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Energy enhancing foods to avoid afternoon lunch crash & fatigue?

After starting my new office job, (first one not in a restaurant!) I've been battling the afternoon crash. You know when you feel so sleepy, sucked out of energy and low? Which is so weird because I'm used to working long hours in restaurants, standing up and moving around, being able to push myself without feeling fatigued. Yet working from 7:30am-5pm, in a cubicle mainly sitting down, I feel like I'm going to die around 1:30ish till I get off. Anyone have any suggestions to what might make me have more energy to make it through the work day? Could my diet affect my tired feeling, because loading up on caffeine works for only so long....Any suggestions help, Thanks.

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  1. The best trick I know of for avoiding the afternoon slump is to avoid carbs at lunchtime. Stick with vegetables and protein and you should notice immediate improvement!

    3 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      I totally agree with biondanonima, avoid pasta/bread type foods at lunch.....also, I've found that if you still start feeling a little down or sleepy at 3 or 4, take a very quick walk around the office or go up some stairs...anything to get the blood moving will refresh you from sitting for so long.
      Also, you might consider eating a smaller lunch and then having a healthy snack at 2 or 3...some v-8, or handful of nuts, carrots, apple with peanut butter, greek yogurt.

      1. re: biondanonima

        Actually I found the biggest difference when I avoided carbs for breakfast like toast or what not. I'd read about eating this way a few years ago when I too was looking for a way to stop nearly face-planting on my desk mid-afternoon. So I chose a breakfast of eggs, or fruit and yogurt, an apple and peanut butter etc for breakfast and I felt a little perkier.

        1. re: im_nomad

          +1 on controlling carbs....but it's important to understand that anything that spikes your blood sugar up will end up making you feel tired when you're sitting at a desk. Try to keep some snacks around that are not high in carbs and eat something every 2-3 hours. If you are starving by the time you eat lunch you will inevitably overeat and then crash afterwards. The things that help people control their weight are usually the same things that keep your body functioning at its best no matter where you are: Small, balanced, nutrient dense foods every three hours or so, and a very careful eye on sugar and simple carbs.

      2. Mints and get up and walk around.

        1. Maybe not the healthiest thing, but the 2:00pm Red Bull works for me (sugar free these days).

          1 Reply
          1. re: LorenM

            sugar-free? speaking of not being the healthiest thing...

            anyway it sounds like the OP is looking for alternatives to caffeine. guess that just leaves more Red Bull for you! ;)

          2. This might sound crazy, but I've personally found that the best way to stave off the afternoon crash is to skip lunch. I always found myself passing out after lunch, once I eliminated lunch I stopped being tired. If I really feel like I need food I'll eat just a little bit.

            If you do want to eat, keep it low or no carb as others have suggested. I used to always go comatose after an indian buffet at lunch.

            1 Reply
            1. re: joonjoon

              Skipping lunch is what works best for me too. When I have to eat lunch, I look for fish, and no alcohol!

            2. Your body is just shutting down. Not much you can do from a diet point of view (things like caffeine excluded). Try walking around 5 min every hour. If you've a sufficient lunch break, walk over somewhere. For bathroom use, use one that's on another floor (or just generally far), if possible. You can even try getting one of those small/portable exercise devices for the desk.

              Keep up the good work!

              1. Ixnay on the iesfray- or any really big lunch, especially carbs. Or keep an epi-pen for those two-o'clock crashes (I"M KIDDING OF COURSE)

                1. I have a couple of quick go-to snacks/small meal. Greek yogurt with whatever berry or fruit strikes me, or a high-fibre tortilla with peanut butter and a banana. They both require a bit of planning to take to work, but I find them great.

                  1. 1. Make sure to get a good night's sleep (e.g. at least 7 hours)

                    2. Skip lunch, and graze throughout the day so your blood sugar levels don't peak and crash

                    3. Walk around the office (pretend you have to make photocopies or something, or get office supplies)

                    1. What a great topic. Fantastic comments too. I get depressed and tired if I sit for too long no matter what I have eaten. I'd try to find a better job but that is tough in today's economy. Sounds like this one is bad for your health. My favorite jobs have been ones where I could sit when I wanted to but also stand and move around when I wanted to as well. Within reason of course. And also drink water and go to the bathroom at regular intervals with no dirty looks.
                      Sushi has worked for me in the past. I also found the idea of skipping lunch interesting. I guess if you do that your body is not using energy to digest food and can send the energy elsewhere. I keep a plastic container of dates around as a break glass in case of emergency device. One date brightens me up for a short time at least. Good luck and please get back to us on what worked for you HJJaenicke.

                      1. what time are you eating breakfast & lunch? and what *do* you eat for those meals?

                        1. I totally agree with the low carb ideas. I think for me at least, eating too much of anything can lead to a food coma. so maybe split your lunch in half, and have some salad and protein (grilled chicken, fish, steak, cheese) at noon, and then when you get hungry again, have some nuts and fruit?

                          1. suggestions are helpful, but really, it is about tuning into what works for you, and whether you are actually hungry when you eat, also and then what YOUR PARTICULAR body wants and does well with. Good luck!

                            1. Protein, fresh fruit and a ten minute or more cat nap. I emphasize cat nap over the protein and fruit.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: David11238

                                I had a business idea for sleep trucks, along the lines of food trucks, outfitted with beds, eye shades, music/white noise from head sets that you could use for half an hour or so. But, as we were jokingly brainstorming the idea, it took another turn to more, um, illicit things. Keeping it clean, I think people could use a spot to lie down--just imagine the tourists w/ kids who need a little nap, never mind exhausted office workers.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Include shrimp cocktails and bowls of grapes in the mix and you have a winner.

