Jeff Waddle

We’ve all suffered it -- that dead tired feeling in the middle of the afternoon when all you want to do it crawl under your desk and take a nap. And, it always seems to come at the worst time when you’ve got a laundry list of things to get done before the end of the day.

A lousy night’s sleep is frequently the culprit, but what you eat -- and don’t eat -- can affect your energy level, too.

Incorporate these fatigue fighting foods into your diet and chances are you’ll feel better.

The Blood Sugar Thing

Swings in blood sugar levels like those 30-minute jolts you get with a sugar-packed soda are often the root cause of that mid-afternoon crash in energy. Help your body keep your blood sugar out of the peaks and valleys by:

Eating whole-grain foods

Like whole-grain bread and bagels and cereal, oatmeal and brown rice. Your body burns these energy-packed complex carbohydrates slowly for sustained energy. They’re also full of fiber, which enhances absorption of nutrients and also slows the pace of carbs moving through your body.

Mixing lean protein with your carbs

To help achieve a balanced diet. Lean protein like skinless chicken, fish, lentils, low-fat yogurt and soy products like veggie burgers help your body regulate the steady release of energy throughout the day. If you don’t have high cholesterol, eggs in moderation are great protein sources, too.

Choosing good fats

Like olive oil, nuts, sesame seeds and avocados which provide a powerful source of energy. Conversely, meats, butter and cream high in saturated fat and fried foods and snacks high in trans fat will slow you down and make you feel sluggish.

Making high-fiber fruits and vegetables

Part of your daily diet gives you the steadying influence of fiber as well as an immediate burst of energy. Oranges, apples, strawberries, raisins, apricots and prunes are great energy fruits, while broccoli, spinach and carrots are full of fiber and nutrients, too.

Not skipping breakfast

So you can avoid low blood sugar levels in mid-morning that can lead to overeating at lunch. Breakfast is the perfect time to get those whole grains and fiber fueling your body for the entire day.

Not overeating and incorporating snacks

Into your meal schedule. Want to feel lethargic by 3? Then pig out on that double cheeseburger and super-sized fries and sugared soda and make your body work overtime digesting it all. Many people find that eating smaller breakfast, lunch and dinner meals and incorporating a healthy late-morning and mid-afternoon snack helps keep their blood sugar steady and energy levels even. Fruit, protein bars, unsalted nuts and low-fat yogurt are smart and tasty energy snack choices.

What You Drink Matters, Too

Want a simple way to feel more energetic? Drink more water. Needs vary by individual but keep water handy and drink it whenever you feel the least bit thirsty because even minor dehydration can cause fatigue. If you work out or have a physically demanding job, you’ll likely need to up your water intake.

Sure, caffeine helps get most people going in the morning but drink too much coffee or other caffeine-laden beverages and you may suffer from the up and down crashes similar to the sugar rushes. Caffeine affects people differently but it can lead to dehydration, so observe how it affects you and monitor your intake if you’re feeling tired.

Jeff Waddle is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and contributor to


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Health - The Food Un-coma