At your desk before dawn and sending emails until bedtime, long days are a hallmark of the entrepreneurial life. It's no wonder that your energy can wax and wane throughout the day. The 4 p.m. time-slot can be particularly challenging, leaving you sluggish and reaching for a quick boost. Your afternoon snack though, can say a lot about what's going on in your body, and your habitual choices hold clues as to what that may be.
Your brain needs energy to make decisions, multi-task, and thrive. If your ability to focus is crashing after lunch, then first you need to consider what you're eating earlier in the day. If you tend toward refined, processed foods like muffins, scones, pizza or sandwiches, then you would benefit from balancing those choices out with protein and quality fats like eggs in the morning and chicken, greens, and avocado at lunch.
As importantly, a healthy and balanced afternoon snack can be a great tool in helping you finish your day strong. The right option can give you energy and stamina along with clarity to keep you on target. Craving and giving into the wrong snack though can exacerbate stress, leaving you unfocused and lethargic, and may also indicate underlying physiological issues. To end your day as well as you started, take a look at what you're reaching for and swap it. Doing so can change the course of your afternoon and protect your health at the same time.
This classic 4 p.m. choice isn't a snack at all but instead a cup of adrenaline laced with sugar.
Afternoon java breaks point to a tired, stressed out, undernourished brain. You need fuel, not caffeine. Real food will support your brain so it can focus, helping you retain and recall information more efficiently. If it's your habit to grab a Starbucks, try this instead: have a green drink and a handful of almonds or walnuts. The green drink will provide loads of nutrients and antioxidants that can protect your brain from oxidative stress while the nuts offer up quality fats that support cognition, boosting concentration. If that seems too big a change, have some fruit, a handful of nuts and a cup of green tea to help you ease away from coffee.
Candy and cookies
Every office has at least one person who keeps a supply of M&M's, believing they're spreading the love. They're actually just sharing their addiction. Many people see sugar as the solution to flagging energy levels but while it may give you an initial boost, it can make you feel foggy and groggy almost as quickly. This in turn can have you reaching for more candy just to maintain the buzz.
Sugar cravings are indicative of stress and an unstable blood sugar. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter in your brain that helps you feel calm and happy gets depleted throughout the day as you experience the anxiety of meeting your deadlines. What also depletes serotonin? Coffee.
If your go-to snack is a couple of cookies, this is your brains way of boosting serotonin production. But like with your blood sugar, the spike is followed by a crash, leaving you grumpy and irritable. Not good for office culture. Instead, have an apple with almond butter at 4pm. The fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth while the fat and protein in almond butter will balance out the natural sugars, helping you stay steady and calm throughout your afternoon.
Chips and pretzels
Chips can be very addicting. The crunch, oil and salt come together to create an intensely satisfying sensation to the brain. But if your go-to snack runs toward the salty kind, then you could be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenals are glands that sit atop the kidneys and control your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, hormonal balance and inflammatory processes. They are weakened by stress, too much coffee and lack of sleep, the triumvirate of an enterprising life. They eventually burn out from pumping out hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in response to these factors. Over time, this disrupts sodium and potassium balance in the body, which in turn can affect blood pressure and cardiac health.
If you're craving salt, then consider hummus or almond butter with celery sticks. Celery has naturally occurring sodium that is balanced with other minerals so that you don't get a shot of sodium strait to your blood stream as you would with chips. You can also have oil-cured olives which contain quality fats to protect your brain and heart. Also, make sure to replenish your potassium intake with foods such as avocado, banana, or dried fruit.
Making the right snack choices will have a beneficial ripple effect throughout your entire afternoon and into your evening. Eating well in this crucial time slot will also go a long way towards helping you make better food choices at dinner which in turn can help you feel fit and slim while helping you have a more restorative sleep. Not bad for one simple snack.