Takeout lunches that leave you sleepy, tired and unable to focus on your work can be a massive hit to productivity. “The phenomenon of feeling sluggish or sleepy after 2pm is known as ‘postprandial somnolence’ or the ‘post lunch dip’,” explains celebrity nutritionist, Harpeet Pasricha. Mumbai-based nutritional consultant Jaydeep Bhuta attributes it to sudden changes in blood sugar levels. “Foods rich in starch or sugar will result in an insulin spike to break down the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. This spike is why you feel energised during lunch time, but sleepy and unable to focus in a few hours once the level crashes,” he says. “Carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and rice and tryptophan-rich foods like eggs and cheese lead to an increase in insulin levels, which also causes an increased production of melatonin and serotonin,” Pasricha adds.
Have too many meetings lined up in the second half of the day and can’t afford to feel glazed over? This is what you can do to fight the lethargy before it starts.
Eat smaller meals
Smaller meals through the days can help avoid that major spike. While eating right is important, how you eat is just as critical. “Inculcate a gadget-free meal and stay away from any diversions. Concentrating on what you are eating and chewing your food well allows a stronger connection between your brain and gut, thus aiding in proper digestion and making you feel light and comfortable post meals,” advises Pasricha.
If you’re ordering food in, it’s easy to reach for the quickest, cheapest and easiest option on the takeout menu. However, this could be laden with oil, salt and preservatives, making it worse if you’re already sleepy. “Look for express lunch meals as they are designed to be quick and light. If it includes a non-creamy soup or a salad with some kind of protein, you are on the right track. When it comes to mains, browse the menu for protein and vegetable-based options with more complex carbs like buckwheat, quinoa or brown rice,” advises Rachel Goenka, chef and founder, The Chocolate Spoon Company. “If you order in frequently, try a sandwich with sourdough bread, hummus and veggies instead of just mayonnaise and cheese. A lot of restaurants now do one meal bowls that are also a good option,” she adds. Smoke House Delhi’s chef Jaydeep Mukherjee says choosing foods like “millets, micro greens, legumes and lean and high protein meats” can help as well.
Sugary foods can provide a short burst of energy, but will you leave you unable to focus in no time. Try to maintain blood glucose levels through the day by reaching for proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs and fruits instead. Protein-rich snacks like nuts or nut butters with a flavonoid-rich piece of dark chocolate is an ideal combination, according to most nutritionists. Even fruits like oranges, apples and blueberries are great due to their quick sugar and antioxidant content.
Carry a jacket
Add freezing cold temperatures to an already heavy meal, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for sleep. The internal temperature drop is a key part of the circadian pattern that contributes to the post-lunch slump, so carry a jacket or shawl to keep yourself toasty when the temperature of your office AC is too low for your liking.
Drink the right kind of caffeine
While coffee can feel like a saving grace when you’re too tired to function, it’s fast-release caffeine makes it a culprit for the inevitable crash. It can also cause jitters and a quicker heart rate, which definitely don’t help you focus. Green tea or matcha is a good alternative—it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a quiet, slow-release energy that can sustain you through the day.
“If you are stressed, upset, or tense, the digestive system doesn’t function well, making you feel tired and sluggish. Quick breathing exercises and a small post-meal walk helps to improves overall oxygen supply to the brain and body, making you feel more active and energetic,” Pasricha explains. Taking a quick stroll or stopping by at a colleague’s desk is the best way to fight the yawns and focus again.