You’ve had a productive morning at work, you’ve taken a break for lunch, and when 3pm strikes you’re hit with an afternoon slump.
Many women can relate to this decrease in energy by mid-afternoon, followed by the struggle through those last hours until home time.
But why does this happen? There are a few factors that contribute to women, specifically, feeling daytime fatigue.
Fortunately, there are things women can do to keep their energy levels up and cruise through the afternoon.
The afternoon slump is real
Nutritionist and naturopath Stephen Eddey said “the afternoon slump is real” and there are two main causes.
First, most people eat a carbohydrate heavy lunch, such as bread or a sweet drink, which results in an energy crash.
“When we eat carbohydrates, the level of blood sugar rises sharply. What goes up, must come down and we get a following slump in blood sugar levels,” Eddey said.
Another cause is that womens’ stress hormone cortisol naturally declines as the body winds down for the day, contributing to lower energy levels.
“Cortisol naturally spikes in the morning and reduces as the day progresses,” Eddey said.
Women feel fatigue more
Women are more inclined to experience energy crashes because of their biology, Eddey said.
This could be due to the fact that women are prone to an energy-sapping condition: anaemia.
“This occurs because menstruating women lose more iron (a mineral required to make red blood cells) and the drop in red blood cells (anaemia) can alone cause fatigue,” Eddey explained.
Additionally, hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones) is more common in women and is a major cause of fatigue.
Eddey said these conditions can cause unexplained tiredness in women and cannot be improved with sleep.
“Women may also suffer from insomnia. This is a classic cause of daytime fatigue,” Eddey said.
Tips for fighting the afternoon slump
While women may be prone to experiencing the afternoon slump, there are things they can do to fight fatigue.
Eddey said women can start by keeping well hydrated throughout the day and eating a protein-rich, low carbohydrate lunch. It will help to balance sugar levels and should prevent that mid-afternoon energy slump.
However, if your fatigue is occurring daily and is having a significant impact on your life, you should speak to your doctor about getting tested for hypothyroidism or anaemia, Eddey advised.
Here are other things you can to do fight the afternoon slump:
A natural reaction when feeling tired might be to reach for another coffee, but Eddey warns against it.
“Coffee is the natural enemy of fatigue. The caffeine can linger in your system and can keep you up at night or stop you getting the restful sleep you need,” he said.
Say goodbye to sugar
Avoid sugary snacks because not only are they unhealthy, but they are particularly bad if you are trying to avoid energy slumps, Eddey said.
“You might feel great after consuming sugar, but the energy slump comes soon after,” he said.
Eat the right foods
From oats to leafy greens to cacao, there are certain foods you can eat to help fight fatigue. See the full list of energy boosting foods here, as advised by nutritionists.
Eddey recommends eating a fatty, protein-rich snack like a handful of nuts.
Women should be particularly conscious of their iron and iodine stores, Eddey said. Supplements for this don’t necessarily boost energy but being deficient in them can cause fatigue.
A great overall energy supplement is CoQ10 because it boosts the mitochondrial production of energy, said Eddey.
“Creatine and carnitine are also great supplements to beat fatigue, as they help with energy production and fat burning, while drinking Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) will reduce the sedative brain chemical called serotonin,” he said.
If you notice your energy levels always drop in the afternoon, make a point to move your body.
Can you walk over to your colleague to discuss a work matter instead of calling them from your desk? Can you get out of the office for a short walk around the block?
“Move around as much as you can,” Eddey said.
How do you fight the afternoon slump? Share your tips in the comments section below.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 13, 2018 but has since been updated to include new content.