The Science Behind your 3pm Slump

The science behind your 3pm slump

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3.30itis, the 3pm slump, mid-arvo-munchies – whatever you want to call it, I’m willing to bet that you’ve experienced that craving for sugar, caffeine and a serious energy hit as you reach the midway point between lunch break and home time. Whether or not you give in to those cravings, finding out just why they strike is the first step towards kicking them to the kerb.  

The slump is a little different for everyone. Sleepiness, sugar cravings and an inability to concentrate are the most common symptoms, and they all have something in common – low energy. When our energy is low, our immediate reaction is to search for a quick fix. For most, the simplest fix is sugar.  

How can you prevent the 3pm slump? 

Your sleeping patterns have a great deal to do with your energy slump. If you’ve woken up early for work, your body’s natural sleep cycle will tell you to have a nap between 2 and 4pm. Your brain will start to release melatonin, its natural sleep chemical, giving your body the same feeling it gets just before falling asleep in the evening. To avoid this fatigue, make sure you’re getting a good 8 hours of sleep each night and try to stand up, move your body and get some fresh air whenever possible during the day.  

Getting up and moving is your defence against that sleep chemical. It’s your way of fighting back and telling your body “no! It’s time to move, not to sleep!”  

Getting outside will also give you a boost of Vitamin D, which is essential for energy production. Vitamin D also alters your core temperature and reduces the amount of melatonin your body produces.  

Why your cravings are worse when you’re dieting…  

If you find yourself with intense, panging cravings, undereating could actually be the cause. Cutting back on calories may seem like the easiest way to shed a few extra kilos, but eating far less than recommended can send you into a vicious circle. If you feel your energy plummet and your cravings heighten some time between lunch and dinner, it’s super tempting to reach for the office cookie jar or chocolate stash. By depriving yourself, your cravings will worsen and chances are you’ll end up binging on sugary snacks and other processed junk. You’ll feel guilty post-binge, deprive yourself of even more food the next day, and the cycle continues.  

To avoid temptation and get rid of those sugar cravings altogether, eat larger, healthier meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lean protein and leafy greens will keep you feeling fuller for longer, erasing the need for a sugar fix between meals.  

A sandwich might seem like a natural lunchtime choice, however bread is packed with refined carbohydrates which can cause your energy levels to plummet shortly after you’ve finished eating. While some carbs are great, foods full of refined carbohydrates and sugars can give you a quick burst of energy and an even steeper crash soon after. Opt for a meal full of food groups that give you prolonged energy and take longer to burn out- think protein such as lean meat or fish, chickpeas and beans, and good fats such as avocado, peanut butter and olive oil. Can’t go without a sandwich at lunchtime? Opt for whole grains instead of refined- your body will digest them slower!  

The take-away 

While you can’t quite reset your internal clock, you can easily curb your cravings and fight back against the 3pm slump. Choose the right foods, fill your body with stable energy sources and get outside to enjoy the fresh air and you’ll find yourself breezing through the work day with nary a craving in sight!  

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