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Why Am I So Tired in the Afternoon? (Hint: Look at Your Lunch)

Andrija Phillips works at an animal clinic. One of the vets there clued her into the secret to conquering the afternoon slump.

How to Conquer the Afternoon Slump

Oh, the afternoon slump. We've all felt it, heard about it on the radio and TV, and listened to stories about it from our coworkers, maybe ad nauseam. It's so commonplace most of us assume dealing with it is a given. People just feel tired in the afternoons—and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

I too took it for granted that afternoon slumps were part of the usual routine. Because it was such an ingrained part of my afternoons, I came to expect the need for a nap about an hour after lunch. It never occurred to me there was any other way to do midday. Through a twist of fate, however, I was given a piece of information that changed the quality of my afternoons forever.

My Colleague Suggested the Answer

I work at an animal clinic. On our staff, at least at that time, was a vet from Puerto Rico. High strung and passionate, she used to have a repertoire of favorite subjects she'd go on and on about. One of her favorite subjects was the importance of high protein low carb foods in the afternoon. "Protein!" she'd yell. "Protein, protein, PROTEIN! If you want to keep going in the afternoon, if you don't want the afternoon slumps, eat high protein foods!" Then she'd disappear into the breakroom and eat a cookie.

I Was Ignoring the Solution (And Paying the Price)

At the time, I was grabbing lunch at fast food places. Now I know better, but I couldn't resist. Yes, I knew it wasn't exactly quality stuff, but it was fast, it was filling, and I didn't have to think about putting anything together myself.

What I also knew, though, is that fast food is full of carbs, which cause your blood sugar levels to soar and then plummet. Never one to think I'm the exception, I knew this is exactly what was happening to me. Anywhere from one to two hours after finishing my drive-thru banquet, I found myself sleepy, weak and generally worthless. Trying to walk Marley, Lilly, Diggity, Bella, Chica and Camilla and then turning around to medicate Cheesecake, Rex, Fiona, Excalibur, Howard, Morris and Luigi—all while feeling as slow and logy as a turtle—was an experience that absolutely defies description.

Reconsidering

In the meantime, the vet at my clinic was still at it, expounding on a daily basis on the virtues of protein in the afternoon. At first I ignored her. It was simply more dialog in the background of noise I didn't have time for. As the weeks went on though, and she kept on, something in me began to consider what she was saying. She was after all, a woman of science and knew at least something about how these things work. Maybe there was some fact to her statements! And so, being someone who works in a scientific atmosphere, I began to test her theory.

Waaaaay too cute to eat!

Waaaaay too cute to eat!

My Initial Experiments

The first thing I did was to resolve not to eat at fast food places for lunch for a couple of days. What this meant was packing myself lunches and snacks. This was not an idea that sat particularly well with me, but I did it anyway.

In a Tupperware container, I'd pack half a cup of cottage cheese with a bit of fruit. Or just cottage cheese. Or a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt. Or about 20 almonds in a Ziploc bag. Or a combination of these. Instead of trips to the drive-thru, I started eating from a lunch bag.

The Morning Shuffle

Before you start revolting against the idea of packing lunches in the morning as I did when I was getting started, let me say that none of what I was putting together was a major production. I just don't have the time or mental faculties at that hour to go on and on about what to put in a lunch bag for the day.

Okay, I may be asking a lot, but I do work full time. Getting out of the house in the mornings is always a panic, and it's all I can usually do to get myself in my car and on the road. The last thing I want to do in all that morning kerfuffle is pack myself elaborate meals for the day.

Yes, I'm picky about what I eat, and yes, I want the food I'm putting in my mouth to keep my brain and body from zoning out mid-afternoon, but at that hour of the day, I'm just not prepared to do all kinds of thinking in the morning about what to pack. Call me lazy, but all I want in those early dawn hours while I'm still crashing into walls is something I can grab out of the refrigerator, throw in a Tupperware container and put in a plastic bag. My brain's not capable of much more than that at that hour.

Proving to Myself That Protein Was the Key

The first afternoon I ate protein instead of the usual carb fare, there was no afternoon slump. I slid through my afternoon energy-steady, and with no hunger pangs! But maybe that was just a coincidence. Maybe my blood sugar levels just happened to be particularly steady that day.

The next day, I ate high protein/low carb again. Again, no afternoon slump. I tried it again the third day. Nothing. I sailed through my afternoon effortlessly.

