Eating for...the afternoon slump

We explain why you get the dreaded afternoon slump so you know how to help pre-empt and prevent it. 

The 3pm slump is something many of us can probably relate to. We start the day full of beans, but by mid-afternoon we’ve hit a massive wall. But don’t reach for that coffee and doughnut just yet, as we will show you some healthier options to keep those energy levels up.

Most people naturally experience different levels of sleepiness and alertness throughout the day. Our biological clock regulates these timings and they dip and rise at different times throughout the day. Generally, for adults who sleep between 10pm and 7am, the strongest sleep drive is between 2am and 4am in the morning and (wait for it…) between 1pm and 3pm in the afternoon.

If we’re sleep-deprived, these dips become more intense. If you don’t think you’re getting sufficient sleep, chances are it could affect you more during these plotted ‘dips’ between 1 and 3pm. Aside from getting enough sleep, our next best defence against the afternoon slump is eating the right foods throughout the day.

Here are some helpful tips to follow:

Follow a low-GI diet

A healthy breakfast and lunch containing low-GI carbohydrates will help keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. Some easy swaps include choosing basmati instead of white rice, or sweet potato instead of regular potato.

Don’t skip meals

Studies have found that people who don’t eat breakfast can often be more attracted to high-kilojoule and nutrient-poor foods later in the day. They may also end up eating more at lunchtime to compensate.

A balanced lunch can help your productivity during the second half of the day. If you skip lunch, your blood-sugar levels will be low and continue to drop throughout the afternoon, and you’ll start craving sweet foods.

People who don’t eat breakfast can often be more attracted to high-kilojoule and nutrient-poor foods later in the day.

berries muesli yoghurt

Watch your portion size

If you eat too many carbohydrates at once (for example, a large lunch), it could result in high blood-glucose levels, even if it has a low GI. Remember, what goes up, must come down. This could be why you often feel sluggish a few hours after a heavy lunch.

Add protein and fibre to your meals

Studies show that protein and fibre help keep us fuller than eating carbohydrates or fats alone. Try adding some protein like boiled eggs or tuna, and fibre-rich foods like lettuce, tomato or beans to your salad or sandwich.

Be snack-savvy

By eating regularly and spreading your serves of carbohydrate foods evenly throughout the day, you can maintain energy levels without causing large rises or sharp falls in blood-glucose levels.  It just needs to be a healthy snack that’s the right size. Why not try a few fresh dates and a handful of almonds, or a brown-rice sushi roll, or a small tub of low-fat plain yoghurt with fruit?


If you’ve tried all these tips and still feel tired during the day, there could be underlying health issues. So it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to help find or rule out any other causes.

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