Energy slumps in mid-afternoon when you've got work to do, or a surplus of energy when you'd rather wind down the day are symptoms of nutrition-induced energy swings, according to the California Dietetic Assn.
"Several common--but unwise--eating habits can cause extremely irregular energy levels," said Rita Storey, CDA president.
According to Storey, nutrition-induced fatigue--the classic midday slump--is a common complaint of people who combine a poor breakfast with a too-rich lunch.
The remedy, she said, is to eat a breakfast that provides with the right kind of nutrients to carry you through the morning. The CDA suggests a 300- to 400-calorie balanced breakfast containing foods from each of the four food groups--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits, and breads and cereals.
"A person suffering from fatigue after lunch generally eats little or no breakfast--maybe a doughnut and coffee. The high carbohydrates and caffeine provide a burst of energy but sets that person up for a late morning nose dive when the effect fades," Storey said.
A Balanced Breakfast
"For breakfast you might try two slices of whole-wheat toast with an apple or orange and a glass of low-fat milk," Storey said. That gives the average adult one of two recommended daily servings of milk group foods, one of four servings of vegetables and fruits and two of the recommended four servings of breads and cereals.
It also provides about 300 calories, adequate to maintain an effective energy level without excess for people watching their weight.
"Fatigue is carried into the afternoon by a heavy, high-fat lunch--perhaps a cheeseburger, French fries and a soft drink--which provides lots of calories (700 calories in this case)."
This high-fat meal tends to cause drowsiness in the afternoon and further complicates the problem.
A 500-calorie lunch of a chef salad with cheese and turkey, two tablespoons of dressing and five whole-grain crackers finishes the day's requirements for milk group foods, one of two recommended meat group servings and adds one more serving of both vegetables/fruits and breads/cereals.
"This lunch provides protein, fat and carbohydrates in a well-balanced proportion to preserve an even keel of vigor throughout the afternoon," Storey said.
The ideal proportion of total calories in a day's meals for the average adult is about 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein.
A dinner rounding out the recommended servings remaining--one meat group serving, two vegetables/fruits and one bread/cereal--sets the stage for a relaxing evening.
Such a meal might consist of spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce with steamed zucchini on the side, Storey suggested. This meal is satisfying with the balance of nutrients that provides enough energy to wind down the day.
"By keeping the nutrients balanced all day long, energy levels will remain balanced and you may find you have more energy than you thought possible," Storey said.