How to Beat The Mid-Day Energy Slump

woman meditating

Even when she sleeps well, Tiffany sometimes gets sluggish around 10 and 2 during the workday. She’s not alone. Many people get tired around these times as well. That’s because it’s usually been a few hours since breakfast or lunch and your blood sugar levels may be dropping. But before you head for the office vending machine, follow these steps to make sure something other than hunger isn’t causing that energy drop.

Step #1: Drink some water. Caffeine from your morning coffee can leave you dehydrated, and dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. Rather than grab a soda or another cup of coffee, drink a big glass of H20 and refill it throughout the day. Many of us forget to have water outside of meals. But your body needs water even if you’re working at a desk all day.

Step #2: Get up. If you’ve been sitting for an hour or more, stand up and walk around. Sitting in one place for an extended period of time makes many people tired. Just a short stroll outside or a few laps around your office floor can help get oxygen-rich blood to your body, reviving you from your slump. In fact, Tiffany found that getting up from her desk every hour keeps her from getting that sleepy feeling.

Step #3: Breathe In. Focus on taking deep breaths. When you get busy or stressed, you may take shorter breaths and the lack of oxygen can make you tired.

If none of those things help and you need a little snack, try eating a small amount of protein and some complex carbohydrates. The protein will boost alertness and the complex carbs will slowly raise blood sugar levels. Try a piece of string cheese and an apple, a few almonds and a pear, or a container of Greek yogurt with fresh berries. Keep these types of snacks handy so you won’t be tempted by the nearest candy bar.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Do You Need Sport-Specific Food?

Almond Butter Celery

There are lots of bars, beverages and sports chews on the market—but do you really need to spend the extra money and extra calories? Seems like these specialty items will make you faster, fitter and stronger but for the average person working out for 30 minutes to 1 hour you probably don’t need any of them!

It’s important to make your calories count so eating real food is best when you are not competing or out on ultra-long workouts. Think nutrient-dense vs. calorie-dense foods unless of course you are competing and need quick bursts of energy. Nutrient-dense foods have more than just calories—they have naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, nut butters, beans, lean protein and low-fat dairy are all good for your body.

Hydrate with calorie-free water and a spritz of lemon for some flavor. Don’t waste calories on sweetened beverages that make false promises unless you have factored it into your calories for the day or you’re late to a workout and have not fueled properly. (They can sometimes give you the boost you need to get you through the routine.)

Registered dietician Elizabeth Fassberg runs Eat Food, a New York City-based company that designs and delivers custom food and nutrition programs for businesses, organizations and individuals. She’s coaching the Avagliano family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Challenge Yourself: Drink More Water

Measuring cup

The Lehmans and Avaglianos were both so successful in upping their water intakes–and decreasing their soda and alcohol consumption–that we declared both families the winners of Challenge #2.

Here’s how you can follow their lead and do the same:

Q. Does everyone need eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day?

A. No, adults need more. Eight 8-ounce glasses is a guideline, not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. “The amount of water you require depends on many factors,” says Stephanie, the Lehman’s nutritionist, who suggests you start with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations of thirteen 8-ounce glasses for men and nine 8-ounce glasses for women.

The IOM recommends 7 glasses for girls 9 to 13, 8 glasses for boys 9 to 13 and girls 14 to 18, and 11 glasses for boys 14 to 18. Bump this up if you are physically active or live in a hot or humid climate or at a high altitude.

And remember: You don’t have to meet your water needs through H20 alone. Caffeine-free liquids count, as do fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapefruit, lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes, some of which are 90% water.


Smart Drink Swaps

When the heat rises, it’s nice to cool off with a drink. But some summer tonics can do in your diet. Water and unsweetened beverages are ideal, but if you treat yourself, here’s how to avoid going overboard.

If You Want a: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino 16 oz.
Know It’s: 400 calories
You’d Have to: Run 3.4 miles in 40 minutes to work that off.
Instead Try a: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light 16 oz. 130 calories

If You Want a: 7-Eleven Cherry Orange Blitz Slurpee 16 oz.
Know It’s: 110 calories
You’d Have to: Lift weights for 30 minutes to nix those calories.
Instead Try a: 7-Eleven Slurpee Lite Fanta Sugar-Free Cherry Limeade 12 oz. 30 calories

If You Want a: Red Lobster Traditional Lobsterita 24 oz.
Know It’s: 890 calories
You’d Have to: Bike 16 miles in one hour after an indulgence like this.
Instead Try a: Red Lobster Classic Margarita On The Rocks 4.75 oz. 250 calories


A Two-Step Motivational Plan

To keep them going strong, each family had a coaching session with motivational expert Tony Ricci, senior health and fitness specialist at Pfizer. “The secret to remaining focused on a goal is being able to define it and visualize it,” says Ricci. Here’s how to do just that.

Be specific. Don’t simply write down your goals; write down the true, intimate reasons why you want to do something and what your life will be like once you accomplish those goals. For example, “When I lose 20 pounds, I’ll stop making excuses about not wanting to go to the pool and have more energy to bond with my kids on weekend bike rides.”

Create a picture. Gather images that represent your goal (and its rewards) as a constant reminder to yourself of what you’re after. Use a bulletin board, poster board or Pinterest board to post photos of the little black dress you want to fit into or the beach you want to (fearlessly) wear a bathing suit on.

What have you done to drink more water? Share in the comments below!

Challenge #2: Drink More Water: The Winners Are…

healthy family challenge

It’s a tie!