Then, on the fourth day, I had fast food for lunch. I wanted to see if I would crash. And yes, about an hour after lunch, all my old problems were back. "Good Lord!", I thought to myself. "There really is something to this protein thing!"

Needless to say, I was impressed, although now I had a new problem. Because my list of healthy high protein low-carb foods was limited, and because I'm not much for making myself elaborate packed lunches in the morning, I knew I needed more in the way of grab and go best high protein snacks than I currently had.

My Snack Rules

I began to do some research online. What I was looking for was a list of simple high protein low carb foods that didn't require much preparation. What I found was a plethora of options, many of which didn't fit the criteria I'd already set for myself. Because I'm just not together in the morning, I was forced to set some rules about what foods I was going to pack:

Read More From Delishably

  • Rule #1: It has to be easy to pack in a Tupperware container (or foilwrap, or whatever).
  • Rule #2: It has to be healthy.
  • Rule #3: It has to be something that won't bring my energy levels down during the course of the day.

I found plenty that did fit these criteria. Here they are:

Protein Snacks for Drowsy-Free Afternoons

  • Greek yogurt (6 oz): Top with fruit or roasted almonds if you like, and drizzle with honey. 6-10 grams protein, 6 grams carbs, 100 calories.
  • Cheese (1 oz): Choose lowfat if you're counting carbs. 7-8 grams protein, 0.36 grams carbs, 114 calories.
  • Cottage cheese and fresh fruit (1/2 cup of each): 15 grams protein,13 grams carbs, 156 calories.
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons): Pair it with apple slices, if you like. 8 grams protein, 6 grams carbs, 188 calories.
  • Skim mozzarella stick: 6 grams protein, 1 gram carb, 60 calories.

Farmers' Chop Suey

This is one of my favorite high-protein afternoon snacks. It isn't a recipe you put together in the mornings—it is best made at night or on the weekends when you have some time. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make a big container of it, and just scoop little bits out of it when you're preparing your food for the day. It will last for several days, depending, of course, on how much you take out at a time.

Ingredients

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato, cubed
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine all vegetables.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, cottage cheese, dill, tarragon, salt and pepper.
  3. Pour over vegetables and mix. Yummy!

Now You Know

Try any of these healthy protein snacks midday, and watch the dynamics of your afternoons change dramatically! Not only will you not get tired in the afternoon, you'll find yourself with some energy when you get home at night! The Afternoon Slump is a choice, not a necessity, and for me has become a thing of the past. I hope it becomes the same for you.

Now that you know what causes afternoon slumps and how to avoid them, I wish you the best in incorporating protein into your afternoon fare. I am sure it will change the quality of your afternoons as dramatically as it did mine!

Comments

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on October 05, 2013:

Thank you, Crystal! The key to all this is to not make your lunch preparation a big deal. Think in terms of "snacks" and "fast" when you're buying and when you're putting it all together in the morning!

Best,

Andrija (pronounced "Andrea")

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on October 05, 2013:

Excellent hub. I know the improtance of eating enough protein and eating healtfully but rarely follow through. I was dreading going to the store this weekend and preparing food for the work week, but you've reminded me it's something I definitely need to do. Voting up and more and sharing.

Leena from new delhi on September 13, 2013:

Lots of useful information packed in ...even I feel like dozing off most afternoons.

Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on September 12, 2013:

Hi Andrija, very informative hub. So many of us have this problem of nodding in the afternoon. It's very difficult as a therapist. I usually suck on peppermint to stay alert or drink green tea. I will now look closer at what I eat. Congratulations of HOTD, voted up and useful.

MD6 on September 11, 2013:

Congratulations! For HOD. This hub is definitely packed with lots of useful proteins.

PermissionGiver from Lake Stevens on September 11, 2013:

Fantastic hub! I love the added recipe =)

A Little TRUTH on September 11, 2013:

Yes, fast food makes you tired and food that is more natural doesn’t.

But it’s not the amount of carbs that makes you tired; it’s the amount of toxins in the food. Fast food is loaded with growth hormones, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and likely is genetically modified. Your solution foods may have more protein and less carbs, but the important thing is that cottage cheese, fruit, Greek yogurt, almonds and peanut butter are real foods that give you nutrition and energy without overtaxing your digestive system.

Try eating a fresh, organic baked potato with butter from a free range cow, organic chives and sea salt for lunch - high in carbs, but you’ll be fine.

