Smart tips for avoiding an energy crash

Energy-Crash-Barnes-Jewish-HospitalYou’ve felt that drain of energy that often comes mid-day: Your eyelids feel weighted, your body listless, and a cat nap seems to be the best solution. Though sitting at a desk for hours on end can certainly zap energy, the likely cause of the crash is what you ate earlier in the day—or even the night before.

Katie Lambert, RD, LD, clinical dietitian at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, shares five culprits that are often the cause of a crash:

  1. Wine
    A glass or two the evening before can affect the quality of your sleep. Though you might feel drowsy as you rinse the glass and head to bed, your important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep can be disrupted as your body works to process the alcohol. You’ll likely feel the deficit the next day.
  2. Bagels
    Bread that contains refined flour or white flour is high in carbohydrates (fast-burning calories) and low in fiber (slow-burning calories), offering a spurt of energy your body uses quickly. Choose a whole-grain bagel and add protein—a smear of peanut butter, perhaps—and you will slow down the rate your body burns the bagel calories and steer clear of the crash.
  3. Caffeine
    You reach for coffee or another form of caffeine in the morning to get moving. And it works; you feel energized. But when the source of that energy wears off, you’re right back where you started.
  4. Cereal
    Like bagels, many cereals are high in carbs and low in fiber—and many have added sugar. A bowl of flakes or puffs gives a quick surge of energy that quickly fades, leaving you feeling tired and hungry. The added sugar means more insulin is circulating in your body, causing an increased release of tryptophan and energy that fades once the cereal is digested.
  5. Cherries and grapes
    Tart cherries are very high in melatonin; grape seeds are a close second. Melatonin aids sleep, making these a great bedtime snack, but not one you should use to keep your body working efficiently during the day.

Crash recovery

If the tailspin happens, here’s what you can do about it. (Hint: Stay away from coffee and sweets.)

  1. Move.
    Get up and move around the office, take the stairs to your next meeting instead of the elevator and do some stretches at your desk. This will help battle lethargy, divert your attention from the task at hand and the change of scenery can reboot your system. Think of it as a mini vacation.
  2. Drink.
    Make your beverage of choice water. Good hydration helps ward off sleepiness and keeps the afternoon munchies at bay. Make it a cold drink of water, which will refresh your senses, too.
  3. Eat (if you must).
    If you opt for a snack, include a protein with your carbs. Try one of these combinations to wake yourself up and keep your energy level consistent:
    • Whole wheat crackers and peanut butter
    • Whole wheat crackers and string cheese
    • String cheese and fruit
    • Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts
    • Vegetable chips and low-fat spreadable cheese
    • Greek yogurt with fruit
    • Cottage cheese with fruit
    • Granola bar
    • Hummus and vegetables

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Category: Nutrition

About the Author ()

Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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