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The Afternoon Grind

The Afternoon Grind
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Keeping Your Energy Up Throughout the Day

Regardless of your job or office environment, you’ve probably felt it. Oh sure, its symptoms might be minor at first – you start to yawn, you slouch a little bit and eyes get a bit heavy. Before you know it, you’re struggling to stay awake, and have once again fallen victim to the afternoon grind. In other words, you have run out of energy, and are struggling to slug through the final hours of your workday. While this phenomenon might seem to be an inevitable part of your daily routine, there are steps you can take to ward off these troublesome feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.

The Possible Culprits

Like many physical maladies, the root causes of afternoon sluggishness are often related to lifestyle and diet. Perhaps the most obvious reason behind your daily crash is a lack of sleep. Many Americans don’t get nearly enough sleep before rising for work. In fact, according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 41 million Americans fail to get even six hours of sleep per night. Making this figure even more alarming is that it accounts for 30 percent of the United States’ civilian workforce.

Another reason for your afternoon sluggishness is a familiar foe – sugar. Growing up, your mother might have warned you about eating too much sugar, and the subsequent “sugar crashes” that result from such unhealthy dietary habits. As it turns out, mom was right; consuming sugar in excess quantities early in the day can easily have consequences for your body in the afternoon. This is because the spike in blood sugar (medically referred to as glucose) that accompanies the consumption of sugary foods is only temporary. As the day wears on, this blood glucose is transferred by our bodies to various tissues, allow it to be used by our bodies at a later time. Consequentially, your blood sugar levels plummet, leading to feelings of fatigue and sleepiness.

A third possible explanation for your post-lunchtime struggles could be a lack of healthy fats in your diet. Though the amounts may vary based on body type, Americans are generally advised to follow a diet that consists of 50% complex carbohydrates, 20% lean protein and 30% healthy fats. Unfortunately, many office works fail to follow these sound recommendations.

You’ve probably heard this before, but it certainly bears mentioning again – exercise is often the key ingredient for a more energetic life. There is a mountain of evidence supporting this claim; one such study, conducted in 2008 by the University of Georgia, found that low-intensity exercise decreased fatigue in test subjects by 65 percent.

Energy-Boosting Advice

Just by reading the preceding section, it is fairly easy to come up with some ideas for boosting your afternoon levels of energy. First, get some shuteye – the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Second, avoid breakfast meals that feature an abundance of sugar. The biggest offenders on this list include some blatantly obvious items, such as doughnuts, muffins and pastries. However, several teaspoons of sugar also lurk in foods that are supposedly healthy, such low-fat flavored yogurts, smoothies and many allegedly “healthy” breakfast cereals. If you are looking for some reliably healthy foods to eat at breakfast, opt for fruits, egg whites, oatmeal and berries.

Like many Americans, you’re diet is probably lacking in healthy fats. While you may be eager to rectify this deficiency, you may be wondering just which foods are considered to be good sources of this nutrient. Fortunately, healthy fats do not require that much effort to find in your local grocery store. Below is a list of foods that contain ample amounts of healthy fats:

 

  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Halibut
  • Peanuts
  • Salmon
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Olives
  • Olive Oil
  • Flaxseeds

 

As you probably heard, diet and exercise often go hand-in-hand. The CDC recommends one of the following sets of guidelines for staying in shape.

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Moderate-intensity aerobic activities include exercises such as brisk walks, water aerobics, riding a bicycle or pushing a lawn mower. This set of standards also calls for muscle-strengthening activities to be performed at least twice per week. When working out his or her muscles, a person should focus on all major muscle groups – the legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. These types of exercises include jogging, swimming laps, riding a bike at a fast pace or playing basketball. As with the first set of guidelines, strength training for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) should be performed twice a week.

The CDC acknowledges that both sets of guidelines seem to mandate a heavy workload of physical activity. Though such recommendations might seem impractical, the CDC points out that these significant amounts of exercise can be successfully broken up into multiple ten minute intervals, to be performed throughout the day.

Additional Energy-Building Recommendations

Take a Walk – Sometimes, the simplest remedies work the best. If you begin to feel the onset of afternoon dreariness, you might stand to benefit from getting up from your desk and going for a quick walk around the office. Doing so gets your blood circulating throughout your body, providing you with a fresh burst of energy.

Cat Naps – Not Just for Cats! – Research has shown that taking brief 20 minute nap can be quite revitalizing for tired office workers. This one might be a bit tricky to pull off though – you certainly don’t want to be caught napping while on the clock! If you can pull it off, try using some of your lunch break for a little rest and relaxation.

Turn to Some Energy Boosting Drinks – In moderation, coffee and tea can help keep you up and running throughout a tough workday. This third option may come as a bit of a surprise, but water can also help keep you running on all cylinders. Consuming eight cups of water per day should be enough to fend off mild dehydration, thereby preventing feelings of drowsiness.

Avoid Large Lunches – Your body uses quite a large amount of energy to digest food. As a result, consuming a large lunchtime meal can place a heavy toll on your body, rendering you sluggish and ineffective. Instead of cramming down a calorie-heavy lunch within a half-hour, munch on nuts and berries throughout your shift.

Play Some Music – Your favorite musicians can not only put you in a good mood – they can also serve to keep you alert and energized.

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