of 0 or 1 at lunch time, then you should eat sooner. Do not let yourself get to a 1 or 0 because when you are extremely hungry your cognitive ability declines which will affect not only your ability to make healthy choices, but will impact your effectiveness at work.
See this post for more on dealing with hunger.
4. Sugar Crash. Be sure you aren’t consuming a lot of sugar or simple carbs at lunch. Increasing the fiber and protein in your lunch should stave off hunger. Adding nuts, beans or chick peas to a salad, using a high fiber bread for your sandwich, low fat string cheese, hummus, or yogurt with flax seed meal sprinkled in (watch the sugar content though, some yogurt is too high in sugar) can be helpful.
Feel like you might be a sugar addict? See this post on overcoming sugar addiction.
5. Falling Asleep at the Wheel. Consider the tasks you are doing at work at this hour. Are they particularly mundane? You might arrange it so that during this time you are doing more active tasks (something on your feet) or more social tasks (interacting with others) if possible.
6. Pick It Up and Carry It. This might be a good time of day to go for a short brisk walk outside. The neat thing about exercise is that it creates even more energy than it expends.
7. Start Off with a Bang. If possible, try to exercise in the morning to kick off higher energy throughout the day.
8. Pack a Snack. Make sure to have healthy snacks on hand at work at all times. If you have trouble with portion control (e.g., you will consume entire box of fiber bars in your desk in one day) then only bring in a single portion for each day. My fav midday snacks are 100 cal packs of almonds, low fat string cheese, banana, and apples w/ a little peanut butter.
9. Office is a Treat Free Zone. Keep unhealthy foods OUT of the office. If they aren’t there, you won’t eat them. The worse combination is being hungry and tired and in front of high-fat, high-sugar foods. You are dead in the water. Do not bring these foods in for yourself or others. If you have leftover cake at home, throw the darn thing away. And be sure to give the stink eye to anyone who brings unhealthy foods into a common area for all to eat (please see below for stink eye examples).
Check out this post for some fun ways to dump the junk.
Happy healthy afternoon snacking!
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