Tired of eating lunch and taking a nosedive right after? Here's why lunch can lead to an afternoon slump, plus some tips to avoid the slump completely and keep your energy running high.
You’re powering through your day, grab what appears to be a healthy lunch, and an hour or two later, you can’t keep your eyes open. Your brain moves into a fog and you lose all ability to concentrate. What gives? You had a big green salad for lunch. Why don’t you have any energy? Here’s why your lunch leads to an afternoon slump, and some tips on how to avoid it.
Look at Your Food
If you take a nosedive every afternoon, you should take a good look at the ingredients on your lunch plate. The wrong ingredients can cause your system to overload and slow down since it can’t properly process everything coming in.
Refined sugar and overly processed, fatty foods can make you ready for a nap before you even leave the lunch table. They can slow down your brain function and decrease your energy levels, which isn’t what you’re looking for when you’re staring at a mile long afternoon to-do list.
A lot of carbs and a grain-rich meal can also bring people to a grinding halt. Sadly, that’s me. Some of us just don’t have the digestive juices to break that food down. When food can’t be broken down, it’s not able to supply us with energy – you know, the thing we’re trying to get when we eat.
Then there’s raw vegetables and salads. My delicate dosha blows up, yes nearly literally, at all the work needed to digest those cool ingredients. Yes, they can be super healthy ingredients, but if you can’t process them, they're not doing good.
Simply sautéing or eating warm greens and root vegetables make my body much happier and energetic, so it's important to know how your body reacts to certain foods.
Pay close attention to your energy levels after eating specific ingredients. If you feel bloated and sluggish, try removing the specific ingredient for a period of time to see if your digestion improves. If it does, you have your answer.
Know Your Food Allergies
It’s also important to know if you have any food allergies. If you’re allergic or have a food sensitivity to gluten or dairy, guess what’s going to happen when you eat either one? Hello, afternoon slump!
Not only will eating food you’re allergic to sap your energy, but it can also lead to inflammation in the body, which is a precursor to other more serious health issues and diseases. There are blood tests to determine your allergies, or you can also do your own elimination test. Remove suspect ingredients from your diet for 2-3 weeks. See if symptoms improve. If they do, you can try re-introducing the ingredient. If you still don't feel well after eating it, it's best to remove it from your diet.
So it’s always good to be mindful, and honest, about how you feel after eating specific ingredients. One of the main reasons we eat food is to give us energy, but if it ends up taking it all away, it’s time to rethink things.
Get Your Fat, Fiber, and Protein
Now you know to make sure and eat the right ingredients for your body, but there’s a little more to the equation than that. If I eat a big plate of coconut lime sautéed kale, and I find myself hungry an hour later, I know I missed something at mealtime.
Fat, fiber, and protein is the perfect meal trifecta. This combo gives you balanced energy but also makes you feel full so you’re not reaching for a snack an hour after you've eaten.
In the example of my sautéed greens, to make it a complete meal, I’d add a protein like chicken or steak. Vegans can throw in beans or tofu. You have plenty of fiber from the kale already, so the only thing missing is quality fat.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – don’t fear fat! Quality fat helps your body operate. Fat stabilizes blood sugar, hormones, and allows essential processes to work in the body. Your body NEEDS fat.
Of course, not all fat is created equal, so choose wisely. I use Primal Kitchen’s Avocado Oil to cook most of my food. It has a higher smoke point than most oils so you don’t run the risk of burning it and adding toxins to your food. We’re trying to avoid that, right?
I also use Bulletproof’s Brain Octane oil to drizzle on food after it’s cooked. You can use it in salad dressings, sauces, or throw it in your coffee or smoothie. It has a neutral flavor so it won’t change the taste of what you’re eating. It’s made from pure coconut oil, but it’s the most potent part. My energy and brain cognition is really enhanced when I include Brain Octane oil in my diet.
Avocados and nuts are two of my other favorite forms of healthy fat. I usually have a healthy helping of each every day.
Create a Positive Eating Environment
Are you inhaling a sandwich while on a conference call and taking your dog for a walk? Multi-tasking isn’t doing your digestion any favors. In fact, it’s disrupting the whole process.
Stress is definitely something you don’t want to bring to mealtime with you. (Have you read my 5 things to do every day to be happy?) When you’re stressed and your body moves into fight or flight mode, your digestion can shut right down. It’s busy keeping you safe from potential attackers, so it turns away from the business of digestion, which isn’t what you want if you’re in the middle of lunch.
Try and take dedicated time out of your day to eat. Even if you only have 15 minutes for lunch, make that 15 minutes dedicated quiet time. Try to not work or scroll through social media while eating. Just sit, take deep breaths, and enjoy your meal.
Lastly, don’t forget to chew! I don’t mean bite down twice and choke it back. I mean chew, and chew, and chew some more, so that you barely need to swallow. Your digestion will thank you if you actually break down your food so it can immediately go to work and power you through the afternoon.
Food is meant to give you energy, so don’t treat it like a trip to the DMV to get in and out as quickly as possible.
Meal Supplements for Proper Digestion
If you’re following all of the above suggestion for proper mealtime digestion, then you might have a delicate system like I do, where you simply need more support. These are my favorite digestion helpers to avoid unnecessary bloating and brain fog and to ensure that you’re getting all the healthy benefits from your food.
As we get older, we lose some of our digestive fire to break down food. Some people are also born with less digestive juices, in which case, you might benefit from taking digestive enzymes.
Enzymes step in and do what your body can’t. They help break down the nutrients in your food so you can experience high energy and great brain function. That is one of the many purposes of eating after all!
I like Garden Of Life's Ultra digestive enzyme for bigger, protein-rich meals, or this one for more plant-based dishes. The second one is also chewable, so you might even get your kids to use it.
Apple Cider Vinegar
I sip on a little warm water and apple cider vinegar every day around meal time. The acid in the vinegar can help break your food down and it can also help control bloating.
Apple cider vinegar is also good at regulating your blood sugar levels, so you can avoid that afternoon crash.
I usually buy a 3-pack of Bragg's organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar because I go through so much of it. I use it between meals, in salad dressings, or anywhere a dish needs a little punch!
If you experience severe digestion problems, it's always good to consult with a doctor before taking any new products or starting any new programs.
I hope that you now have the tools to enjoy a healthy lunch and feel energized and productive all afternoon long.
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