Oh the dreaded 3 p.m. slump. We’ve all been there, that post-lunch haze when all you want to do is curl into bed and succumb to the energy dip. Tempting, but you still have a mountain of tasks to take care of, so you might brew a second (or third) cup of coffee, matcha, or tea to put back some pep in your step—but according to functional medicine doctor Taz Bhatia, M.D., there may be a better way to recharge midday.
Bhatia says if you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon, you should actually steer clear of caffeine. No, this doesn’t mean you must give up your favourite brew forever (coffee fans, no need to panic). That sluggish feeling is likely due to a blood sugar crash, and that second cup of coffee only acts as a bandage. When you sip on the caffeine, “you are artificially elevating your blood sugar and insulin levels, then crashing back down,” she explains.
“Every time you reach for coffee to stimulate you that way, you’re jumping on this merry-go-round of feeling better for an hour to two hours, then you’re going to come back down again.”
And so you may grab a third cup, but the cycle only continues from there.
An important caveat: Bhatia is not against a morning cup of coffee. The coffee itself isn’t the issue here (in fact, the coffee plant provides numerous – thought to be hundreds! – of phytonutrients). It’s the fact that the extra coffee is only a short-term fix for a hormonal-based issue.
What To Do Instead
“Instead, we want to level off that energy,” Bhatia says, by getting your nutrients optimised. Make sure you have a fibre-fuelled breakfast and satiating lunch to keep your blood sugar levels balanced and avoid the dreaded dip midday.
You may also want to find ways to keep your cortisol levels steady. “Many of us who are having that afternoon crash are having a cortisol crisis, so to speak,” Bhatia explains. You see, elevated levels of cortisol raise blood sugar over time, which can contribute to that midday crash. Plenty of factors can unintentionally escalate your cortisol levels, like lack of sleep, increased stress, poor diet, etc., but you can implement certain habits to keep those levels balanced.
For example: “Maybe [use] adrenal adaptogens that indirectly support cortisol balance,” offers Bhatia, like ashwagandha and holy basil.
She also touts medicinal mushrooms like reishi and shiitake.
“The entire mushroom family is amazing for giving you that afternoon jump many people need.” Research even shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of medicinal mushrooms can enhance energy metabolism in mitochondria – and when your cells are energised, your body feels rejuvenated.
It can be all too tempting to reach for the extra cup of coffee, especially if you’re feeling sluggish midday, but you might be better off stabilising your cortisol and blood sugar levels instead. That way, you’ll have sustained energy all day rather than a series of inevitable spikes and crashes. Call it an investment.