Everyone can admit that they have fallen into an afternoon slump. After a long day, all one wants to do is curl up and be alone with a tub of ice cream. With an afternoon slump it can be hard to deny cravings. The slump is a natural part of human’s circadian rhythms that are easily exasperated by not getting enough sleep. Circadian rhythms are behavioral changes that keep track of eating and sleeping times, and follow a 24-hour cycle (Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet). The slump is also affected by many other variables including age, activity level, emotions, and work.
Those variables impact how hungry one is in the afternoon and their need for calories. People who are growing need more calories. People who are active also need more energy for fuel, which means they need to take in more calories than people who are not active. When people are upset, they sometimes have cravings for carb-filled snacks that they are biologically attached to. For example, when an adult has a bad day, they may crave cookies because their mom made them cookies for them as a child, and eating cookies reminds them of a simpler time in life.
If someone is working from morning until evening, they may get bored in the afternoon and eat a snack to give them something to do (Dongen). Many people are legitimately hungry, but others give into cravings or simply eat when they are bored. With planning, one can avoid the slump and create positive short and long term effects for their health. In the big scheme of things, one may think giving into a craving for one snack does not seem that bad. However, the calories add up and affect one’s health negatively.
According to a 2004 study by the University of Otago, regular consumption of high calorie snacks (like potato chips) increases the amount of time it takes for one to become satisfied (Brookshier, Stephanie). Therefore, the more unhealthy snacks one eats, the more calories it takes to satisfy their appetite. Also, one should not skip out on a snack because ignoring the craving only makes it stronger. One is more likely to overeat at their next meal since they are lacking energy (Daeninck, Elizabeth). The only way to stop eating unhealthily, is to break the habit.
In order to break the habit, it is important to know how to utilize healthy ingredients. The key to a good snack is selecting healthy ingredients that satisfy a craving. The ingredients should also be suitable to eat before exercising. Also, the ideal snack is a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are filling and provide energy right away. Complex carbs keep one fuller for longer and the release of energy is slow and steady (Bush, Chelsea). Bananas are a great healthy ingredient that serve as the most dominant flavor for many recipes.
They are sweet so they overpower the taste of ingredients that may not cure one’s sweet tooth. Dr. Louise Burke, head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Food for Sports Performance: Peak Nutrition for Your Sport, describes bananas as “nature’s power bar” (Best PreWorkout Foods). Bananas are a easily digestible source of carbohydrates and potassium. Both nutrients are beneficial to eat before exercising because they help maintain muscle and nerve function. Also, the body does not store potassium for very long.
Therefore, eating a banana before working out keeps nutrient levels high. Oats are popular ingredient in many protein bars and oatmeals, that are great for energy. They are full of fiber so the release of carbohydrates is gradual. The steady release keeps energy levels consistent throughout one’s workout. Oats also contain B vitamins that help convert carbs into energy. Fruits are high in simple carbohydrates. However, many people need more than an apple to give them energy throughout their workout. Adding fruit to greek yogurt should keep one full. Greek yogurt is high in protein and carbs, and doesn’t contain high amounts of sugar.
The combination of fruit and greek yogurt work together to provide energy for and after exercising. Carbs from fruit break down quickly providing energy for the workout. Greek yogurt does not break down in time to provide energy for a workout. Instead, the protein is later used to prevent muscle damage. Though it takes a while to break down, it is easy on the stomach during the workout. Smoothies are a great snack that are easy to make. Many healthy ingredients can be used to make a well-rounded snack. Sweet fruits can mask out the flavors of undesirable vegetables, while one is still getting nutrients and energy from both.
It is easy combine ingredients with simple and complex carbs too. Also, one can add extra boosts like protein powder, flax, and chia seeds. If protein is going to be added to the smoothie, Skyler Meine, strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of IdealShape, recommends to aim for a 4:1 carb-toprotein ratio (Bush, Chelsea). At a first glance at calories, peanut butter may not seem very healthy. However, it can help one lose weight. With the combination of fiber and protein, it satisfies one’s appetite and cravings, while keeping one fuller for longer. The fiber and protein is also beneficial for building muscle.
Not only is it filling, but it is full of nutrients. Peanut butter contains vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium. Research has also shown that peanuts can decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found eating about 2 tablespoons, at least 5 days a week, can lower the risk of developing diabetes by almost 30% (Perry, Marge). However, one should limit their peanut butter intake if they exceed their amount of recommended daily calories. There are countless other healthy ingredients to choose from.
When seeking other foods, avoid options that are high in fat. One will feel sluggish and cramp up more easily because the stomach takes a while to break down fat. Also, it digests slower which takes away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from muscles. Although some complex carbohydrates are key to snacking, one should not get them from sugary foods. If one eats a food high in sugar content before exercising, they will experience a sugar rush and burst of energy in the beginning of their workout, but crash mid way through. Overall, the best way to fuel a workout from start to finish is the combination of healthy simple and complex carbs.