Your Diet May Determine an Afternoon Slump

If you are looking to skip breakfast in the morning, you may want to rethink dodging the "most important meal of the day." A new study from the United Kingdom reveals individuals who ditch breakfast are likely to crash earlier and harder than those on other diets.

The small study conducted by Protein Works divided 32 individuals into four breakfast options to determine which group suffered the worst slump. The four different breakfast diets included high protein, high sugar, only coffee, and no breakfast.

Around 13% of Brits skip breakfast each day, and only 49% admit to eating breakfast every day of the week, according to a YouGov survey. The numbers are similar to their American counterparts across the Atlantic. A study completed by Ohio State University found 15.2% of participants reported skipping breakfast.

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In their investigation, Protein Works found that no-breakfast eaters dipped in productivity between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Individuals who skipped breakfast also suffered the worst afternoon slump. However, Protein Works Heath Expert Kyle Crowley says breakfast’s status as the "most important meal of the day," is not necessarily true.

"Some individuals, for example, find success and improved productivity through intermittent fasting — a dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting," Crowley said. "Ultimately, the key to maintaining productivity and overall well-being is to eat a balanced and well-fueled diet on a schedule that works best for you and your lifestyle. Whether it involves having a nourishing breakfast or adopting an intermittent fasting regimen, the goal is to ensure that you're meeting your nutritional needs through a balanced and well-fuelled diet in order to sustain your energy levels throughout the day."

The group of coffee drinkers for breakfast witnessed a burst in productivity from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Caffeine may increase brain activity and enhance focus, but its benefits eventually wear off after four hours. At 1 p.m., coffee drinkers witnessed a drop in productivity but did see some rejuvenation before a gradual drop in efficiency.

According to the National Coffee Association, 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average American consuming just over three cups per day. If you are one who lives and breathes coffee, Crowley says there is no harm in drinking an extra cup to avoid a 1 p.m. slump.

"For most, having a second cup of coffee is generally okay to provide an extra bit of energy. It really depends on the individual, however, and how sensitive they are to caffeine," Crowley said. "It is essential to consume coffee in moderation and be mindful of its effects on sleep, for instance, especially if consumed late in the day or during periods of extreme stress. There are other smarter methods to counter that slump. A healthy snack or a simple afternoon walk, for instance, can help combat afternoon fatigue without the need for a second or third cup of coffee."

Swapping a well-balanced breakfast for something like cereal or other high-sugar options can lead to an up-and-down day of productivity. In the study, high-sugar breakfasts led to a 10% increase in productivity within an hour. After an initial boost, the high-sugar breakfast group witnessed a steady drop in productivity until 12 p.m.

After lunch, individuals did reestablish their morning productivity levels before a 5% drop during the three o’clock hour. Oddly enough, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., high-sugar breakfast consumers experienced an end-of-day hike in productivity.

What to eat to avoid an afternoon slump

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Individuals apart of the high-protein breakfast group experienced the highest levels of productivity in the entire study. Protein helps increase productivity by improving cognitive function and also helps keep blood sugar more stable. Those on protein diets did not suffer hard crashes, unlike other breakfast groups. For those who are experiencing fatigue during the day, Crowley recommends snacks with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates high in fiber.

Snacks to eat throughout the day are:

  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Fresh fruit
  • Vegetable
  • Beans
  • Brown rice

In order to make sure you stay full, try eating:

  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Cheese

Nuts are a good snack option as they provide a quick and sustained release of energy, especially nuts like almonds, that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

- Crowley

Along with having a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep also plays a role in avoiding afternoon tiredness. A RestoreZ survey from 2020 found that 75% of Americans reported daytime sleepiness as a negative cause of productivity. Crowley says short 20-minute naps during the workday can increase efficiency.

For those who are suffering from "hyper-fatigue," Crowley says to ensure you are eating a balanced diet to alleviate symptoms of constant tiredness. He also notes it is important to remain hydrated to offset any crashes throughout the day.

"Getting the right intake of vitamins and minerals, especially as we enter the winter months, is also very important," Crowley said. "Vitamin D deficiencies, for example, are shown to contribute to feelings of fatigue and are especially relevant during the winter months, especially in regions with less sunlight. As always, of course, we recommend people consult a doctor if experiencing any chronic symptoms of hyper-fatigue as there may be other underlying reasons for this."

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