If it’s well into the afternoon on a work day, I bet you’re needing a well-deserved break. What will help you survive the next 2-3 hours in the office? What will give you that extra ‘pep’, as well as justifiably for leaving your desk?
The 3pm slump is real, particularly for office workers. Hiroshima University researchers explain ‘repetitive ‘stress’ (i.e. concentration at work) fatigues the brain. However, if you’re needing a break plus a sugar hit, this could signal a deeper problem. Let’s explore three ways to prevent sugar cravings in the afternoon, and three alternative ways to recharge the batteries.
How to prevent 3pm cravings
1. Get enough sleep
Sugar cravings are the body’s way of telling us we are tired. It makes sense; a good night’s sleep gives us energy, but in its absence, sugar is a rapid and readily available alternative. Research from the University of Chicago found people who had a good night’s sleep ate 400 less calories from snacks in the afternoon. Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
2. Eat a proper breakfast
If you skip breakfast and fast for additional hours after sleeping, you start to drain your supply of glycogen. As a survival mechanism against depletion, the body produces more of your hunger hormone – ghrelin. Your ghrelin levels can remain elevated throughout the day, even after lunch, causing a lingering hunger. Make sure you fuel up well in the morning to prevent this!
3. A balanced lunch
Aim for your lunch to contain a small portion of low GI carbohydrates, and a decent serve of protein. Low GI carbohydrates like quinoa, multigrain breads and sweet potato, provide a slow stream of energy over 3 to 4 hours. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable between meals. Proteins also help to prevent sugar cravings, by elongating the time it takes for the carbohydrates in your meal to be absorbed. They also take more time for our body to digest, keeping our tummies full for hours.
Three alternative strategies for preventing the slump
1. Go for a walk
If you’ve had a great sleep and balanced meals throughout the day, you may not even need to snack at this time. Take a moment to assess your hunger level. If you just need a break, how about a short walk? Studies have shown a mid-afternoon walk can boost morale, reduce stress and improve productivity at work
Is it really sugar you need? Maybe, it’s just a tall glass of water. As little as a 1% drop in body water can negatively affect cognition and mood. Reports show most people consume far less fluid than their daily requirement, approximately 1.5-2.5L per day. If this sounds like you, take a mid-afternoon break and prepare yourself a drink, rather than a snack. You can’t beat water, but to keep things interesting, try a tea or a fresh vegetable juice.
3. Have low-sugar snacks ready
Afternoon tea is perfectly acceptable, especially if you work long hours. If you’ve made smart meal choices during the day, you shouldn’t need a Red Bull, just a healthy snack. Make sure you have healthy options available - bring them in yourself (i.e. natural yoghurt, cheese and crackers, a boiled egg), or start an office fruit bowl or nut jar.