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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I battle daytime fatigue without drinking caffeine?

    Related Topic
    I find that I get very sleepy and tired in the afternoon but I've never been a fan of caffeine, do you have any suggestions?
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    Claudette Wadsworth

    Homeopath, Naturopath

    With 12 years of clinical experience, Claudette is one of Sydney's expert Naturopaths and Nutritionists practicing at Better Health Clinic in Bondi Junction. With prior ... View Profile

    It is best to try and avoid drinking too much caffeine. Try and stabilize your blood sugars. Eat small meals regularly and make sure you have protein in all your meals – you will see your energy go longer without going up, peeking in a spike and then crashing like it does with caffeine and sugars. People who get very sleepy or tired in the afternoon need to make sure they have a good lunch with protein and veggies or salad. If you find you get too tired about an hour after lunch it usually means you have had too much carbohydrate. An example of this is white bread on a sandwich. Try and have more multigrain bread and make sure to get that protein in. If you tend to get quite hungry within an hour after eating lunch it usually means you haven't had enough to eat, particularly of protein. It is also important to have a snack in the afternoon. And again, try to get protein in so I would suggest some nuts with a piece of fruit. You could also have herbal tea and you could have something with a bit of essential oils to wake you up. Examples include a peppermint tea which will give you a little bit of a lift or a spearmint or lemon grass because they're quite invigorating.

    Also, fatigue could simply be dehydration which a lot of people don't realize. You only need a 1% - 2% drop in body fluid to actually instigate fatigue and tiredness and lack of concentration. So make sure you keep a water bottle on your desk or a jug of water, and just keep sipping on that water all afternoon.

    Also, try getting up and going for a short walk. It might be enough to go for a walk to make a cup of tea or go outside to do a quick errand, or even just a walk around the office can be enough to clear your head and have a break from the computer. If you are working on a computer this is always important. Get a bit of fresh air and circulation to get oxygen up to the brain.

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    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris ... View Profile

    The dreaded “three-thirty-itis” in the afternoon can mean that you haven't had enough to eat during the earlier parts of the day. The MOST important meal of the day is breakfast. Choose a breakfast cereal option that is high fibre, contains a dairy source (for protein) and some natural sweetness such as fruit.

    The second most common mistake people make is skipping lunch. Your lunch is another important meal of the day and should include a source of whole-grain bread or wrap with some lean meat (e.g. chicken, beef or fish) and plenty of salad vegetables.

    The third most common cause of the afternoon slump can be skipping meals such as morning and afternoon tea. Eating regularly will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day avoiding the peaks and troughs which can lead to fatigue.

    Keeping hydrated is also important, try to keep your fluid to around 2 L per day or drink until you have a consistant pale yellow urine colour. This colour tells you that you are well hydrated :)

    If these tips don't work, it might be a good idea to get your iron levels checked by your doctor to see if they are low. A thyroid test might also be a good idea too. For more expert nutrition advice you may wish to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). You can find one at www.daa.asn.au 

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    Denise Burbidge

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Denise is an Accredited Practising Dietitian working in private practice in Melbourne, and consulting to aged care facilities throughout Victoria. Denise has a particular interest ... View Profile

    Not including caffeine can actually be a good thing because caffeine tends to be a treatment for fatigue only for a short time. My suggestion in boosting energy or limiting fatigue is the following:

    1. Keeping hydrated so having 6 to 8 cups of water a day.
    2. Basing your diet on 3 small meals and snacks in between, and that these meals be based on low GI carbohydrates and are balanced in line with the healthy eating guidelines.
    3. I recommend taking breaks throughout the day. If you work in the office about every hour take a minute to either do some stretches or stand up out of your chair.
    4. Be sure to take a lunch break! Commonly we work really hard during the morning and that is why we are fatigued in the middle of the afternoon.
    5. Making sure you are getting sufficient sleep so that is looking at 8 hours of sleep a night ideally.
    If symptoms of fatigue persist I do recommend seeking a health professional's advice, and  ruling out there are no underlying causes for fatigiue; for example low iron levels, which could be ruled out with a blood test.

    www.thefoodclinic.com.au

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