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How to Beat the After-lunch Sluggishness

15 February 2022

We all know what it’s like. You’re wiping away those lunch crumbs from your mouth while rubbing your stomach in gleeful satisfaction when that all too familiar feeling creeps up on you. The food coma is here and it’s every man and woman for themselves.

Humans have developed astonishing technologies over recent decades, but we have yet to fully get a handle on the afternoon, post-lunch slugginess. Quite simply, there is something wonderfully cosy and sleep-inducing about an afternoon at work, with your belly full, the heating turned up and your eyelids ever so slowly drooping southwards.

While we may not be able to give you the magic answer, we do have some ideas. So without further ado, or before you fall asleep while reading this blog, here are 8 ways to battle the afternoon food coma.

Don’t skip breakfast

Before you even arrive at the office, the actions you’ve taken first thing in the morning can have a bearing on how alert and awake you will feel throughout the day. Not everybody can have a large meal first thing in the morning, but you should also avoid skipping breakfast. A small, light meal is really all you need before heading to work, which will keep your blood sugar level and help to prevent a slump later in the day.

Get out and move  

The very worst thing you can do is to simply make the short journey from your office to the canteen and back again. If possible, go out for a brisk walk before you eat or even hit the gym for 30 minutes. This will speed up your digestion once you start eating and help to keep you awake. Alternatively, eat first then put in 20-30 minutes of walking before heading back into the office.

Smaller sizes

One of the major reasons that a food coma can take hold is that you’ve eaten too much, too quickly. Instead, choose something smaller and take your time with it. If you feel like you’ll need something more to eat later in the after, take some fruit with you back to your desk. Fruit is an excellent source of slow-releasing energy and a few pieces spaced out over time will also keep those hunger pangs at bay.

Water, water, water

Another major reason for feeling tired in the afternoon is a lack of water. Our bodies are around 60% water, and this needs constant topping up, otherwise, the machine begins to slowly grind to a halt. While amounts vary depending on gender, and even where you are in the world, we should aim to drink around 2 litres of water every day.

To help with the afternoon sluggishness, try drinking a glass of water 20-30 minutes before a meal. Not only will this help to keep you hydrated and alert, but you’ll also often find that you won’t feel quite as hungry when you actually come to sit down to eat, which means a smaller portion won’t be so much of a problem.  

Avoid the sugar

Apologies to be the bearer of bad news, but all that tasty sugar is always followed by a brain-thumping crash. A sugar crash is when the body is essentially drained of energy and curling up underneath your desk begins to feel like the only thing you can possibly do. We know that that chocolate bar that’s been eyeing you seductively all day sounds like the perfect remedy, but it’s simply the gateway to a mighty food coma.  

Complex Carbohydrates

Instead of sugar, try to include as many complex carbohydrates in your lunch as possible, which take longer to digest, meaning the glucose is released into the blood at a steadier rate, leaving the body energised and crash-free. Whole, unprocessed grains like oats, quinoa, barley and brown rice, vegetables such as Sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans, carrots, asparagus and fruits like apples, oranges, kiwis and berries are good places to start.

Caffeine 

Caffeine comes in a variety of strengths. There is the blow your head off, enamel-clearing coffee that’s often served in offices, that is usually both bad quality and ferocious in terms of caffeine. Yes, you’ll feel like a superhero for two hours, but then you will begin to sag with dramatic effects. At this point, it’s either more coffee or prepare for the descent into sleepiness.

If you really want some caffeine (and don’t we all?), tea is a much better alternative. Green tea is generally regarded as the healthiest caffeinated tea and packs in plenty of antioxidants as well as on average between 20–45 mg of caffeine. Enough to give you a nice buzz, without pushing you off a cliff two hours later.     

Yoga

OK, this one might sound a little far out, but there’s plenty of science behind it. Yoga is an excellent way of aiding digestion, in particular twisting exercises, and can be done before or after eating to help move food through the body. It’s also fairly gentle and slow-paced, so even if you’ve gorged a little too heavily during lunch, you shouldn’t feel too uncomfortable doing a bit of yoga.

Not only does yoga help with digestion, but it’s also a great way to stretch and warm up those muscles that are often stuck in the same position for hours on end while sitting at a desk. Simply doing 20 or 30 minutes of yoga will give your body a wonderful buzz that will help you fly through the rest of the day.