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The Dreaded Afternoon Slump

Christian Baker, a professional speaker and nutritional specialist, explains the reason behind the afternoon slump and shares effective tips on how to avoid it.

I jerked my head upright a split second before it hit the table. That was the 5th time now.

I really, truly wanted to listen and learn to the great info that was coming my way but it just wasn't happening. I was fading fast.

I was suffering from the extreme amount of work I had put in over the previous month but I was also certain that my afternoon fatigue had something to do with the lunch I had consumed just 1 hour earlier: a big plate of carbs with minimal protein and fat.

noodles with veggies

This fun little situation happened just over 6 years ago when my brother and I were being trained up by the finest minds in nutrition this country has to offer in order to help us become the first Australian store owners of the world's biggest nutrition and health food chain.

I've since solved my fatigue problems and these days I rarely slow down to sit let alone have a micro-sleep like I used to.

What I described above, however, is unfortunately very common in today's world.

With crazy work schedules, fitness regimes, family time, social time and god forbid: some alone time to unwind, it's no surprise that we live in such a fatigued society.

There are many causes and many solutions, many of which are addressed in our previous blog posts. But for today's post we are going to focus on one thing: the dreaded Afternoon Slump.

So What Is The Afternoon Slump?

The afternoon slump or the 3pm slump, as the name suggests, is a drop in energy levels that kicks in at around 3pm every working day (funny how it doesn't happen as often when we're relaxing right?).

A sudden drop in energy levels and focus at this time of day can negatively impact your productivity, reduce your desire to exercise in the evening and give you some serious carb cravings for your next meal.

So How Do We Prevent It?

The usual culprit of this dreaded slump is your lunch. What you eat at lunch, and more importantly, what you don't eat at lunch can have a huge influence on your energy levels throughout the afternoon.
Going back to my story for a moment, I ate a huge plate of carbs, I believe it was noodles at the time, combined with minimal fat and protein (there was barely any meat on my plate, just noodles and veggies) and this was my undoing.

Read more: Could Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Start in the Gut?

What Comes Up Must Come Down

When you eat a meal high in carbs and low in fat and protein your body has to release a lot of insulin all at once to help prevent your blood sugar levels rising too high.

A high protein and moderate to high fat lunch = stronger afternoon energy levels and less chance of the 3pm slump.

When you throw some protein into your meal, or even better: some fat, you tend to experience a much slower rise in blood sugar levels after a meal.

Read more: Carbs vs Fats

Food Combining

Some of you may have heard that certain foods go better together than others but did you know the order or sequence you eat them in can also have an impact?

If you really want to get super specific let's break down the exact lunch that I ate today:
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup of cooked black beans
  • 1 cup of veggies: broccoli and red cabbage cooked together in the pan with the chicken and beans with a few herbs thrown in for flavour
  • 1 carrot, raw
  • 3 small pieces of celery

Now, this is not a small amount of food and if most people were to eat this all at once they would most likely feel a little bloated.

But, right now I feel damn good and I'm powering through this blog post. A blog post which I started shortly after... 3pm.

Why Did I Choose the Above Foods and in What Order Did I Eat Them?

Firstly I chose the above meal because it is:

  • High in protein: chicken, black beans
  • Moderate to high in fat: I chose chicken thigh instead of breast
  • Moderate in carbohydrate content but they are slow burning, high fibre carbs: black beans

I ate this all at once, but only after I had eaten the carrot and celery sticks first and waited around 15 minutes.

Why the Random Raw Carrot and Celery Sticks?

Apart from being delicious, crunchy snacks, I have included these as my entree to help stimulate digestion and help me to process my main meal better.

Raw veggies contain enzymes which help improve the digestive process, carrots being an excellent example of this. Low temperature cooking started to trend a while back because it potentially stops the complete destruction of the enzymes naturally present in foods. Granted we have other reasons for cooking food like hygiene and palatability. 

carrots and celery sticks

And both of these veggies, celery in particular, contain a type of fibre which is loved by the good bacteria that live in your digestive system so not only am I improving my digestion today but I'm also helping to strengthen it for tomorrow and beyond.

The whole waiting 15 minutes thing is because I want to give the enzymes a chance to get in there and do their thing before I eat the rest of my food.

Now, I could go on forever about the methods behind my madness but instead I would like to give you a fun exercise to try yourself:

Next time you're feeling hungry, go and eat a carrot and wait just a little longer before eating your main meal and see what happens.

Let me know how you go in the comments section below.

Tips to Avoid the Afternoon Slump

Ok, so to sum all of this up: to prevent the 3pm slump, your choice of foods matter and the order of consumption matters.

To give yourself the best chance of avoiding the 3pm slump, do the following:

  • Have a high protein, moderate fat lunch with some veggies (not too many veggies or you may become bloated and slow your digestion process which again can lead to a slump). Don't be shy about cooking with grass fed ghee or drowning your salad in olive oil.

  • If you want to eat carbs: choose slow burning carbs such as beans and lentils.

  • If you have a sweet craving and want to have a piece of fruit with your lunch, eat it before your lunch and not afterwards as most of the digestion of fruits happens in the intestines and not in the stomach.

  • If you feel like coffee after lunch, drink espresso only: no sugar, no milk, minimal liquid = less chance of bloating and espresso can actually improve your digestion rather than hinder it. Make sure this is your last coffee of the day so you're not jacked up on caffeine come bed time.

And that's it.

If you're struggling with the 3pm slump, please give the above strategies a try and see how you feel.

Until next time
Live with energy
Christian Baker 

Guest Author
Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author with expert knowledge in their field.

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