Ever wondered why you’re feeling sluggish at that 3 pm mark? It’s an all too common complaint. Mid-afternoon we tend to experience an energy drop and can start to feel tempted by any type of sweet in that may be in a 5-mile radius, caffeinated drinks, or that troublesome work vending machine. It is also easy to succumb to standing at the fridge and eat mindlessly throughout the afternoon.
Here are some reasons why you may be experiencing the 3 pm slump:
Your Sleep Patterns are off-
Do you ever find some nights you’re in bed by 8 pm and fall asleep without a problem, then the next night you’re scrolling Instagram and watching Netflix at midnight? An irregular sleeping schedule is becoming a prominent issue. This lack of sleep really tends to hit people at that 3 pm mark and can leave you feeling tired, lethargic, lazy, and craving sugar which can become a vicious cycle and cause inflammation and weight to creep up.
Solution: Establish a good night time routine and put your phone away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Stop eating and drinking (with exception of water) a few hours before bedtime to support digestion and practice/establish a self-care ritual to help you wind down.
Not Enough Protein-
Protein-rich foods contain complete amino acids (note: our bodies can’t make a complete amino acid profile so we need to get them from food) which helps us to feel fuller for longer. When we aren’t consuming sufficient amounts, it can result in feelings of fatigue and hunger.
Solution: Aim to include a serving of protein at breakfast and lunch such as Greek yogurt, protein powder, nuts, ricotta, eggs, beans, chicken or wild salmon to help reduce that afternoon slump.
Refined Carbs at lunch-
Do you ever notice that when you have refined carbohydrates for lunch you tend to feel more sluggish and lethargic in the afternoon? This often happens when we don’t make or bring our own food to work. Consequently, this can lead to grabbing a less nutritious convenient takeaway option from the food court. This can then trigger that pesky afternoon slump because white refined carbohydrates deliver glucose to the blood quickly, resulting in a brief rise and then drop in blood sugar levels.
Solution: Choose slow and low carbs! This doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy carbs for lunch, in fact, you should! They’re a great source of fiber and can assist with keeping you energized for the rest of the day. It’s just about which carbs we choose. Slow and low carbs like whole-grain varieties such as brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa or starchy vegs such as sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin or beetroot.
Too Much Caffeine-
Despite caffeine being a stimulant which means it can work to increase energy levels, caffeine also raises cortisol levels. Therefore, too much coffee can disrupt our stress response reactions which may have health consequences if excessive intake is maintained. For some people, drinking too much daily can result in dependence which means our body is waiting for the next caffeine hit. Therefore, if we don’t get it we can feel lethargic or some people even experience headaches.
Solution: Enjoy your 1 cup of coffee, preferably prior to 12 noon. When you find that second craving coming on, swap the next coffee for a dandelion chai tea (caffeine-free), matcha tea, peppermint or chamomile herbal tea.
Irregular eating patterns such as skipping breakfast can disturb our sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. Consuming a protein-rich breakfast also enhances satiety, keeping us fuller, and reducing food cravings later on. These food cravings tend to be most prominent at the 3 pm mark. Often what we feel in the afternoon is a reflection of our food intake earlier that day.
Solution: Can’t stomach food within a few hours of waking? Try just having a small snack that includes the Perfect Trifecta (Fat, Fiber, and Protein) such as some Greek yogurt with berries or a banana and some nut butter or handful of raw nuts. Time poor? Prep the night before. Overnight oats or a smoothie are one of the easiest options to grab and go.
Need some 3 pm snack ideas?
- A DIY trail mix
- Greek yogurt with cinnamon
- 1-2 boiled eggs
- 1-2 protein balls
- Cut up veggie sticks dipped with hummus.