It’s like clockwork: by mid-afternoon, you’re feeling less-than-stellar and you’re lookin’ for something sweet. Or maybe even something sweet and caffeinated.
It’s a common phenomenon, and it’s partly due to our go-go-go lifestyle that expects us to have high energy all day (which is very unnatural) and partly because we expect too much from our lunch.
Breakfast only needs to keep us full for three or four hours, but lunch has to take us from noon until 6pm or later!
Enter, the 4pm crash/craving cycle.
We have a natural blood sugar and cortisol dip in the late afternoon. Our blood sugar is heading down because lunch was many hours ago and our cortisol naturally heads downhill in the afternoon to make sure we’re ready to sleep at night. These two hormonal issues team up to suck the wind right out of you.
If you make it through your day without a sugar/caffeine treat, then the drive home may be extra tiring. Once you get home and start making dinner it can be very tempting to nibble on this or that to quash that hunger. The temptation to open up the cupboard and devour everything can be very, very real…
You know how all of the main roads are littered with fast food restaurants? They love your 4pm crash because they know you’ll be too tired to cook dinner. Don’t let the fast food restaurants win!
If you’ve felt this way, and especially if you feel this way often, then I’ve got fantastic news for you. There is a very easy solution to this very common problem.
With one caveat: if you’re in a later stage of adrenal fatigue and instead of feeling exhausted you feel like all of the energy has been sucked out of you at 4pm…well, these tips will help, but they won’t bring you back to your old self right away; there’s other healing to be done.
My three simple tips to eliminate your 4pm tired cravings
Balance your blood sugar with breakfast.
Breakfast plays a key role in your afternoon energy. A great breakfast (meaning, one that works for your unique body) = steady energy all day. A not-so-great breakfast = energy ups and downs.
The key to finding your perfect breakfast is experimentation. Try different breakfasts and see which type your body loves. Like:
High protein breakfast: try eggs, a smoothie, or yogurt with berries;
Carb-lovin’ breakfast: try steel-cut oats, muesli, or wholegrain toast with nut butter;
Or a mix of the two: try eggs with toast, or yogurt with muesli.
You might be surprised by what your body likes! If you love it and feel satisfied all morning, then you’ve found your perfect breakfast!
Have a high energy snack around 4pm.
This is the simplest and most effective thing you can do to keep your energy steady. And it’s very easy. Just eat an apple at 4pm, or any fruit or veggie. A piece of fruit is a perfectly packed piece of sweet energy goodness. It will give you exactly what you need to pull your blood sugar up while also giving you a boost of energy. If you don’t love fruit, try a few pieces of dark chocolate, or a handful of nuts. Just have something to eat around 4pm.
Respect your energy in the afternoon.
This one might be a bit more difficult for you depending on your day/work schedule.
Remember, your cortisol (the source of your energy) naturally starts its journey down after lunch so you can sleep at night…but it’s trouble if you’ve got lots on your to-do list. It makes that second or third cup of coffee very tempting.
But, if you can plan your day a little differently and respect your gradually decreasing cortisol, then you may find yourself needing less caffeine and sleeping better at night.
This is what I do: cortisol climbs up in the morning, so I plan any tasks that need lots of energy, creativity, or courage for around mid-morning. It’s the time of the day that I feel lots of “I can do this!” running through my veins. In the afternoon, I spend my time getting the lower energy (but still important) tasks done, like emails, editing articles, planning, meetings, etc. This way of planning my day has really helped keep my energy steady in the afternoon. Try out a few of these ideas and kick those afternoon sugar cravings to the curb!
Lisa Kilgour, rhn is Nature’s Fare Markets’ Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is Board Certified in Practical Holistic Nutrition and provides free half hour one-on-one nutrition consultations in our stores. Check out the appointment schedule on page four and book your free appointment in-store today or online at naturesfare.com.
Learn more: lisakilgour.com