I have a love/hate relationship with coffee. On one hand – I’m the type of person who reaches for my morning java the second my feet hit the ground. I also love the ritual of grabbing an almond milk latte on my way to work. On the other hand — I find that if I exceed my self-imposed limit of two per day, I pay the price. Not only am I hit with a pounding headache, I’m too jittery and wired to sleep properly later that night. According to research, I’m not alone. A study from the Tel Aviv University showed that participants who drank coffee after 3 pm slept two hours less that night than those who didn’t.
So clearly, caffeine is a less than ideal choice when the inevitable afternoon energy slump hits. The obvious replacement is matcha or herbal tea, but personally I find that sometimes, it just doesn’t quite hit the spot. Luckily, there’s another option for a 3pm pick-me-up and it involves the one thing I love even more than coffee: food! There are plenty of healthy whole-foods that will give you a natural, sustainable energy fix. They’re also packed with plenty of health-boosting minerals and vitamins that will help you feel (and look) amazing long-term.
It’s worth taking advantage of the fact that peaches are in season in Australia at the moment. Not only are they a delicious, easily transportable snack, they’re also perfect for a low kilojoule energy boost. The stone fruit is rich in iron (which is great for fighting fatigue) and niacin, a B vitamin essential for producing energy within the body.
It’s no secret that dark chocolate is a health MVP, thanks to its many benefits. But in case you needed yet another reason to stash some in your desk drawer, it’s also one of the best options for the arvo slump. A study from the University of Nottingham found that dark chocolate can help increase energy levels by boosting blood flow to key areas of the brain for up to three hours. Just be mindful that dark chocolate does still contain a small amount of caffeine and as always, opt for as dark as possible to avoid a sugar crash.
Oh, sweet potato, why are you so amazing? Seriously though, the starchy veg is versatile, yummy and as it turns out, great for recharging your energy. As a complex carb, sweet potato provides a slow release of energy that will keep you going for ages. It’s also high in vitamin C, beta carotene, magnesium and iron – all essential energy nutrients. For a delicious desk-friendly snack, cut it into chunks, sprinkle with cinnamon, roast in the oven and pop it in a container!
Bananas are the perfect energy food because they provide the body with complex carbohydrates, allowing for a sustained, slower release of energy. A mate of mine calls bananas a “meal in a peel”, which is very true. They are the perfect energy food if you’re on the run and getting hungry!
-Nutritionist Lola Berry via lolaberry.com
If you want an even more efficient energy boost, pair your banana or pear with natural or Greek yoghurt. The convenient dairy snack contains the milk sugar lactose, which is easily converted into energy by the body. It’s also quite high in protein, which helps to slow down the absorption of the lactose – making your energy hit last longer!
If you plan on hitting the gym after work, opt for eggs as your energy-boosting snack. Research shows that thanks to their sky-high protein levels, they’re fantastic for increasing muscle strength as well as satiating hunger and providing long-lasting energy. They also contain all of the amino acids needed for healthy body function and energy production. There’s a good reason they’re the number one breakfast of choice for so many nutritionists! Obviously, it’s not very practical to nosh on poached eggs in the office, but hard boiled eggs are a great portable option.
Edamame is by far one of my favourite snacks. Not only are the soybeans fantastic for when you’re craving something salty, they’re also an ideal pick-me-up. This is because they’re rich in energising B-complex vitamins, like copper and phosphorous.
B-complex vitamins work to break down carbohydrates we consume into glucose for fuel. At the same time they help transport oxygen throughout the body. Both copper and phosphorous are involved in converting eaten food into energy and releasing into cells so it’s available for use by the body.
-Dietician Lisa Moskovitz via Men’s Fitness