Does this scenario sound familiar?
You wake up and make yourself a cup of coffee. Within a few minutes, you’re feeling pretty energized and ready to go. Maybe you grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast before you head out the door. Your day starts off pretty strong energy-wise. You get to work and you’re productive. Maybe you make a second cup of coffee. Everything is going along fine… until suddenly, you hit a wall.
Maybe it’s around 2 p.m., maybe a little earlier. You are just TIRED. You’re struggling to keep your eyes open, but you still have at least three hours of work left. Maybe you grab another cup of coffee, but at this point it’s not really doing much for you. You might opt for something sugary, like a pack of M&Ms, to see if you can get a little spike in your blood sugar to pick you up. It works for a few minutes, but it doesn’t last long. Your productivity drops off significantly as the remainder of your day drags on.
What you’ve just experienced is the afternoon crash.
How Do We Get Energy?
Here’s a fun fact about human beings: we need energy for EVERYTHING. Every process in our body requires energy. We need it to think, move, digest food, to stay warm, to detox, and even to rest!
Where do we get that energy? Well, our bodies derive energy from the nutrients we consume. When you eat food, your cells convert the macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats and proteins—into a form of cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is what your body then utilizes to perform all of those functions.
Why Are You Crashing?
To understand why you’re experiencing the afternoon crash, we need to look at how we’re getting our energy. Picture a campfire burning. There are logs, which burn slowly and longer. These are akin to fats, which provide us with a longer-lasting, sustained source of energy. Then there’s the kindling, which catches fire and burns up quickly. Carbohydrates are like kindling, in that they provide quick bursts of energy.
If your fire consists only of kindling, you’re going to have a hard time keeping it going. The same can be said for your body. If you’re mainly giving it short bursts of energy through carbohydrates, you’re going to lose energy frequently.
That’s why, if you’re starting your day with a cup of coffee and a carb-heavy breakfast, you’re going to have a quick energy spike, which will likely be followed by a crash if you don’t provide your body with any other sources of energy.
What to Do if You’re Struggling with Energy
The first step to maintaining your energy throughout the day is to eat a healthy balance of macronutrients. That means eating a variety of foods that contain protein, fats, and carbohydrates. You want to focus on whole foods and stay away from overly processed foods as much as possible. With a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, your body will be able to sustain your energy throughout the day.
Note: It may take some tweaking to figure out what macronutrient ratios work best for you. Be open to trying different options until you find what is most effective for you.
You also need to ensure you’re eating ENOUGH food. Many of the clients I work with who struggle with energy are undereating. Eat until you feel satiated, and make sure you aren’t skipping meals.
Equally important to your energy is your emotional state. If you’re under stress, your body is using up energy putting itself into fight-or-flight mode. Remember that your brain doesn’t differentiate between a physical threat and emotional stress. Your body is going to produce a stress response, and that’s going to take energy.
So, in addition to eating properly, it’s important to work on reducing your stress level. That may include starting therapy, increasing your movement, or introducing a mindfulness practice into your day.
Ready to Increase Your Energy?
If you’re tired of crashing every afternoon and you’re ready to make a change, I’d love to be your guide! I’m offering a brand new group coaching program geared toward women who are looking to reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life through integrative therapy. Sound like just what you’re looking for? Hop on my waitlist to be the first to hear about enrollment!
The content found on the Integrative Counseling and Nutrition Consulting platform is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, therapist or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.