Eat your way through that 4 pm energy slump
No, not the Pringles
It’s 4 pm, that time of day when the siren call of caffeine starts ringing in your ears as loudly as your mother’s morning aarti. When your upper eyelid and lower eyelid launch into a torrid love affair. Your brain demands a nap while your hands reach out for the rush of caffeine or that emergency stash of Ferrero Rocher you keep hidden under your desk. Let us stop you right there — coffee may give you a quick boost but you’ll crash fast, leaving you faceplanting on the keyboard.
Dr Nidhika Bahl, integrative nutritionist and preventive healthcare specialist, explains that this happens due to a dip in blood glucose levels, which the brain and body need to make energy. “Without that energy, you feel fatigued and have a tough time staying focused. Your attention drifts,” she says.
This also happens because late in the afternoon, your levels of cortisol naturally start to dip and you start feeling sluggish and exhausted, adds Ruchi Sharma, the founder of Eat Fit Repeat.
Are healthy snacks the right way to fix this slump in productivity?
You must never let your blood sugar bottom out as low blood sugar levels can affect your productivity negatively. This is where healthy snacks come in, according to dietician Mac Singh, who is also the co-founder of Fitelo.
“Our energy levels throughout the day depend upon our hormone levels, such as glucocorticoids, melatonin, leptin, and more. Our sleeping and eating habits impact these hormones,” he says.
Adding that our caffeine intake must be limited at this time, he explains, “Excessive caffeine often results in constipation while further dehydrating your body and building the toxin levels, leaving your body in a loop of caffeine fatigue.”
To get a lift of energy that lasts, Bahl suggests choosing healthy snacks with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. “They will take longer to digest, satisfy your hunger, and provide a slow, steady stream of energy.”
Here’s our expert-approved guide to energy-boosting healthy snacks that will wage war against the exhaustion overtaking your brain.
9 energy-boosting snacks to battle your mid-day slump
For the uninitiated, team Tweak (including our founder Twinkle Khanna) often gorges on Makhana, one of our favourite healthy snacks, during evening chai breaks or when the midnight munchies hit us. Low in cholesterol and saturated fats, it’s a gluten-free source of healthy carbs and iron.
Here’s Twinkle’s family recipe to pull your head off its permanent home — your keyboard.
- 2 tsp ghee
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 cup makhana
- 8 to 10 curry leaves
- 2 green chillies
- Salt to taste
- Take ghee or oil in a hot pan, add rai, curry leaves, green chillies and then add the makhana.
- Stir it continuously until it gets a golden colour.
- Add salt.
- Mix thoroughly, transfer to a bowl or plate and serve hot.
Oatmeal and nut butter energy balls
When you’re daydreaming of your favourite ball-shaped gulab jamuns in the middle of a Zoom meeting, it’s better to reroute to these oatmeal and nut butter energy balls that are not only tasty but also easy to make. This recipe provided by Bahl promises a boost in energy when your tank is nearing empty.
- 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, roughly ground
- 2/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup almond butter or peanut butter
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, or raw honey
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 scoops (10 grams each) of all plant protein powder
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Put all ingredients in a big mixing bowl and stir thoroughly to combine everything well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture into your palm and roll to form balls about one-inch thick.
- Store the energy balls in an air-tight container in your fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to two months.
The modest edamame bean is crafty and resourceful. You’re losing out on the energy-boosting advantages of these green-coloured beans if you only eat them while you’re at your favourite sushi joint.
Dry-roasted versions are ideal for on-the-go consumption. Simply pop one in your mouth for a protein, magnesium, and iron boost. Iron assists in the transfer of oxygen to cells, where it aids in the release of energy.
Yes, we’re aware that parfaits sound fancy but we promise making a yogurt parfait don’t require the Masterchef-level skill you think it does. Ruhi Sharma, founder of Eat Fit Repeat, recommends this easy-to-make snack as it is high in protein, low in sugar making it the perfect healthy snack.
- A scoop of yogurt
- Fine slices of any fruit of your choice
- Granolas (optional)
Top a layer of Greek yogurt with a layer of your favourite fruit and repeat it until you have a few layers. Finally, top it up with some granola chunks.
If you’re in the habit of munching as you work, opting for a trail mix of nuts and seeds will be the best way you can enjoy a guilt-free snack to chase away your mid-day slump. As Singh puts it, “snacking on these nutrient-packed seed mixes ensures your body gets all the benefits each seed has to offer.”
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup flax Seeds
- 1/2 cup figs
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- Salt (according to taste)
- 1-2 tsp black pepper
- Take all the nuts and seeds and mix them well.
- Take a pan and let it heat for some time.
- Add the nut-seed mixture and roast well.
- Add salt and black pepper accordingly.
- You can also bake them. (optional)
Date protein balls
We know your fingers are reaching for that bar of chocolate but before you give in to the temptation, pop one of these date protein balls into your mouth that doesn’t just curb hunger but will also have you firing away at the laptop with how energy-boosting they are. Here’s Sharma’s recipe for what she calls “the best snack to fill you up with the healthiest nutrients.” But, be wary of eating too much of them as they are calorie-dense.
- 3/4 cup of almonds
- 1/2 cup of dates
- 1/3 cup of dried coconut
- A drop of vanilla extract/ vanilla beans
- 2 tbsp of cacao powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp of vanilla protein powder
Add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend into a sticky dough. Roll a tablespoon to make small balls. Coat them in dried coconut and freeze them for 30 minutes.
Oven-baked carrot fries recipe
Most of us have an antenna in our head that zings up every time someone says ‘fries’ in our vicinity. So, here we have Singh’s recipe of oven-baked carrot fries that are low in fat and protein and will help you stay productive all day long.
- 4-5 carrots (depending upon the amount to be consumed)
- 1 tbsp black pepper powder
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- Take fresh carrots and cut them into thin slices.
- Then, oven-dry the fries until soft.
- Season them with roasted cumin seeds powder, garlic powder, black pepper and serve.
Sweet potato smoothie
You usually think of coffee, soda, and energy drinks when you think about energising fluids. Making this nutritionist-approved sweet potato smoothie, on the other hand, is a quick and easy method to get a boost without the caffeine.
- 1/2 medium baked sweet potato
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 banana (or 1/2 cup berries)
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 3 ice cubes
Toss in a blender and mix until smooth.
Hummus with carrot or celery sticks
Hummus paired with vegetables is a healthy method for people to reach their required legume intake, according to a review published in 2016.
A great source of protein, hummus makes a valuable addition to a plant-based diet as it can help you maintain balanced energy levels. One of the best healthy snacks, you can eat it with raw carrot or celery sticks for added nutrients and give your mid-day productivity — or the lack, thereof — a much-needed jolt.