Most of us have experienced it. That time of day when fatigue sets in and your motivation level comes to a grinding halt. It’s almost like clockwork. Around 3pm you start feeling sleepy, sluggish and unable to concentrate. Sound familiar? If so, chances are you are experiencing the common ‘mid-afternoon slump’, where your energy levels decide that it’s home time!
We are not talking about a little dip in energy after lunchtime, which is normal. We are taking about a major slump where you struggle to recover your focus, even with the help of some fresh air or a short break. This type of fatigue may indicate a deeper issue with the way your body maintains its energy levels.
Here are some key points that we found valuable from a recent article by our friends at Metagenics
How does your body make energy?
Your body makes energy from the food you eat; the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates (found in foods such as vegetables and grains) to produce glucose. This then moves into your cells to create energy, or stored for later use. This process is controlled by the hormone, insulin, which is responsible for keeping a steady flow of glucose into your cells. A steady flow of glucose, means an even flow of energy for your body’s needs.
This maintains your mental and physical momentum all day– keeping you feeling focused and active. However, in some instances, insulin is unable to effectively usher glucose into your cells. This reduces your brain’s access to the fuel it needs to keep you switched on.
There are several reasons why this can occur, and many of these can be addressed naturally. In the mean time, here is a list of top three causes and how to correct them, so you can get back to your peak!
1. Running on empty without enough nutrients
Insulin relies on certain nutrients to do it’s job. However, it is common for many individuals may not be getting enough of these particular nutrients from their diet. This can be for many reasons including poor dietary habits as well as the declining levels of nutrients in our food (due to farming, storage and transporting practices). On top of this, stressful events and certain medications can also deplete your nutrient levels.
Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D,1 magnesium,2 zinc3 and chromium4 can all impair how well your insulin ushers glucose into your cells, and this can limit the amount of glucose getting through to your brain, sending you into a slump.
If you think you might be lacking in some of these nutrients, seek the advice of our Naturopath who can help identify nutritional deficiencies and help you manage them.
2. Going into overdrive with stress
Having a natural stress response is a wonderful thing. It allows you to tap into an alert, high-functioning state, both mentally and physically, allowing you to cope with and adapt to stress. However, modern lifestyles can often lead to constantly activating your stress response. This can in turn can impact your blood glucose and energy levels.
Stressful situations cause the body to release high levels of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the body to overcome stressful events. It also plays a role in waking you up in the morning. As midday approaches, cortisol continues to rise and then naturally starts to taper down in preparation for the evening.
Normally, this tapering effect causes a slight dip in energy. However, under high levels of stress, elevated cortisol levels can drop rapidly. This causes the body to swing from releasing high amounts of glucose to low amounts. As there is still a lot of insulin circulating through the bloodstream, this rapidly clears the blood of glucose, leaving many cells suddenly high and dry without enough glucose to go around.
Creating a healthy sleep routine, practicing regular meditation, daily exercise, and making time to do the things you love can all help to lower stress levels, may improve your mid-afternoon slump and assist your levels of fatigue.
3. Fuelling yourself with a high sugar diet
A high sugar diet (rich in refined carbs, sweets and soft drinks) is another common reason for afternoon fatigue. Over time these foods can disrupt your body’s ability to control blood glucose as they quickly get broken down to glucose, and rapidly absorbed into the blood. And that means your blood glucose levels skyrocket. Sounds great right?
Even though insulin steps in to curb glucose levels,
Well not really. Your poor insulin has to work extra hard to usher glucose out of the blood and into your cells. Over time, this can result in your body becoming less sensitive to the effect of insulin. Because it simply cannot take in more glucose. It just says ‘NO.’ This is known as insulin resistance. Which means at the times when your body actually needs the energy, say mid afternoon, the ability to access glucose (energy) is disrupted. Hello fatigue!
But here’s the good news! Making a few small changes to improve your diet can really help you manage and increase your energy levels. Firstly, eating a range of unprocessed wholefoods, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds can help maintain steady blood glucose levels. These foods allow glucose to be steadily absorbed into the bloodstream over a few hours, due to their protein and fibre content, instead your body’s cells becoming saturated with glucose.
For advice on managing your blood sugar and energy levels naturally, seek the advice of our Naturopath who can suggest some lifestyle and diets changes as well as herbal or nutritional supplementation specific your your individual needs.
Beat the slump and get back on top
Start by becoming aware of personal health factors and habits that may be contributing to your drop in energy. This can simply be reviewing the quality of your diet, your sleep, levels of stress and any other factors that you feel may be having an impact.
Speaking with your natural healthcare Practitioner can help you identify the areas of your health that may need support, and tailor solutions that meet your body’s particular needs. And you can say good bye to the fatigue and afternoon slumps!