If you experience the dreaded energy slump in the middle of the day: you’re not alone. The time between lunch and dinner is the period where tiredness often kicks in. This can affect your mood and productivity, and can contribute to an unhappy afternoon overall. It may also cause us to overeat at dinner time, which can lead to weight gain. This slump is caused by a blood sugar rollercoaster – a vicious cycle you don’t want your body to ride. Preventing the blood sugar rollercoaster is centred around maintaining a steady influx of slow release energy from food. Carbohydrates are the main food group that affect blood sugar levels but not all carbohydrates are bad. The other macronutrients, protein and fat, also play a role in keeping blood sugar in check. Use these five pieces of advice to help you get through the afternoon!
1. Don’t Skip Breakfast
Skipping breakfast can be a recipe for disaster, especially when it comes to energy levels. Your body will spend the whole day trying to catch up on that meal you missed in the morning. The comment ‘breakfast kick starts your metabolism’ does have some truth to it. Croissants and cornflakes won’t do; try some porridge or some fruit and yoghurt with a sprinkling of granola.
2. Bulk up on Fibre
Foods that are high in fibre, such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates, like brown bread, pasta and rice release their energy much slower than refined carbohydrates due to their fibre content. This means that they will stay in the tummy for longer, giving you a physically full feeling. Fibre can also reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colon cancer. If you’re eating a diet high in whole plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and wholegrain carbs, then you’re more than likely getting enough. Aim for 30g or more per day. To put this into perspective, there’s 4g of fibre in 2 slices of brown bread or an apple with the skin on.
3. Have Two (Healthy) Snacks Throughout the Day
Snacking during the day maintains a constant influx of energy. Without snacks, you may be starving when your next meal comes around. Never let yourself get hungry – this means that your blood sugar has dropped. We all know what happens when hunger sets in: we reach for the bad stuff. Fruit, oatcakes or raw snack bars are good options.
4. Step Away from the Fizzy Drinks
Fizzy drinks are a catastrophe for blood sugar as they cause a huge spike and a sharp dip. When the dip occurs, the body will crave more sugar to get energy levels back up quickly. Try to cut them out of the diet or opt for sugar free versions instead. The sugar free versions are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners so don’t go too mad on these either as their long-term effects are still not known.
5. Sprinkle Cinnamon on Meals and Snacks
Cinnamon contains a mineral called chromium, which has been shown to help blood sugar control. Try the Ceylon cinnamon variety, which can be found on health shop shelves. You’ve been warned though: this won’t work alone. It should be used in conjunction with other dietary changes, like swapping white for brown and increasing the amount of veg you eat at dinner time. Sprinkle on apple slices, porridge or stir into curries.