Dealing with Energy Drop-Outs

It’s 3 p.m. and it’s happening again. You feel drowsy, irritable, like you need a quick pick-me-up. You take a look at that jar of M&Ms sitting on your desk. That will take care of everything, you think. You reach for a handful. You feel perky for the next 20 minutes, then feel even worse. You lay what feels like a too-heavy head on your arms and peer over at that jar again. You reach for another handful. Before long you have consumed a day’s worth of calories in junk food…

If this sounds familiar, let me make a suggestion. The next time you need a pick-me-up, opt for a permanent solution – activity. Caffeine and sugar only offer a temporary high, followed by an energy drop-out. The energy drop outs only lead you to believe you need even more (sugar and caffeine) to bring you out of that next slump.

Activity, on the other hand, will leave you feeling better for hours. Even if you are still at work, you can choose to do more active projects during times when you typically have energy lows. Make phone calls while standing and pacing around the room. Do a few knee lifts and squats while you talk (and offer up an energetic wave to people staring at you in near by cubicles). If energy lows happen when you can go to the gym, use that as your workout time, to pull you out of the slump. Manytimes people who initially think they are too tired to exercise find that they don’t feel tired at all once they get moving. The activity choice is a clear winner. You can either consume hundreds of calories of candy and end up feeling worse or burn off hundreds of calories and feel like a million bucks. Is that a no-brainer or what?

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7 Responses

  1. Susan, I typically exercise in the morning–although today, I couldn’t face the old guys at the gym crowing over the election results–and I do get that mid afternoon slump, which I typically combat with a cup of tea. I don’t want to switch my exercise time, because I suspect that the later in the day I schedule it, the more unlikely it is to happen.

    Should I just take a nap instead? Set the timer for 20 minutes? Or is there a snack that will energize me that won’t make me crash later?

    Suggestions appreciated!

  2. Susan Dawson-Cook says:

    Hi, Jennifer,
    I used to do the afternoon tea thing myself until I started getting hormonal headaches. Since then, it works best for me to limit my caffeine to one cup on tea in the morning.

    You have some choices – the short nap works well (although a long nap will make you feel worse), as does a short bout of exercise or a complex carbohydrate or protein snack.

    Usually when I’m making a decision about which to use, I think about what my body really needs that day. If I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I go for the nap. If I’m hungry, the snack’s in order. If I’m a little achy from sitting too long in front of the computer, I take a short walk, do some ab crunches or take a dive in my pool. Snacks I like for energy are apples, cantaloupe, whole wheat English muffins, and pistachios. Anything with much fat or sugar and I’m back to tired again…

    I hope this helps,

  3. cheryl Palen says:

    On my days off, and after a LONG ride/run/swim or a couple of the above…I opt for the 3 p.m. nap. 🙂
    Bet you might too when you are 57….

  4. Susan Dawson-Cook says:

    Cheryl, short naps work great for almost everyone, but long naps can make some people (including myself) headachy and groggy the rest of the day. In a nutshell, I don’t ever think eating junk food is going to provide a good solution to an energy lag, but as for what esle might work (exercise, naps, carb or protein snacks), it’s all about learning about what your body needs and providing what will nurture it.

    Something else I should have mentioned in my article is hydration. Sometimes when you feel tired, you may be dehydrated. Drink a tall glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Then you’ll be able to tell if any other solutions are needed. My other favorite pick-me up is some work in the garden (fresh air always revives me).

  5. Hi, Susan,

    Good suggestions–I will try them! Sorry I didn’t see your response to my comment earlier.


  6. cheryl Palen says:

    Hi Susan-Enjoyed your article in the USMS magazine! 🙂

  7. Susan Dawson-Cook says:

    Hi Cherlyl,
    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had fun competing in the event and soaking up the atmosphere in Puerto Rico. Watch for an article in the next issue on “Swimming for a Cause!”

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