Ever wonder why you’re ready to fall asleep on your desk by the time 2 p.m. rolls around?
While America’s sleep debt might have something to do with it, we often forget that what we eat dictates how we feel when we’re trying fight through the fatigue that seems to hamper us every day.
If you head out for lunch and down a bunch of carbs (think pasta and garlic bread), you’re bound to crash within a few hours of your fettuccine feast. If you’re out the door for a meeting and you don’t have time to find a healthy option, you’re most likely going to stop at a drive-through and down fistfuls grease-laden food.
We’d all do well to adopt the mentality, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat,” but even that platitude is a little too folksy for a world obsessed with information. But there are real, practical tips out there about how to eat right at the office and we’ve found some of them.
Work out in the morning? Carbs and protein can help
It’s well-known among nutritionists that your body is starving for energy after a good workout. When you hit the gym before work, you put your muscles to the test. Once you’re done working out (and showered up, hopefully), you might feel invigorated, but your muscles are yearning for glucose and protein.
If you don’t replenish those key components, your muscles will feel fatigued because they aren’t being repaired like they should.
So, if you’re morning routine includes a trip to the gym, make sure you eat a solid carb-focused snack within an hour of your workout.
Peanut butter toast and a banana are a great option. The protein from the peanut butter rebuilds your muscles, the carbs from the bread breaks down into glucose that’s stored as energy and the potassium in your banana replaces some of the electrolytes you may have lost.
Hungry before lunch? Nuts and fruits are the key
Let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s just easier to grab chips and a soda from the vending machine than it is to plan out a weekly snack menu for work.
But take a moment to think about what’s in that vending-machine meal. One can of Pepsi contains 41 grams of sugar, which is the recommended daily sugar intake for a male for an entire day. Sure, you might get a sugar rush for a few minutes, but swigging that soda isn’t worth the sugar crash you’ll feel when you should be at the top of your game.
Those chips will make you thirsty since they’re packing 210mg of sodium, which is about 10% of your recommended daily intake.
Instead of grabbing a Coke, try downing a bottle of water and replacing those chips with nuts. Water’s benefits are well-known … no need to elaborate. Nuts, however, are often forgotten as a legitimate snack because a bag of almonds tends to cost significantly more than a back of Cool Ranch Doritos.
However, once you get past the price tag, you’ll realize that nuts are rich in good fats and proteins. Almonds, for example, are a great source of fiber, which will keep you full while others are running for the taco truck.
Fresh fruits like apples are also high in vitamins and fiber, and their natural sweetness will keep you away from the Skittles.
Pushing through the afternoon food coma? Coffee does the trick
Your body pumps out the stress hormone cortisol early in the morning to help you wake up. According to a 2015 article from TIME, your waking-hours production of cortisol is the exact reason why you shouldn’t drink coffee – it can interfere with your body’s efforts to make you awake and alert.
The waking process dies down in the mid-morning and then ramps up again around lunch time before dipping between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Is it coincidence that this particular window of time is also when we feel the most tired?
Probably not, which is why an after-lunch cup of coffee could very well help you power through the afternoon slump.