Angie Power from North Cali on September 11, 2013:

Andrija, Congratulations on HOD, your hub deserves it! What an absolute great way to spruce up a recipe hub, by providing a plethora of nutritional and beneficial information along with it. I am impressed. Voted up. Thank you for sharing.

Cordelia Bay on September 11, 2013:

Thanks. Her's a tidbit...it is a proven fact that dehydration can and often does cause afternoon or daytime sluggishness. We all need to drink more water.

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Thank you, DzyMsLizzy! I agree with you. Carbs DO get a bad rap, but that's because people overindulge in them. As you said, "all things in moderation". If people focused more on protein in the afternoon, there would be no such thing as the Afternoon Slump for many of us.

Thank you so much for your support!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Yes, like you, it took me a long time to get with the program. I'm glad I finally did, though!

With the diet you're on, I'm sure you're finding no problem with energy in the afternoons!!

Thank you so much for your support!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Ah ha! So you're way ahead of the curve already! I wish I'd known about it sooner; it would have saved me a lot of wear and tear!

Thank you for your support!

Andrija

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Thank you for the compliment, WiccanSage! I'm glad you now know what's causing your fatigue. Sometimes there are underlying symptoms which protein alone won't cure.

I wish you the best!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Thank you, cfin! The compliment is much appreciated!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

You're welcome! I think you have a better than average chance that it'll work! Thank you for the comment!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Thank you for the thumbs up! Yes, I got my slapping already from the Puerto Rican Vet... Boy! Am I ever glad she kept on about protein!!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 11, 2013:

Hi Isabel;

Thank you for the compliment! Yes, my hub is featured on the Feed Page, which I guess is the same as the Main Page, or Home Page.

Best,

Andrija

Isabel on September 11, 2013:

Hi Andrija,

Great hub! I really enjoyed reading it. Just wondering, how were you able to get this hub featured on the main page?

Thanks!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 11, 2013:

Congrats on HOTD!!

Interesting, but I wonder--is a high-carb diet responsible for the old south-of-the-border tradition of the afternoon siesta? Or is it just a good idea to take an extended break to recharge your batteries?

For myself, I'm definitely NOT a morning person by any definition, and when I was working, it was lucky I only lived 15 minutes from work--it was shower the night before, sleep until 15 minutes before I had to leave, then fall into clothes and out the door...breakfast in the office break room...(it was a large commercial bakery)...with plenty of high-carb goodies from their day-old shop on hand for the taking. I would be fine until lunch...I didn't get a 'slump' from eating that stuff--nothing other than my normal "do not disturb before noon" bodily reaction.

My current fatigue is more chronic, and driven, I'd say, by stress and insomnia from other factors....not my diet. I think carbs get a bad rap. Of course, you should eat other things, but I believe in "all things in moderation." I guess as a vegetarian, my diet is fairly high-protein, but that doesn't stop my fatigue. I'd say, before jumping onto any kind of food bandwagon to consult one's doctor to rule out other possible issues.

Very good information, though, and well presented. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Joey from Michigan on September 11, 2013:

I used to be a big carb eater as well and through the school of hard knocks and chronic fatigue I found the world of protein and voila, energy did come back! I stick with eggs, free-range meat, hemp butter and raw cheeses a lot along with other protein foods. Thanks for a great hub with useful info. Voted up and useful! :)

Melvin Porter from New Jersey, USA on September 11, 2013:

Very good and informative hub. This explains why I never had this problem in the afternoon. I was eating the right way already. It does work. Voted up

Mackenzie Sage Wright on September 11, 2013:

I will never ignore fatigue again... I was getting fatigue in the afternoons for weeks and I thought I was overworking myself. Turns out I had an auto-immune disease. People definitely need to listen to their bodies-- change the diet, exercises, sleep routine and if that fails see a doctor. This is a great hub.

cfin from The World we live in on September 11, 2013:

Great Hub :)

JR Krishna from India on September 11, 2013:

Very useful information. I come home for lunch every day and it is never an elaborate one.

Now I know I have to eat more protein for lunch.

Thanks for sharing this information

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on September 11, 2013:

Congrats on HOD! This was just what I needed. I knew a lot of this already but sometimes you just need to be "slapped in the face" with info to do anything about it. I bring my lunch to work almost every day but now vow to make it have more PROTEIN! Thanks for a great hub!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 06, 2013:

Thank you for the comment, Liz! For myself, I know the one meal I really pay attention to is lunch. I have to, or I won't make it through the rest of my shift.

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on September 05, 2013:

Useful information. I know if I eat any "Bad" snack in the afternoon, I'll be groggy for the rest of it. Thanks for sharing.

