Why you experience the 3pm Sugar-Craving Slump and how to combat it!

Do you find yourself reaching for the sugary sweets and caffeine in the afternoon for a quick 'pick me up’? Find you are crashing out mentally around 3pm feeling dazed and unfocused?

The food choices you are making throughout the day could be the major cause of this slump in energy as the food we eat greatly impacts our cognitive performance and energy production. 

Most foods we eat (especially carbohydrates - vegetables, fruits, grains) are converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brain and muscles need to function and stay alert. Basically its glucose that fuels the body. When we are running low on glucose, we start to find we experience low energy, our mind begins to drift make staying focused quite hard.

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This is why we rush out and eat the chocolate bar or sugar laden snack for an energy boost. Whats interesting is that not all foods are processed by our bodies the same way, or at the same rate.

Some foods, like refined carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, cereal, soft drinks and refined sugar foods release their glucose quite quickly into the system, leading to a quick burst of energy. This is why we tend to reach for these foods when we need a ‘pick me up’ - be it a mood or energy boost, particularly in the afternoon. But the trouble is, what goes up, must come down. So while we may initially get a quick burst of energy with these foods, its very soon followed by a crash - dragging our energy and moods down with it. These foods are very unbalancing to our blood sugar levels which creates this reaction. Not only that, overtime this extreme spike and crash in blood sugar makes us vulnerable to developing conditions such as diabetes.

Other foods we tend to eat, like heavy and high fat meals such as burgers, BLTs or hot chips, provide a little more sustained energy, but requires our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen to the brain, making us groggy. This isn’t so great either, especially when we have that meeting to attend or deadline to finish. We feel heavy and lethargic and what to go have a nap after eating.


Therefore, when is comes to our daily fuelling, we can adopt a diet that balances blood sugar and supports digestion. This is the key for sustained energy, increase in happiness and creativity, supportive to digestion, leads to overall peak performance and productivity and also prevents that 3pm energy slump.

What we need is slow burning carbohydrates and good quality protein. Basically wholegrains (unrefined carbs - as in no white stuff), fresh fruit and vegetables (5-7 serves per day), and good quality fats (monosaturated as opposed to saturated and trans fats e.g. avocado, fish vs red meat, fried and oil food) and lean proteins.

Research published in the British Journal of Health Psychology titled ’On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life,’ indicated that eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day is incredibly beneficial for not only generally health and wellness, but for the functioning of the mind.

It highlighted the extent to which foods affect our day-to-day experience and showed eating fruit and vegetables was related to greater self-reported curiosity and creativity.

Participants who ate more than 7 serves of fruit and vegetable per day were happier, more engaged, more creative and had great energy throughout the day.


Here are some tips to support peak performance and prevent the 3pm energy slump:

•Minimise refined sugar that causes energy highs and lows

This includes minimising adding sugar to your tea or coffee, lollies, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, white bread, pasta, and surgery drinks.

•Minimise processed wheat and carbohydrates that can cause you to feel sluggish

These foods are very heavy for the body to digest which drains energy. Eating a high refined carbohydrate meal at lunch leads to that 3pm energy slump. Minimise white bread, rolls, pastas, pastries.

•Increase complex carbohydrates - especially at breakfast time for great energy for the day ahead

Wholegrain's such as rice, quinoa, oats and other complex carbohydrates like lentils, beans, and vegetables provide a slow release of energy.

A workable breakfast for increased energy, clarity of mind and focus is oat porridge. Take with nuts and seeds, honey and banana.

Lunch should be cooked and contain a large portion of vegetables (1/2 plate), with a good quality carbohydrate and protein.

•Increase good quality protein throughout the day - Protein keeps blood sugar stable for sustained energy

Swap your morning biscuits and cake for nuts and seeds. Snack on high protein dips such as hummus or avocado in the afternoon with rice crackers or vegetables sticks. Include lean meats or lentils, beans or tofu into meals throughout the day


Be prepared:

•        Prepare your own meals to take to work- this way you’ll always have something healthy ready to eat.

•        Replace the lollie jar with a healthy alternative. Place a container of almonds and a selection of protein bars by your computer, near your line of vision.

•        Bring a bag of fruit to the office on Mondays so that you have them available throughout the week.

•        The trick to eating right is not learning to resist temptation, it’s making healthy eating the easiest possible option.



Author: Tegan Wallis

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Tegan is an Naturopath, Ayurveda Health Consultant and Yoga Teacher at Griffith Consulting's sister company, Veda Wellness.

Tegan is one of Griffith Consulting's key program facilitators and specialises in workplace health & wellness. 

For more information about Tegan or her services, please go to: www.vedawellness.com.au 

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