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Foods that trigger afternoon fatigue

Foods that trigger afternoon fatigue
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At 3pm on the dot, your eyes start to feel heavy, body posture sinks down, and your head nods back and forth. You’re suddenly overcome by a feeling of fatigue and grogginess. This is afternoon fatigue.

It’s no surprise this afternoon slump sets in after lunch. The body’s circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day. This may prompt you to ‘take a nap’ between 1-3pm, but it varies by person. Dietitian, Rachel Fine, explains why eating an energy-fuelled lunch can help you avoid the afternoon crash.

“Eating lunch keeps your body fuelled and your metabolism active. When we fuel our body, we avoid dips in energy that lead to an afternoon of sluggishness and cravings,” says Fine.

It’s also important for your lunch to be rich in nutrients.

“Ideally, your lunch should have a healthy mix of complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, plus protein and healthy fats for satiety. Add some non-starchy vegetables for bulk and fibre,” says nutritionist, Rania Batayneh.

Now, here are the 9 foods to avoid to prevent falling into an afternoon slump.

Potatoes (chips, French fries)

Potatoes (chips, French fries)
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Any salad or sandwich can be made a meal with a drink and a bag of chips or French fries. But, it’s best to skip both of those sides. Not only has intake of fried potatoes been linked to hypertension in a 2016 study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), but they also can be high in fat and low in energy-sustaining protein.

“While there isn’t an ideal macronutrient ratio for everyone – endurance athletes or individuals who are very active might need more carbohydrates, while those who lift weights often might need a little more protein – high-carb diets tend to make you sleepier,” Batayneh says. “After you eat carbs, your blood sugar levels increase; as a result, your body releases insulin to shuttle those sugars from your bloodstream into your cells.” This can trigger afternoon fatigue. Eat too many fast-digesting carbs, like fries or chips, and the resulting spike and fall in blood sugar will likely make you feel ready for naptime.

Don’t miss these low carb dieting tips.

Fried foods

Fried foods
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Just like French fries, you should also steer clear of the mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and egg rolls, too. “Fried food can make you feel sluggish due to the high-fat nature of the meal, which requires a bit more time to digest,” Fine says. Fat is a challenge for the body to break down, adds Batayneh, “so your body spends more energy on their digestion, which can leave you feeling low in energy.” (Not to mention a 2019 study in the BMJ has found a link between eating more fried foods with a shorter lifespan.)

Bananas

Bananas
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This fruit contains high levels of potassium, but “bananas contain L-tryptophan, which is converted to 5-HTP in the brain, which is then converted into the hormones serotonin and melatonin,” Batayneh says. While serotonin can boost your mood, melatonin regulates your internal clock and can make you feel sleepy.

Pair bananas with a handful of nuts, spreading it with nut or seed butter, suggests Fine. Or, slice and serve the fruit in a cup, she says. Add a scoop of Greek yoghurt to avoid a blood sugar spike.

Don’t miss these clever uses for bananas you probably never knew.

Cherries

Cherries
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The ruby-red fruit is high in melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone,’ which can induce sleep. “Consider saving your sweet cherries for later in the day, to combat the potential of afternoon fatigue early on,” Fine says. Also, skip on the cherry juice: according to a 2019 study in the journal Nutrients, it also contains enough melatonin to promote sleep – not exactly what you want during the middle of a busy day.

This is what you need to know before taking melatonin to help you sleep.

Salad

Salad
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Green salad (adorned with dressing) can be among one of the lunch foods that trigger afternoon fatigue. “Almost all foods can cause fatigue if not eaten as a balanced meal or snack,” Fine says. Salads that are topped with dressing can contain copious amounts of sugar, not counting what might be hiding in any candied nuts or seeds.

For a salad that will actually sustain, make your own low-sugar dressing, and ensure you add enough – but not too much – protein. (About 25 grams of protein per meal is all your body can utilise at once, suggests a 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.)

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Salmon

Salmon
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Rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats and many good-for-you vitamins, salmon seems like a total catch for lunch. Although it’s high in protein, which will keep you full, salmon is loaded with vitamin B6, which triggers the body to produce melatonin – that sleepy-time hormone. Don’t skip the seafood entirely, though, our health experts recommend. Just save the seafood for dinner, if possible.

Find out which foods you should never eat before bed.

Pasta

Pasta
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Indulging in a big bowl of bowtie noodles before an early afternoon meeting can leave you feeling lethargic. Pasta that’s low in fibre and not paired with protein can spike your blood sugar before a big crash. This is done in a similar way as potatoes as previously mentioned. “Pasta can leave you tired due to the surge in insulin that follows a carb-heavy meal,” Fine says.

But if you’re really in the mood for manicotti, “choose a higher-fibre pasta like lentil-based varieties, or simply add a protein source to any standard pasta entree to create a more sustainable effect on energy,” Find adds.

Sugary smoothies

Sugary smoothies
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High in added sugar by way of honey, agave, yoghurt, or other sweeteners, a large strawberry smoothie can pack in 2500 kilojoules, 154 grams of carbs, and 104 grams of added sugars. (That translates to 7 tablespoons of sugar.) “You want to focus on a balance of all macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat. The addition of fat, protein, and fibre will extend the immediate energy you get from carbs,” Fine says. “Relying solely on simple carbs, such as fruit and foods high in added sugar, can leave you feeling sluggish if not properly balanced.”

Instead of drinking your kilojoules, choose complex carbs high in naturally-occurring fibre to reap the benefits of lasting energy. These include lentils, black beans, chia seeds and barley, among many others. Loading up on these foods can help kerb afternoon fatigue.

Check out this delicious strawberry and yoghurt smoothie recipe.

Energy bars

Energy bars
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While these can be an okay meal replacement, many energy or protein bars are candy bars in disguise. They’re low in carbs and high in protein, but they can also be high in sugars or artificial sweeteners. “Carbs are our body’s primary fuel source. Though technically carbs, an excess in added sugar can result in a blood sugar spike, which would be shortly followed by a dip in blood sugar as the body releases a surge of insulin to counter the sugar overload,” Fine says.

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