Take Five: Avoid Afternoon Energy Slumps

Tips to help reduce stress and stay energized through the day

Part of the Take Five Series
If you feel a lull in your energy levels, don't simply reach for a soda or energy drink. Use these tips to put some pep in your afternoon step. Photo by Bryan Roth.
If you feel a lull in your energy levels, don't simply reach for a soda or energy drink. Use these tips to put some pep in your afternoon step. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Even if you don't have a late night, it's still easy to feel lethargic and tired in the middle of the workday. But that doesn't mean you need to give in to the feeling.

Whether it's how you eat or exercise, there are plenty of ways to reduce stress and ramp up energy after lunch. Believe it or not, you don't need a Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy drink to beat the afternoon slump.

"There are lots of things you can do to make sure you don't hit a wall," said Julie Joyner, manager for LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's employee wellness program. "It's just a matter of being aware of your body, how you feel and what works best for you to get going and not just drinking coffee."

Use these tips to put some pep back in your afternoon step:

1. Drink up

If your body doesn't get a proper amount of water, it can cause a chain reaction that lowers energy levels due to dehydration. Individuals should make getting enough fluids part of a daily routine. Kelly Gehle, a registered dietitian and nutrition specialist with LIVE FOR LIFE, said faculty and staff should drink plenty of water throughout the day. Recommended amounts include about 13 cups a day for men and nine for women.

2. Eat up.

If you're hydrating but still feel tired, maybe you just need a snack.

"Typically something with some healthy carbohydrates and a little protein can help you reenergize, like fresh fruit and yogurt," Gehle said, noting that low-fat, plain yogurt is the best option. "Fresh fruit and a small handful of unsalted nuts also work. Or even half a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread."

3. ... But don't overdo it

Gehle noted that if you eat too much for lunch, it could cause fatigue later because your body turns its focus on digestion. By eating a well-balanced meal with smaller-sized portions, you can keep blood sugar at an optimal range that keeps energy levels strong throughout the afternoon.

4. Hit the gym

"Getting a boost of energy can be as simple as fitting exercise into your day during a lunch break," said Liz Grabosky, fitness manager with LIVE FOR LIFE. "By exercising at the gym or going for a walk, your body will release endorphins that will make you feel better and offer an energy boost to take you through the rest of the day."

Faculty and staff can join the Duke Fitness Club for discounted membership rates to Brodie and Wilson recreation centers, Duke's on-campus gyms.

5. Keep moving

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests taking a 10-minute break every hour to get blood flowing and energy levels up.

Duke employees can incentivize their efforts to stay upbeat in the afternoon by joining LIVE FOR LIFE's "Take Ten" program, which encourages faculty and staff to participate in physical activity twice a day for 10 minutes at a time. Participants may earn up to 260 LIVE FOR LIFE dollars by tracking 10-minute exercise sessions online. The fake money can be spent on exercise and health items at the LIVE FOR LIFE store.

"Every little bit counts," Grabosky said. "Ten minutes of exercise throughout the day can help in the short-term with energy and alertness and have a positive cumulative effect on health."