How to eat to avoid the midday slump
by Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist
The macronutrients of protein, fat and carbs are the building blocks of all foods.
Post-lunch lethargy is real. You still have remaining tasks on your to-do list, but the couch or your office chair beckons you to nap. Your workday is barely half over, but you are already counting down the minutes till the proverbial whistle blows.
Exercise is one way to boost daily energy levels, but sometimes that can cause more fatigue. Paying more attention to meal composition is one way to help avoid feeling less like a sloth, and more like a tiger ready to attack the rest of your day.
Common nutrition advice prioritizes vitamins and minerals as a significant factor in the health of what we eat. Vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients, and can play an important role in our longevity and overall health. Certainly, we want to make sure we are “eating the rainbow” so that we are guaranteed a diverse profile of nutrients to support our immune system, recover from injury or regulate our nervous system.
On the other hand, if you are seeking more daily pep in your step, the secret might lie in the amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates that you’re taking in during your day. Known as macronutrients, protein, fat and carbs are the building blocks of all the food we eat and play a greater role in how our bodies utilize our food’s energy. The better we balance the ratio of these nutrients, the more daily energy we can experience. Getting the right amount of each can also help overcome other health challenges such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and overall mood.
Including all three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) in your meals also guarantees fewer sugar cravings, less grazing and better weight maintenance. The best way to optimize your nutrition is by including one of each macronutrient on your plate every time you eat. Think of your snacks as mini-meals. Instead of grabbing an apple here or a piece of cheese there, eat them in one sitting. Make sure you include a pure protein source such as eggs, jerky or deli meat, or tofu if you are a plant-based eater. When you do so, your blood sugar will be more regulated and you will experience less hunger throughout your day.
Portion sizes depend on your appetite, and you should let your hunger be your guide. You can also use your hand for measuring the appropriate portions if you’re trying to manage your weight. For women, protein portions should measure about the size of your palm, and men should measure 1.5 to two palms’ worth of lean meat. Carbohydrates, such as rice, potato, pasta or bread, should measure about the size of one cupped hand, and for men two fists of foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta or bread will satisfy. Fat portions should measure about thumb-length for women and two thumbs-length for men, and include oils, butter or nuts.
Protein is most important for protecting muscle mass, maintaining body weight and helping you stay fuller longer. Carbohydrates are an important energy source for supporting physical exercise and regulating blood sugar. Fats are essential for brain health and hormonal balance. Including all three macronutrients on your plate for every meal, with one to two cups of vegetables, will guarantee a day filled with energy and improved sleep.
Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress management specialist.
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