The Best Time of Day
In the Afternoon
• Take a power nap. A midday snooze isn't just for babies! By 2 p.m., your body temperature starts to dip, just as it does before bedtime, bringing your eyelids with it. Instead of hitting the vending machine for a sugar high — and eventual crash — try succumbing to your sleepiness and indulging in a 10-minute siesta. An Australian study compared naps lasting 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes and found that 10 minutes left participants feeling the most refreshed, rested, and alert. Just make sure to set an alarm on your watch or phone so your doze doesn't go overtime, which can cause sleep inertia (that horrible post-snooze grogginess). Can't nap at work? Get off your duff for a 10-minute loop around the block. It's not as restorative, but it will clear your head and boost your circulation, energizing mind and body.
• Skip "lunch" in favor of two mini-meals (of about 300 calories each). Eat the first one three hours following breakfast and the second about three hours after that to keep your blood sugar steady and your metabolism fired up. Time the second mini-meal to coincide with the low of that afternoon slump we mentioned — so, between 2 and 3 p.m. "You feel tired, and it's difficult to stay mindful, so you start putting stupid things in your mouth," says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Fit to Live: The 5 Point Plan to Be Lean, Strong, and Fearless for Life. "But having a bunch of fat and refined sugars is the worst thing you can do, because your energy will spike and then crash." Instead, go for lean protein, high-quality carbohydrates, and a bit of fat. Peeke's picks: 1 Tbsp of low-fat peanut butter on a pita, half a turkey wrap, or some low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit.
• Get moving. Late afternoon to early evening (5 to 6 p.m.) may just be the best time to exercise, because that's when you're hottest, literally. Your body temperature reaches its daily peak (2 to 3 degrees warmer than in the morning), giving you maximum muscle strength, flexibility, agility, and stamina as well as faster reaction times. Even your lungs are using oxygen more efficiently at this time. You'll work out harder with less perceived effort and are less likely to injure yourself. Of course, any exercise is better than none, so if an early workout fits best with your schedule, keep it there. In fact, a.m. exercisers are most likely to stick to their habit: Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of people who work out in the morning are consistent about doing it.