We’ve all been there. It’s approaching 4pm, you can feel your eyelids drooping and your stomach rumbling. You get up from your desk to try and wake up a bit, and happen to walk by the break room where an innocent looking tray of baked goods is sitting on the table up for grabs. You can smell the chocolate. No one is watching. You tell yourself your body needs the fuel to make it to the end of the day as you reach for the chocolate chip one. You’ve been healthy all day, what’s one cookie?
The truth is, your body does need some fuel. You likely ate lunch around 12 or 1 so it’s been 3-4 hours. And will one cookie completely derail your day? Of course not. But that feeling of sluggishness and sleepiness that happens in the late afternoon can actually be avoided, which will help you quiet those sugar cravings. Here are 6 things to do to avoid the 4pm crash:
Eat a filling breakfast. Starting the day with a healthy meal sets you up for a day of making healthy choices. Most people who aren’t big breakfast eaters claim they aren’t hungry in the morning or just don’t have the time, but it doesn’t have to be a big, gourmet meal. Include a protein, a healthy fat and some fiber, and avoid heavy carb and sugary options – try a banana and peanut butter, plain Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, or eggs, avocado and whole grain toast. The combo of these 3 nutrients will help you stay satisfied until lunch.
Stay hydrated. Water is essential to every function and every cell of the body and is actually energizing. If you aren’t drinking enough water you may experience headaches, fatigue or a feeling of fogginess – none of which are conducive to productivity. You may even feel hungry as dehydration can throw off the sugar and salt balances in the body. The rule of thumb is to aim to drink roughly half your body weight in ounces – so if you’re 150 lbs, aim for 75 oz.
Limit caffeine. It sounds counter intuitive in combating fatigue, but caffeine is very dehydrating (see above!) Enjoy your cup or 2 throughout the day, but avoid reaching for the coffee pot in the late afternoon. It can disrupt your sleep later on and will only be a short-term fix for those yawns.
Snack. Similarly to how a lack of water makes the body feel, a lack of calories also causes headache, fatigue and sugar cravings. If you’ve eaten too little throughout the day or gone too long without eating, your body goes into starvation mode and craves the quick fix that a chocolate chip cookie provides. The best snacks to keep around are ones that are simple, easy to store and nutrient dense – nuts, apples, bananas, hummus, cheese, etc.
Eat a nutrient dense lunch. Most people fall into 2 camps when it comes to lunch selection – a salad or whatever is easiest/fastest/tastiest. Neither are right or wrong, but there are ways to make sure whatever you choose is fueling your body to get through the day. Make sure to include that protein, healthy fat and fiber combo and avoid filling up on empty calories such as white bread, pasta and sugar which will only increase your hunger and fatigue an hour later. Think a salad with grilled chicken, avocado and veggies or a sandwich on whole grain bread.
Get moving. If you have a desk job, it’s easy to be sedentary most of the day, which actually makes you more tired. If you feel a slump coming on and your schedule allows it, get outside and take a quick walk around the block. The fresh air and movement will help wake up your body and mind.