How often do you get to work at 9 AM feeling pumped and energized, only to crash at 2 PM post-lunch?
Lots of people feel this way during the final hours of their workday—when productivity takes a dive, you can’t concentrate, and you find it hard to get yourself back on track.
Fortunately, you can fix this simply by adjusting your eating and work habits.
Here are some tips from productivity experts and nutritionists on how to keep your energy levels up all day long.
Eat complex carbs
Alyse Levine is the founder of NutritionBite, a nutrition consulting business in Los Angeles. She says that the best food to keep you motivated throughout the day is complex carbs because they “get broken down slowly for a steady and long-lasting stream of energy.”
According to Levine, “These include whole grains, legumes, beans, fruit, and starchy vegetables. The fiber in these foods slows their breakdown, which gives you a stable release of energy and also aids in digestion.”
A high-carb lunch made of refined carbohydrates, which are digested in the body quickly, is problematic. According to Bonnie Modugno, also a nutrition consultant in Los Angeles, a high-carb lunch like a big bowl of pasta “puts people to sleep.”
Instead of ordering a regular slice of pizza or a roast beef sandwich on white bread, Levine says to have lunches that include a complex carb, a protein, and a source of fat.
“In addition to a complex carb, adding in the other two macronutrients—fat and protein—will make you feel full longer,” she says.
Examples of well-balanced meals may include whole wheat pasta with veggies and shrimp, brown rice with chicken and broccoli, a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with an apple on the side, or an avocado melt on whole grain bread.
Avoid the vending machine
Refined carbs like chips, candy, and soda can probably be found in your office’s vending machine. While satisfying in the moment, eating these comfort foods may be one of the reasons you’re feeling sluggish by 3 PM.
“Simple carbohydrates are quickly absorbed,” says Levine. “They provide a rapid burst of energy—which is short-lived—followed by an energy crash shortly after, which is often the reason many people feel sleepy mid-afternoon, or feel like they need a pick-me-up after eating a snack or meal rich in refined carbs.”
If your craving for refined carbs won’t go away, Levine suggests that when you eat them, you “pair them with other foods containing fat and protein to slow down the absorption of sugar.” For example, instead of eating just crackers, have them with guacamole or cheese.
Cut down on coffee consumption
Typically, after lunch, you’ll run to Starbucks or brew yourself a cup of coffee from your lunchroom’s Keurig machine. Your latte will give you energy, but it won’t last. Plus, it may actually have the opposite effect if you drink too much of it.
“Coffee is extremely dehydrating, and most people are always dehydrated already because they don’t drink enough water,” says Marie-Claire Hermans, an energy coach and owner of Ravishing Raw. “Dehydration causes the brain to shrink. Without water, you’ll lose concentration, focus, and clarity.”
Instead of reaching for that cup of joe, Hermans says you should drink water instead. You may find that it’s more effective at keeping you focused until the end of your day.
Snack if you’re hungry
If you’re not feeling satiated after lunch, or you’re still in a slump, try snacking on some protein that’ll perk you up.
Carson Tate, a productivity expert and the founder of Working Simply, says she’ll have some nuts if she’s hungry. “I keep small packs of nuts everywhere, including in my car, my purse, and my desk drawer.”
Tate will also snack on some almond butter with celery or carrots, or a Raw Crunch Bar, which doesn’t contain processed ingredients or refined carbs.
It’s been proven time and time again that if you sit at your desk all day and don’t move at all, you’re hurting your productivity.
“Take a break with some kind of physical movement,” says Modugno. “That kind of movement is what helps us to refresh, so that we can come back to our desks and refocus.”
Photo: Lauren Kallen