I think everyone has seen those 5-Hour Energy commercials where they talk about that “two o’clock feeling” you get in the afternoon. Most refer to that as nap time, but we all have been there and are always looking for a quick fix to that feeling.
I’ve struggled with this for years. But, with the help of vitamins, supplements, altering my diet and regular exercise, I think I’ve beat it. I didn’t need the help of some little bottle that claims to give you five hours of energy either.
Here are some nutritional suggestions to help you battle that lethargic feeling and increase your energy:
- Eat breakfast – Studies show that productivity drops a mind-blowing 50 percent to 75 percent when you skip breakfast. However, what you eat is also important. Starting your day with a breakfast that includes protein will help keep you energized for about five to six hours. I personally recommend protein bars, protein shakes or an egg-white omelet with veggies. Muffins or bagels? Not so much. You’ll likely be crashing within an hour or two.
- Eat more super foods – That pizza you had for lunch isn’t going to power you through the day. Studies have proven that nutritional intake has a direct impact on productivity. Eating the proper foods could boost your productivity level as much as 20 percent. So what kind of foods should you eat to avoid the mid-afternoon “food coma?” According to this infographic, super foods packed with energy include fish, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, avocado, raw carrots and blueberries.
- Step away from the sugar – The entry drug of stress management is sugar. It’s cheap, tasty, and insanely addictive. When you experience stress, a chemical reaction takes place in your brain where dopamine is high and serotonin levels are low, creating an imbalance. This of course feels uncomfortable and to compensate, your brain makes you crave sugary foods for a quick shot of serotonin. Sounds good right? Not really, because the serotonin levels quickly come crashing down. Eventually, your stress levels and mood can become erratic, making it difficult to focus. Stock your work fridge or lunch bag with healthy snacks such as apples and organic peanut butter or hummus and carrot sticks.
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach – A lot of people I work with use caffeine as their main fuel source. Focused on the next task at hand, they forget to eat and instead drink coffee all day to maintain their energy levels. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know this is not good for you. The caffeine in coffee can deplete serotonin levels for up to eight hours. Just like in the previous bullet point, this will increase your stress as well as increase your sugar cravings, which, if indulged, will lead to a cycle of repetitive stress. If you’re going to have coffee, make sure you fuel up on food first.
Here are some physical suggestions to perk you up throughout your day:
- Look at pictures – Browsing images of adorable animals, beautiful landscapes or even motivational infographics might seem like a time-wasting activity, but a recent study found that people who do this, were more productive.
- Take a break – Besides looking at photos, you should physically get up and go do something. Taking regular breaks dramatically increases productivity, especially for people who work at a computer according to this study.
- Focus on one activity – Those people who claim they are great “mulitaskers” are actually the least productive. Don’t multitask. Workers that are distracted by phone calls, emails, and text messages experience a temporary drop in IQ. Also, a study from last year noted that multitasking hurts short-term memory. So, what’s the solution to this problem, given the always-connected world in which we live? Simply focus on one task or project at a time and ignore all of your devices, email, social media, etc. Take a break every now and then to see if you missed out on anything, but do your best to block out an hour or so and dedicate that time to one task and one task only.
- Stop forcing yourself to be a morning person – Unless you actually are a morning person. Then by all means, get going when the rest of the world is struggling through its first cup of coffee. The point is to find your “peak time” and harness it for optimal productivity. If, for example, you are the most awake and productive from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., then block out that time for your most important projects. To determine your peak time, Lifehack.org suggests you monitor your workflow for a week and jot down when you’re most productive and adjust your hours accordingly.
You don’t have to try all of these, but just try a couple a day and see if you notice a change in your energy levels and productivity. I bet you will like what you see and does anyone else have any tricks that help them throughout the workday?