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 05, 2013:

Yes, protein works in all kinds of good ways, and at all different hours. Thank you for the tip on Vitamin B... good advice for those who are lagging!

Andrija

clairewait from North Carolina on September 05, 2013:

Difficult to eat protein if you are also dairy free, but I'm totally on board. I'm skinny. I have to START my day with protein as well as continue it. I've also found that taking my multi-vitamin with lunch makes a huge difference. That and a Vitamin B complex is a pretty good afternoon kick.

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 05, 2013:

OK... hope we can stay in touch!

Ro from Midwest on September 04, 2013:

Crap. I didn't see the 'contest' going on. Sorry about that! I would have voted! Funny after the fact- I have low blood sugar. After stopping the pop, it helped! Good luck with future Hubs and if I am 'with it'....I will follow!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 04, 2013:

Hi Pen;

I won that contest! Well, actually, I think there were three of us, but I wanted to let you know the outcome, and to thank you for your vote! It meant a lot to me!

Best,

Andrija

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 04, 2013:

A big THANK YOU to all who voted for me in the Rising Star contest this week! It appears I was one of the three who won!

I'm running in circles right now, and am feeling very grateful to all of you who threw their hats in the ring for me! Your support means everything!

Best to all of you,

Andrija

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 03, 2013:

Thank you, jeugenejohn!

jeugenejohn from Kerala on September 03, 2013:

A good hub.

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 02, 2013:

Thank you!!!!

Amy L. Tarr from Home on September 02, 2013:

I voted for you. Best of luck!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on September 02, 2013:

Yes, there are always exceptions. I wonder if you don't have something else going on? These things are mysteries... the only thing I can suggest is to go to your doctor and give him/her a list of what you're eating. Tell her you're still feeling tired, despite cutting back on carbs. She may be able to shed some light on things, and address issues maybe even you didn't know you have! Food allergies? Low blood sugar?

In the meantime, if you can get that 45 minute nap in every day, I say GO FOR IT!

Ro from Midwest on September 01, 2013:

I was kind of excited when I saw your hub title....alas, I'm probably one you don't want to hear from. I have cut carbs out drastically for 41 days. No diet soda, no bread, no starch, no pasta, etc. I have to take a nap every day for at least 45 minutes. I am eating only low fat and lean protein. I must be one of those people.....

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on August 30, 2013:

Thank you cbar77 and Thelma for your comments! Important to remember you don't have to do away with carbs completely if it's something you're into... just in the afternoon, and especially if you're working!

Best,

Andrija (pronounced "Andrea")

Thelma Alberts from Germany on August 30, 2013:

Great tips! I sometimes have this problem too but I take a nap. That´s when I´m not working. Thanks for sharing this hub. Happy weekend! Welcome to HubPages!

cbar77 on August 30, 2013:

Great post--I tend to be very tired in the midday and take naps. I will keep your tips in mind to reduce this problem of mine :)

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on August 28, 2013:

Thank you all so much for all your kind comments! Beyond that though, I'm glad I could get people to realize that there IS something you can do to control how you feel in the afternoon. Helping people understand this, and knowing that this information is going to help at least a few people out is very gratifying!

Best to all of you!

Andrija (pronounced "Andrea")

Adrian Cloute from Cedartown, GA on August 28, 2013:

I think that I have the same problem. i need a nap every afternoon. I wish I could take a nap all the time. Voted up! Thanks!

pat098@yahoo.com on August 28, 2013:

This is very useful especially at work!

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on August 28, 2013:

Yes, I know... bread, especially homemade, is hard to resist! I wouldn't cut out bread entirely from your life, especially if you like it that much. Just don't eat it for lunch. I still eat bread at times too... I just don't eat it in the afternoon!

Thanks so much for your comment!

Best, Andrija

Rich Sale from Sandy on August 27, 2013:

Useful information thanks for sharing.

I cut out bread at lunchtime and straight away lasted longer in the afternoon!

It was real hard as we bake our own bread and it's hard to resist.

Andrija Phillips (author) from Florida on August 26, 2013:

Thank you so much, Vishakha, Eric and The Reminder for your support! I'm a newbie, and encouragement always greases the wheels!

The Reminder from Canada on August 26, 2013:

Sometimes I feel so tired in the afternoon. This should help me out! great informative hub!

Eric Wayne Flynn from Providence, Rhode Island on August 26, 2013:

nice job

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