It’s a dreaded phenomenon that affects office drones all across the developed world – the inevitable afternoon energy crash. In the hours immediately proceeding lunchtime, countless people began to experience increasingly worse feelings of sluggishness and lethargy at work. This doesn’t exactly do wonders for employee morale and motivation, and unsurprisingly the performance of such workers nose dives along with their energy levels. Tired employees are such a common problem that virtually every firm has a coffee maker (or two) in the break room.
This lack of post-lunch energy is often attributed to an insufficient amount of sleep. Sure enough, this obvious explanation is certainly grounded in a good deal of truth, as many employees sabotage their own workplace performance with poor sleeping habits. But lack of sleep alone doesn’t fully explain these afternoon workplace doldrums. What tends to get somewhat overlooked is the role of diet in determining the body’s energy levels. A well-balanced lunch can keep an employee firing on all cylinders for hours on end; a poor-quality one can result in multiple trips to the coffee maker.
If your lunches leave you ill-prepared to tackle the afternoon grind, a few dietary changes might be in order. The foods listed below can help you stay sharp and focused, all the way to clock out time.
Bananas – Hailing originally from Southeast Asia, bananas have long been praised for their nutritional content. Containing large amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, bananas do indeed have a solid résumé. It is this very combination of vitamins and minerals that allows bananas to function as an all-natural energy booster. Bananas come in especially handy following exercise; according to researchers from Appalachian State University, eating two bananas provides the same amount of after-workout energy as sports drinks.
Almonds – While slogging through the final hours of your shift, it can understandably be very challenging to focus on your daily responsibilities. To rectify this problem, try eating a few handfuls of almonds. Almonds offer an ample supply of healthy fats and omega 3 acids, both of which can boost mental clarity and focus. As an added bonus, this nut of Middle Eastern origin is a great source of fiber, calcium and iron.
Walnuts – You probably have never heard of melatonin, yet this hormone plays an important role in determining your levels of daily energy. Melatonin has a great deal of influence over your sleep cycle, helping you to feel tired and ready for bed as the night progresses. In turn, getting an adequate amount of sleep helps the body feel lively and vigorous the following day.
Unfortunately, our body’s ability to produce sufficient melatonin is adversely effected by a familiar foe – the aging process. As we get older, the body is less able to manufacture various hormones, including melatonin. This has the effect of making it harder to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Distressing as it may be, this development is not irreversible. Eating walnuts boosts the body’s reserves of this valuable hormone, helping to get the body’s sleeping patterns back on track.
Brown Rice – When most of us eat rice, we usually opt for the white version of this popular cereal grain. This is a common dietary mistake; while white rice might be more appealing to the eye, it lacks the fiber, magnesium and B vitamins found in its brown counterpart. If that doesn’t convince you to make the switch, consider this; brown rice’s magnesium content helps the body stay alert and awake. This nutrient can prove especially useful during a workout, preventing the body from tiring too quickly.
Whole Wheat Cereal and Skim Milk – If your breakfast leaves you feeling tired and weary as lunchtime approaches, you should probably consider overhauling your first meal of the day. A whole wheat cereal combined with fat free milk will likely represent a significant upgrade over your usual morning fare. This tandem nourishes the body with a blend of fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein, and helps to build up your energy reserves for the long day ahead.
Lentils – With their diminutive size, lentils are often overlooked by the average consumer. This unimposing appearance belies the enormous nutritional value found in these dried beans; would you believe that only a half cup of cooked lentils has more protein than an egg, or that the same serving size provides more than 25 percent of your recommended daily intake of fiber? The tiny size of lentils actually works in their favor, allowing them to be easily mixed into salads, soups, spaghetti sauces and chili. To top it off, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, making them much easier to add into various recipes.
Sweet Potatoes – Like brown rice, sweet potatoes are often overshadowed by a closely-related alternative – in this case, white potatoes. And just like with brown rice, sweet potatoes represent the more nutritious choice between the pair, containing significant amounts of vitamins A and C. Among many other things, both of these vitamins are very useful for fending off mid-afternoon swoons.
Apples – You don’t need a medical degree to be familiar with the nutritional value of apple. There’s good reason why the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is so widely known, as this iconic fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber and complex carbohydrates. In addition to their other alluring traits, apples help prevent the bloodstream’s sugar levels from falling to yawn-inducing levels.