                              2. WOW! Thanks to all for such great, unique and interesting advice. I'm lucky I'm not the only one who has suffered or sufferes from the sluggish afternoon burntout feeling. I wish I could create a bunker under my cubicle or just take some carpet square nap time and restore myself...my options aren't so glamorous.

                                Taking joonjoon's reccomendation I all together skipped lunch, besides the obnoxious hunger calls and constant thoughts about food this really helped. I wasn't tired and was able to keep constant attention without wanting to fall into a mini comma. While effective, I found myself FAMISHED & binge eating the second I got home from work. Thinking this might not be the best quick fix, I'm trying a new approach. Skipping carbs and eating more protein during my lunch break is what I'm doing now....along with green tea. So I guess I have to say goodbye to the (free) & delish oriental and latin cuisine from the conference room haha. Oh well let's see how this work week goes!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: HJJaenicke

                                  HJJ, I'm glad you were able to experience the awakening effects of skipping lunch! There's a method that fits each person and it'll be up to you to determine the right amount to eat in order to keep your focus (not on food) and at the same time stave off the sleep monster. Sounds like we were suffering from the same problem (unlimited free lunch at work)!

                                  I will say this though about skipping meals - at first the hunger pangs are brutal, but eventually your body adjusts to it and you get to keep the sharpness and focus without dwelling on the hunger. It's important though, to be able to recognize when your body truly does need a little energy and to be able to feed it when necessary. The most important thing is to keep experimenting with your diet and finding a system you can stick with.

                                  I will leave you with my favorite food related quote that seems relevant here:

                                  “you must learn to be moderate in eating, and eat only enough to remain healthy, and fit for trance. For excessive food obstructs the flow of the breath as it goes in and out, induces lassitude (lack of vitality) and sleepiness, and kills all valour. And as too much food has unfortunate consequences, so also starvation does not lead to efficiency. For starvation dains away the body’s volume, lustre, firmness, performance and strength. You should take food in accordance with your individual capacity, neither too much, nor, from pride, too little.” From Buddhist Scriptures, edited by Edward Conze (1959).

                                  1. re: HJJaenicke

                                    Since you're starving, what about just eating a small amount of food, here and there, Grab a few nuts, hard boiled egg, string cheese; add a little fruit or veggies (veggies in hummus). Not enough to make you groggy but enough to fuel your body and prevent the famished feeling. Try to eat a little more about half an hour to an hour before leaving work.

                                    1. re: HJJaenicke

                                      If you need a Plan B, I've started using Trader Joe's European Whole Grain Bread for breakfast & lunch. "Bread" is a euphemistic description. It's more like crushed whole grains & sunflower seeds compressed into a loaf shape. It has enough complex carbs & fiber to keep my blood sugar from spiking & crashing. The all protein meals are another good suggestion.

                                    2. More so than your lunch, this could be a result of your breakfast. I'm careful to eat a mix of protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal. If you like eggs, they are excellent for breakfast and to keep you moving, I'll have egg whites with a side of oatmeal with almond butter or kashi go lean cereal with almonds and skim milk. If you don't like eggs, try cottage cheese or greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. The protein should keep you going for a few hours. I would try to make sure you're getting protein, fat, and carbs at every meal and eating whole wheat rather than white...

                                      I've been eating Like this for quite awhile and sometimes forget how effective it is. One day this school year I had baked a cake for a class i was taking and there was a lot leftover. The next morning i thought, What the hell, it was delicious, and ate a big piece for breakfast with my coffee. About 3 hours later i could have put my head on the desk and gone right to sleep, despite having students in the room! I will never eat cake for breakfast again (well, at least not on a weekday!).

                                      1. For a while I was going for a walk around the block/building and then up the 14 flights of stairs back to my office. This was really effective, I think both tthe fresh air outside and the brief spurt of intense exercise were important.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: julesrules

                                          14??? FOURTEEN!????? what? jules, say it ain't so--you are surely kidding?...I was only talkin' about 3 or 4 flights...sheesh!

                                          1. re: Val

                                            14 flights isn't much if you're in shape for it - i run stairs 2 or 3 times per week as part of my exercise regimen. the tricky part is doing it in *street clothes* without getting sweaty...i don't know how she manages that!

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              yes, thanks...I think I could do it too...but I might not look ready to sit at my desk right afterwards...LOL! But good for jules rules!

                                              1. re: Val

                                                I actually don't break a sweat doing this. I do it at a slow and steady pace but it gets tough around floor 10. Several people on my floor have done this on and off and none of us are in spectacular shape... I have heard the marathon runner saying that the more active you are, the more you sweat even with easier activities. It definitely wakes me up better than my caffeine and sugar dosing ever did.

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  Very good...I applaud you and co-workers!

                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                    I have heard the marathon runner saying that the more active you are, the more you sweat even with easier activities.
                                                    kinda sorta. sweating is the body's internal cooling mechanism, and the fitter you are, the more efficient your body tends to be at moderating its temperature...so someone who's in great shape and exercises a lot will actually begin sweating at a lower core temperature/earlier in the activity because the body has been conditioned to anticipate an increase and make the adjustment. *but* [as with everything else] sweating is individualized, and things like environment, age, hydration levels and genetics are involved. i do happen to be a pretty good example of the basic rule - a former competitive athlete and still an extremely avid exerciser, and i sweat like a beast ;)

                                                    anyway, i think it's great that you all do it!