Eat your Wheaties. Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for good reason. The morning meal helps rev your body’s metabolism after the night’s long fast, and it provides enough fuel to get to lunchtime without needing a sugary soda or snack for a jolt of energy. For the biggest benefit, make sure your breakfast includes protein, suggests UAB’s Dr. Stephen W. Russell, an assistant professor of medicine. “If you have a high carbohydrate breakfast, such as pancakes or waffles, any energy will go away pretty quickly once the carbohydrates are gone,” Dr. Russell says. Good breakfast sources of protein: sausage, turkey bacon, Greek yogurt, or an egg.
Have a snack. When you’re hungry, your energy level sinks. Snacking is an effective way to boost sagging energy. Dr. Russell suggests a low-calorie, high-protein snack, such as peanut butter on an apple, a half cup of cottage cheese, a small serving of almonds or cashews, or half a bagel with a smear of low-fat cream cheese.
Catch more zzz’s. The best way to avoid needing a nap in the afternoon is to get more sleep at night. “When I’m talking to patients who say they want to feel more energized, the first thing I ask is if they’re getting enough sleep,” Dr. Russell says. Too little sleep not only makes you more likely to feel lazy after lunch, it also affects your productivity. Plus, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick. How much sleep is enough each night? “I suggest seven hours,” Dr. Russell says. “Some people need more than that, but few people can get less than that and do well.”
Get moving. Squeeze in exercise, and double your rewards: a 10-minute bout of walking is enough to give your energy a jolt, and it burns calories. “Exercising in the morning or during lunch is a great way to build enough energy to get through the afternoon,” says Dr. Russell. “And people who exercise at night or after work are setting themselves up for a great night’s sleep.” At a minimum, aim for exercising three days a week; five is even better.
If all else fails … Reach for a cup of coffee. Except for people with health concerns, such as high blood pressure or heart problems, a cup of Joe may just be the ticket to kicking your yawns to the curb. But skip the soda—they can be a sugar and sodium trap. “There is actually a decent amount of sodium in diet sodas which can stimulate more eating later in the day,” Dr. Russell says.