3 Tips to Maintain Your Energy Levels Throughout the Day

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The midday drop in energy is as universal and consistent an issue as the sun rising in the East. We all have experienced decreased energy levels after lunch, so much so that we have our methods of dealing with it. Some of them may not be so healthy or even helpful.

You can add several habits to your day with more consistency, and one is as simple as exposing yourself to the morning sun for a few minutes. Others include making better food choices at breakfast and lunch, sleep quality, hydration, exercise and how we manage our daily stress.

Here is a list of rituals to add to your day to help “postprandial narcolepsy” from ruining your productivity:

1. Get Moving

Since this is a fitness column, leading with some movement is a logical answer. Stand up, walk and get some fresh air, if possible. During a brisk walk, take in deep inhalations and full exhalations. If you like box breathing, try it while walking, or if you cannot walk, just focus on your breathing while in a meeting or at your desk.

These two activities are powerful tools against the typical afternoon drop in energy as they “wake you up” and help you relieve some of the day’s stress from dragging you down. One of my favorite things to do is take pictures of a nice sunrise while out exercising.

A predawn look at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
A predawn look at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. (Stew Smith)

Consider the following 10- to 15-minute “wake-up” options when feeling midday fatigue:

  • Walk for 10-15 minutes immediately after eating lunch.
  • Stay hydrated with water, so you have to get up every 45-60 minutes to use the bathroom.
  • Take a “bathroom break” and walk around the building, up/down a few flights of stairs.
  • Add a set of squats or lunges to get the blood pumping through the body even more.
  • Breathe and stretch

2. Better Food Choices at Lunch

Don’t skip breakfast; select a protein-rich lunch with complex carbohydrates and fiber, and avoid sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods. Lean meats and eggs, fruits (bananas), vegetables (beans), nuts and whole grains,, such as quinoa or brown rice, are higher-quality food choices that will help you prevent the afternoon bonk and drag out the day at a snail's pace.

3. Morning Sun Exposure

Waking up and getting outside (or through a window) and facing the sun is one of the best ways to reset circadian rhythms (our internal clock). Feeling sunlight on your face will help you set the day naturally, along with the stage for a more restful night’s sleep. Adding a walk or morning workout outside as the sun rises is also a classic way of making this benefit twice as effective. You may find your mood is also enhanced by this activity, and the need to consume high levels of caffeine is also decreased.

Our midday drop in energy levels is more about the choices we make throughout the day (and night) than it is a universal outcome we all have to live with. Pick one or more of the above options, and you may find an immediate fix to your low-energy levels or avoid the doldrums altogether.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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