Corporate Athlete 101: Afternoon Slump

Here is the fourth question in a series I’ve received from Jeremy Jauncey.  The following Q&A will be used in the nutrition 101 package for our corporate athlete plan.

“People suffer a post-lunch “graveyard” session (3 or 4pm slump). Why?  I’ve been doing some reading into the body’s natural waking and resting rhythms and it seems we have a natural dip in energy between 2-4pm? How can we use diet to beat this?”

Is the afternoon slump a true phenomenon?

Many experts believe that some groups of people tend to crash mid-afternoon due to dips in core body temperature, eating habits, and something called “chronotype” and circadian advantage.

What is your chronotype?

Chronotype refers to a person’s physical preference for daytime versus nighttime activities.  It is based upon many factors (hormones, eating, sleeping, and body temperature).  This five-minute survey, called the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, can help you learn your chronotype if you do not already know it.

The “circadian advantage”

At the CPSDA conference I went to in May, I met a sleep researcher named Dr. W Chris Winter.  He coined the phrase, circadian advantage, which refers to an athletic team’s ability to acclimate to a new time zone versus another team’s.  Winter suggested that  the circadian advantage is most significant when a team has a > 3-hour advantage over another team.

Although research on the circadian advantage is limited to athletic teams, the corporate athlete can use this idea since the afternoon slump can be related to many factors: time zones, circadian rhythms, and chronotypes.

Nutrition and exercise for afternoon lulls

Some energy boosters in the afternoon:

  • Don’t skip breakfast and/or lunch! When you skip, your blood sugar levels get low and continue to drop over the entire afternoon.
  • Don’t overdue lunch! When you overeat, your body is busy digesting the energy it has consumed.  This can make you sleepy since your body is working hard to shunt the blood to the stomach and intestines for digestion.  Try having smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Stay hydrated! Ever hear that being dehydrated can cause a head-ache?  Interestingly, not being well-hydrated can make you feel tired since the body needs fluids to provide nutrients to the brain.
  • Unsaturated fatty acids! Having nuts, olive oil, avocado will keep you fuller for longer without creating havoc on your gut to digest.
  • Try fresh fruit! Eating fruit is a natural way to receive a “sugar-boost,” providing fast energy to the brain in the form of carbohydrate but not wearing off quickly due to the high fiber content.
  • Taking a break can energize! Taking a 20 minute ping pong or gym break, or even a five minute break to chat with coworkers is a great way to “pick you up,” since it allows your mind to disengage.


(1) US News Health Article


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