person eating a bag of Country Archer grass fed beef jerky on a hike
July 28, 2020 | Press

Real Simple

5 Ways to Beat the Midday Slump Without Sugar (or Coffee)

It’s 3 p.m. and you’re slouched in front of your desk, motivation waning. You reach for the office snack basket for a little pick-me-up in the form of chocolate or a few cookies. Or maybe you’re out running errands or shuttling kids from school to sports, slumped over the steering wheel and mindlessly munching on the snacks meant for the little ones. Afternoons can be tough no matter what your day-to-day looks like, but reaching for sugar only backfires in the long run.

While they might give you an instant lift, sweets will drop your energy soon after consuming, leading you to a vicious cycle of always wanting more. Not to mention the fact that sugar negatively impacts sleep, so the next day you’ll be extra tired and craving that quick hit of energy even more. So how to stop this endless loop and get through the afternoon without the crutch of sugar? Read on for a few ways to beat that slump sans pastries so you can make it to the evening feeling energized and productive.

1. Get moving.

If you’re craving an afternoon pick-me-up, one of your best options might be to move your body. Small doses of physical activity have actually been shown to be more effective in boosting energy than caffeine in sleep-deprived women. So when you hit a wall, spend 10 minutes walking around the block or up and down the stairwell, or even finding a corner to do jumping jacks and pushups. You’ll return to the tasks at hand feeling more alert and energized from within.

2. Go minty fresh.

Mint can do more than just freshen your after-lunch breath. Studies have shown that the smell of peppermint can lessen fatigue and increase mental alertness. Have a cup of peppermint tea, pop a piece of strong gum or mint, or my personal favorite, keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil by your desk and dab it right underneath your nose. Be warned: essential oils are quite strong, so you only need a small drop to get those energizing effects.

3. Fuel with fats.

Fats have gotten a bad reputation in the past, but in the past few years there is much more research out about how many fats are actually beneficial for overall health. Fat also happens to be the most energy-efficient fuel source for the body, and provides a sustained boost that won’t leave you crashing. Good fat sources to consume mid-afternoon include avocado, macadamia nuts, or any type of nut butter paired with fruit. If you’re looking for something portable and pre-made, RX bar makes stellar nut butter packets(Maple Almond Butter and Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter are two favorites) that you can grab and take on the go.

4. Power with protein.

Sometimes, even though lunch was only a few hours ago, a lack of afternoon energy can be a sign that you just need more food. This is especially true if you didn’t sleep well the night before, got in a tough morning workout, or are about to get your period. In those moments, a snack rich in protein will help fuel you through the afternoon and provide stable energy levels so that you don’t get to dinnertime ready to eat the whole house. Eggs in particular are loaded with B Vitamins, which are essential for energy production. Hard boil your own or try Peckish packaged eggs for an easy on-the-go option.

Other good protein-rich snacks are nuts, jerky (I like Country Archer for a grass-fed option, or jerky’s fancy cousin, biltong.

5. Sip green tea.

While it’s never a good idea to drink large amounts of caffeine in the afternoon, small doses can provide just the right amount of lift that won’t keep you up at night. The key to protecting your sleep is keeping the amount to about 25 grams of caffeine. To put that into perspective, a typical cup of coffee has around 100 grams. So what are your best options for a beverage that will rev you up the right amount? A cup of green tea is a great choice since it also contains the compound L-Theanine, which helps promote relaxation and balances out any caffeine jitters. If you’re not a tea person, I personally love the Recovery drinks from Kill Cliff. Developed for workout recovery, these delicious bevvies contain 25 milligrams of caffeine with electrolytes and B vitamins to keep you going with no sugar. Bonus: the blood orange flavor tastes like orange soda, making afternoons at the office feel somewhat indulgent.

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