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September 8, 2017

Beating the four o’clock slump at work through healthy eating

We have all been there: yawning, lack of focus, mind wandering, time stopping, eyes closing, o-so-very-tired-and-sleepy. The tell-tale signs of that mid-afternoon slump are obvious, but what can we do about it?

Here are some actions you can start to take right now to improve your performance and help you power through those challenging afternoons:

1. Go for a lighter, healthy lunch rather than a heavy one full of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source, but a heavy lunch full of carbohydrates can promote drowsiness. After eating, your body sends blood to where it is needed: your digestive system which needs to break-up all that food. The more you eat, the more blood is required, which means less blood to other areas of your body including your brain – and this is what results in temporary drowsiness. In addition, dietitians tend to agree that carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta and potatoes boost the production of the chemical serotonin by our brains – making us feel content but also possibly sleepy.

So favour a lighter lunch wherever possible: perhaps a leafy chicken salad instead of a bowl of pasta.

2. Avoid sugary snacks, like sweets or chocolate bars

Sugary snacks can provide an instant and temporary energy boost for the body, but they quite often result in a slump soon after. This is because sugar pushes your blood sugar levels up quickly, causing your body to produce insulin which in turn can cause blood sugar levels to dip quickly as the “sugar fuel” is used up – the result of which is a sugar crash which can make you feel very sleepy.

So it is pretty much easy-come easy-go with the traditional unhealthy office snacks. You will keep craving for more and more just to keep your energy levels up. This is a quick-fix solution with potentially nasty side effects.

3. Choose fresh fruit

The natural sugars found in fruit can boost your energy but your blood sugar levels are kept steady (i.e. no nasty peaks and troughs!) because they are packed with fibre. The American Diabetes Association says that fibre in fruit results in a lower glycemic index – a measure of how fast blood sugar levels raise as a result of eating sugar. So fruit will provide you with sustained energy rather than simply a quick hit.

Bananas are the most famous performance-enhancing fruit, because we often see leading athletes consuming them. Bananas provide an instant, sustained and significant boost of energy. This comes from the three natural sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose) combined with fibre. Research has also suggested that Vitamin B6 and magnesium found in bananas help to improve brain alertness and performance. At just 100 calories they make for a great snack with many health benefits beyond the initial pick-me-up.

Citrus fruit are another favourite – the Vitamin C and natural sugars help reduce fatigue levels. Vitamin C is so critical to the immune system that low levels of it in your body can result in fatigue. Citrus fruit provide an instant burst of Vitamin C which acts like an antidote to reduced energy levels.


As you can see, beating the four o’clock slump is not difficult – it simply involves you making the right choices. Simple adjustments to your habits can lead to powerful results in terms of your wellbeing at work. Take care and be healthy!