Whatever your work life looks like right now, no one is immune to a little afternoon drowsiness. It can happen at any time, you’re chugging along and suddenly you feel like you need to chug a coffee instead. But the instant relief from that coffee buzz could prevent you from a restful night's sleep later on, and so begins a vicious cycle of unrest.
Instead of opting for that afternoon caffeine fix, try making the following small changes to your routine. Little healthy habits have a large cumulative impact.
Here’s how to stay energized all day long:
Eat small meals and snack often.
Eating too much at once causes sleepiness. We’ve all been there, full and drowsy after a big plate of food. This is because a large meal creates a chain reaction in the body—it spikes our insulin levels, which sends our blood sugar plummeting, leaving us feeling heavy and ready for naptime. In order to stay alert and motivated throughout the day, eat small meals and snacks instead. Not only does this avoid the post-meal slump, but the brain actually functions best when it receives a steady stream of nutrients.
Pay attention to your glycemic intake.
The glycemic index measures how quickly sugar from food will be absorbed into the bloodstream after eating. Simple carbohydrates found in common snacks like soda, cookies, and breakfast cereals are high on the glycemic index. These foods provide a quick burst of energy, but that burst will burn out just as quick. In the same way that the body responds to a large meal, simple carbs create a spike in insulin and then a serious drop in blood sugar, leaving you even more low-energy than before.
In order to achieve a slow and steady release of energy, Harvard Medical School recommends choosing foods that fall between 0 and 69 on the glycemic index. Legumes and nuts are a great place to start, but here is a list of common foods and where they fall on the glycemic index.
Make a commitment to regular exercise.
Regular exercise makes the muscles work more efficiently, and when the body is functioning efficiently, we feel more energized. Don’t stress about what type of exercise you do, it is more important that you do something consistently.
A workout is the ultimate alternative to that afternoon cup of coffee. If you’re feeling a little sluggishness, consider taking a short exercise break. The mood enhancing neurotransmitters released after exercise (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin—you know them) will provide instant energizing relief. Plus, research shows that even just 20 minutes of exercise several times a week increases energy levels overall.
Be consistent! (And drink water.)
The bottom line is that it's easier to form lasting healthy behaviors when they become part of our routine. For example, another great way to stay energized is by drinking enough water, so make a plan for that. Whether you’re sitting at your desk or running around all day, always have a water bottle with you. When you’re thinking “phone, wallet, keys” as you’re walking out the door, add “water bottle” to the list of essentials that you can’t leave home without. You got this.