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Afternoon Energy Boosters

Feeling lazy after lunchtime? Follow these tips for beating the afternoon energy slump.
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Foods for an Energy Boost

If you want to beat the midafternoon slump, start first thing in the morning with a good-quality breakfast. (We lecture our kids about it, but how often do we take our own advice?) Most women should be eating about 300 to 400 calories for breakfast, and most men, about 500, says Sandon. Instead of coffee and half a Danish, try these options:

  • A bowl of cereal with skim milk and a glass of juice or piece of fresh fruit
  • Two slices of toast with peanut butter and a banana
  • An English muffin topped with a scrambled egg and a slice of low-fat cheese

"You need carbs to get your day going," says Sandon. "The brain and muscles function best with carbohydrates to fuel them. And we know from other research that adding some protein to the carbs seems to boost concentration levels as well. You feel better, mentally and physically, when you've had a meal that combines carbs and protein."

Sufficiently fueled by breakfast, you might feel like it's OK to skip lunch or "just grab a salad" because you don't have time or are trying to lose weight. "That's a huge mistake people make at lunch -- just having a salad with lettuce and a few vegetables," says Sandon. "They don't have protein with the salad, and then again they find themselves crashing in the midafternoon."

So if you're cruising through the salad bar at lunchtime, top the greens with some diced egg, beans or chickpeas, turkey breast, or cubed chicken to give yourself that protein fix. Or smear some peanut butter on your celery sticks.

And avoid lunches that are heavy in fat; they take longer to digest and sit in your stomach, feeling heavy longer. "That gives you a sense of low energy," Sandon says. "The calories may be there to provide fuel, but the feeling of fullness leads you to feel sluggish."

More Energy-Boosting Tips

But what if it's too late to prevent the energy slump? You chugged down a latte for breakfast, ate a skimpy salad for lunch, and now you're drooping over your afternoon reports. What can you do for a quick energy boost? Resist the temptation to hit the vending machines for a Diet Coke and a Snickers. Instead, try Sandon's three-part solution:

  1. Get moving. Take a brisk walk, or better yet, find the staircase in your office building and do five or six flights to get your blood pumping and your body warmed up. In addition, taking your mind off what you've been focused on and getting a quick change of scenery (yes, even if it's a stairwell instead of a computer screen) can help to re-energize you. If you don't have a staircase handy, try doing some squats and lunges in your office, or keep a jump rope on the back of your door. "You want anything that gets you breathing a little quicker and moving the muscles," Sandon says.
  2. Get wet. Take a drink of water, that is (don't pour it over yourself). "A big glass of cold water -- bottled, tap, or fountain, it doesn't matter -- can really refresh you," says Sandon. "Adding a slice of lemon or lime can also perk you up."
  3. Get fueled. "If you weren't fortified well at breakfast and lunch, you need to take a moment and have a snack," Sandon says. Good options include fresh fruit, trail mix with nuts, or whole-wheat crackers with string cheese. If you have to go to the vending machine, look for peanut butter crackers, a nice carb-protein combination.

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