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Feeling Tired Mid-Day? Your Lunch May Be to Blame

If you feel sluggish and tired in the afternoon, your lunch may be the culprit. What you eat for lunch can have a big effect on how you'll feel the rest of the afternoon. But there are foods that will keep you energized so you can power through the day.

Do you ever feel incredibly lethargic right after you eat lunch and wonder how you’re going to get through the rest of your workday?

The Study

A recent study out of Australia, which evaluated the diet and lifestyle habits of 784 men, found that the quarter of the men who ate the highest amount of fat each day were more likely to experience daytime sleepiness than the men who consumed the least amount of fat each day. Additionally, the men were screened at home for any signs or symptoms of sleep apnea, which is a disorder characterized by loud snoring and periods where you stop breathing during sleep. The participants were screened for this disorder because it can cause daytime drowsiness and they wanted to rule that out as a cause.

The researchers did account for other lifestyle factors, including the amount and type of exercise the men did, their total body weight, incidence of diabetes or depression, smoking, and consumption (or lack thereof) of alcohol, and still found that the men who ate the largest amount of fat were 78% more inclined to say the suffered daytime drowsiness than those who ate the smallest amount of fat. It is also important to note that the study did not show any interrelationship between protein or carbohydrate intake and difficulty with daytime sleepiness.

While the study does indeed show a correlation between higher intakes of fat and sleepiness, it doesn’t necessarily show a cause and effect relationship. The participants’ complete dietary and lifestyle habits could also play a role. For example, other eating behaviors, such as the timing of the meals, the physical size of the meals, the number of times the participants ate throughout the day (eating occasions), how quickly the meal was consumed, and other eating factors could possibly affect daytime drowsiness. Other lifestyle factors, such as stress levels, family dynamics, work life, etc., could also play a role.

Eat to Energize

Of course, dietary fat itself is not the culprit. Your body actually needs fat for a host of normal bodily functions, but select healthy fats more often--think unsaturated fats from sources like oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and fatty fish. And rather than focusing too much on just one single nutrient (fat), your best bet with regards to avoiding that afternoon slump is to stick to an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, lean proteins, legumes, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and adequate hydration.

Here are a few foods that, as part of a general healthy diet, may help keep you from nodding off throughout the day.


Spinach, along with other deep leafy greens, are an excellent source of iron, a mineral needed to help our muscles store and then use oxygen and boost red blood cell circulation, and increase alertness and concentration.

Beans & Lentils

The fiber in beans and lentils keeps your blood sugar stable, helping you avoid major spikes and dips that leave your energy in the tank. A serving of beans also provides about a third of your day’s magnesium needs, which is essential for activating enzymes in cells that produce energy.


An energy-boosting snack on the go, or tossed into a salad, almonds provide a heart-healthy boost of energy. They are chock-full of manganese, copper, vitamin E, magnesium, and riboflavin, which all play a role in neutralizing toxins and bolstering energy levels. They also provide hunger-banishing protein.


Eggs are such a superior-quality protein that all other proteins are compared to eggs as they are the “gold standard”. In addition to energy-sustaining protein, eggs contain 13 essential vitamins and minerals and are one of the only sources of choline, a nutrient that is important for brain health.

Brown Rice
Because it’s loaded with slowly-digested complex carbs and magnesium, brown rice is a clear winner when it comes to providing energy. Studies have found that low magnesium levels may thwart your body’s energy metabolism.

Sweet Potatoes

These golden goodies are loaded with potassium, which helps you maintain electrolyte balance and lower your blood pressure, thereby reducing stress on your body that can cause lethargy.


Due to their high fiber content, apples are digested more slowly, giving you prolonged, sustained energy rather than a quick jolt--and subsequent drop-- in energy you might get from other fruits.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, rainbow trout, lake trout, albacore tuna, herring mackerel, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have demonstrated potential to lift your mood and ward off depression (lack of energy and depression often go hand-in-hand).

[Image via Getty]

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