This month we peered into the Lehmans’ and Avaglianos’ cups, mugs and glasses. What we found was a health mistake your crew can probably relate to: Drinking sweetened beverages was expanding their waistlines. “So many drinks are loaded with sugar, which adds excess calories to your diet,” explains Elizabeth Fassberg, R.D., the Avaglianos’ nutritionist. Because liquid calories are much less satisfying than those from food, they can lead to overindulging. Avoid downing the wrong beverages—which may pack on pounds, trigger energy slumps and even increase your blood pressure—with these tips from the families.

The Lehmans’ Tips

At first glance, the Lehmans seem to sip right. Tiffany and Andy avoid soda and juice and whip up healthy smoothies at home rather than buying the pre-made kind, which can be high in calories and sugar. They’re also big water drinkers, gulping down one to two gallons a day as a family. But mom and dad were drinking major calories when it came to the beer, Merlot and Cabernet they paired with meals three or four times a weekend. Now they drink beer or wine just once a week. As a result, Tiffany’s blood pressure is back to normal and she’s lost 3 pounds. Here, their better beverage plan.

★ Portion control your cup. “Four big glasses of wine or three 20-ounce beers can add up to 800 calories,” explains Stephanie, the Lehmans’ nutritionist. Even one 8-ounce glass of wine can have the same calorie count as a 4-ounce rib-eye steak. Using Wine-Trax glasses helped the Lehmans pace themselves. “Once my mind was made up to do this, cutting back on the beer wasn’t difficult,” says Andy. “Plus, I had more energy, slept better and the weight came off easily.”

★ Know the impact. “We learned your liver stores fat cells from alcohol,” says Tiffany. “Since we want to slim down, that was a motivator.”

★ Mix your drinks. The Lehmans had a glass of water between each glass of wine or beer. “This gives your hand and mouth something to do and keeps you satisfied,” says Tiffany. Plus, it helps you cut back on the amount of alcohol consumed.

★ Make mocktails. The Lehmans treat their kids, Jack and Anna, to juice or soda once a week. But even that adds excess sugar and calories. Since Anna likes soda and lemonade, Tiffany prepared healthier versions with a SodaStream carbonated beverage maker. “Both our kids loved this,” says Tiffany. As for cocktails, check out the great nonalcoholic recipes here.


The Avaglianos

Before this month’s  challenge,  no one in the Avagliano clan was getting the recommended amount of water his or her body needed to function efficiently, feel satisfied and slim down. The New Jersey family was drinking a combined total of just four to six glasses a day. Peggy and Peter were dependent on rich coffee drinks, diet beverages and caffeinated tea. Amanda and Michael favored apple juice and sweet iced tea. But one month of thinking before drinking led Peter to drop 7 pounds, Peggy to lose 2 and Michael to shed 3. Here’s how they did it.

★ Know what’s in your cup. “Every workday morning for five years, I had a 16-ounce low-fat French vanilla cappuccino from a local convenience store,” says Peter. That was until he checked its nutritional information online and saw it had 250 calories, 56 grams of carbs, 37 grams of sugar and 2 grams of saturated fat—none of which is good for Peter’s type 2 diabetes. “I was shocked, especially because I thought it was healthy to order the low-fat option instead of the full-fat one. Now I realize that regular coffee is a better choice and haven’t had a French vanilla cappuccino since,” he says.

★ Make simple substitutions. Peggy was drinking 12 to 15 cups of black tea daily. Although she didn’t fill them with sugar and milk, they added up to a lot of caffeine. “Some caffeine is fine, but this was too much,” says Elizabeth, Peggy was also missing the greater cancer-fighting benefits offered by green teas and the potential weight-loss benefits from white tea. “I cut back by alternating tea with water and replacing at least one mug a day with green tea,” says Peggy, who pared down to six to eight cups. Peter, who spends a lot of time on the road for work, also started choosing water over diet soda, and that cut his cravings for snacks such as M&M’s and chips.

★ Sweeten up your water. Before the challenge, Michael drank one glass of water a day at most. But once the family followed Fassberg’s tips to liven up their H2O with things like lemon wedges, raspberries and strawberries, he (and the rest of the family) started toting water bottles everywhere. The result? He upped his water intake to a gallon a day.

What Both Families Won: Passes to Six Flags for the ultimate thrill rides, including a chance to splash around in water (instead of focusing on drinking it). The Avaglianos got a season pass to the Six Flags Great Adventure near them in Jackson, New Jersey. The Lehmans won a weekend hotel stay and day passes to Six Flags St. Louis.

How have you started drinking more water? Share your success in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: Drink Healthy Smoothies and Get Your Daily Fruit and Veggie Servings

Carrot-Peach Smoothie

You may not be avoiding produce like your kid. But chances are neither of you are getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables you should either. That’s where homemade smoothies can save the day. Not only are they packed with vitamins and minerals, but they’re also filled with fiber and natural sugars, unlike so many other drinks on the market. Plug in your blender and try whipping up these two delicious recipes from smoothie books that just hit shelves this spring.

Eastern Apricot Pistachio Smoothie
Serves: 2 (352 calories per serving)

1/3 cup pistachios
2 ½ cups chopped cucumber
10 dried apricots
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ cups water

  1. In a high speed blender, combine pistachios, cucumber, apricots, parsley, and water
  2. Blend until completely smooth

Credit: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Smoothies (Alpha Books)


Celerapple Frapple
Serves: 4 (124 calories per serving)

1 cup romaine lettuce
3 Granny Smith apples
2 celery stalks
2 cups orange juice


  1. Combine lettuce, apples, celery, and 1 cup juice into blender, and blend until smooth
  2. Add remaining 1 cup juice, and continue to blend until smoothie reaches desired consistency

Credit: 201 Healthy Smoothies & Juices for Kids (Adams Media)

For more delicious summer drink recipes, check out “10 Supercharged Smoothies.”