You know it’s coming — no matter how hard you try to stop it.
A subtle glaze washes over you, your eyes get heavy, and your body turns to mush. That post-lunch daze has set in and you’re now having a hard time getting work done.
Post-lunch energy crashes happen to the best of us. And considering they happen daily, they can have a considerable impact on your success.
Fortunately, there are several ways to beat the post-lunch dip in productivity and turn the second half of the day into a win.
Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.
– Franz Kafka
Riding the waves of our physical energy can be a frustrating process. We naturally tend to slow down after a meal because our body shifts to burning the energy we’ve just consumed, which makes us feel a bit drowsy.
Furthermore, the natural rhythm of the body (the circadian rhythm) calls for rest about every seven hours — and lunchtime falls about seven hours after the average wake-up time. This means that our natural biology comes clashing with our society’s demand for productivity…right after lunchtime.
Fortunately, there are several ways to beat this post-lunch dip in energy. Here are five of them:
1. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
This might sound like an obvious one, but come on, be honest with me: Are you really getting enough sleep? The truth is, most people push themselves too hard and neglect rest.
The problem is that while the impact of a lack of rest is huge, it’s often hard to notice it. Sleep deprivation is an expert at hiding itself.
My suggestion? Aim for eight hours of sleep a night. Then, shortly after lunchtime, jot down a quick description of how you feel. Keep a log for a week, then test different sleep schedules: six, seven, nine, and even ten hours. Everyone is different, so see what makes your body feel best.
2. Get up and move around
Few things wake us up as much as a quick jolt of adrenaline that gets a little blood flowing. One of the simplest and easiest things you can do after lunch is to go for a quick power walk or run.
If staying productive after lunch is a problem, take ten to fifteen minutes to eat your lunch and then get moving for the remainder of your break. Take a walk around the office if there’s a lobby or a courtyard, or head outside the company building or wherever else you can get a little unobstructed movement in.
3. Take a power nap
Depending on where you work, whether you have a place for privacy (even your car can work), how much of a heavy sleeper you are, and company policy, this may or may not be an option. However, if you’re able to squeeze in a power nap, even a twenty-minute snooze has been shown to increase productivity.
Unfortunately, most companies have yet to recognize the data that power naps can lead to increased productivity, according to William C. Orr, sleep science expert and president of the Lynn Health Science Institute:
“It simply isn’t commonly recognized that if individuals are allowed to give in to this natural tendency and take a short nap during the day, then in fact their productivity improves.”
Still, if you do get the chance during your afternoon break, this might just be the best option!
4. Drink green tea
Most people’s energy drink of choice is coffee. However, while the caffeine in coffee improves concentration, attention, and focus, it also leads to several unpleasant side effects such as jitters (from an increased heart rate and anxiousness), increased blood pressure, and crashing.
But, wait, green tea has caffeine too. What are you trying to pull?
The cool thing about green tea is that while it does have caffeine, it also has an amino acid called L-theanine, which is pretty much caffeine’s soulmate (half-joke). L-theanine is a relaxant that reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and provides relaxation and balance for the brain that entirely removes the jitters caused by caffeine.
There’s even data showing that caffeine plus L-theanine together result in a greater increase in focus than just caffeine by itself.
So, the next time you consider downing another cafe latte consider getting that green tea or matcha latte (my personal favorite) instead.
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5. Watch your lunch
Another easy way to improve your post-lunch energy is to eat a healthy diet.
I know those free office donuts are tempting, but they’re probably not doing you any good. Instead, try to follow this simple guideline:
Limit your consumption of:
- Saturated fats
- Processed sugars (choose fruit instead)
And increase your consumption of:
- Complex carbs
And, while you’re at it, here a few more tips for turning your lunch into an energizing break:
- Avoid overeating: The larger the meal, the more tired your body is going to feel afterwards. Try eating just enough or sticking with a smaller lunch if it feels right for your body.
- Stay hydrated: Our body depends on water to pass nutrients throughout the body, so dehydration can result in low energy. Make sure you’re drinking at least a few cups of water (four and more) throughout your work day to stay well hydrated.
- Track what you’re eating: Each person is different and you may perform better eating a larger lunch with more carbs (or something else altogether), so keep a food journal to assess what you ate, and how it made you feel. It will help you narrow down the foods that have a more positive effect on you.