Coffee and my health
September 28, 2007 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I have a huge drop in my energy in the afternoons. I am a healthy (except for hyploglycemic tendencies), normal weight 48 year old. Here is my current issue.

At about 3 pm I get a MAJOR drop in energy. I go like "gang busters" all day long and then need a nap or feel like a zomby most afternoons. Lately I have been eating donuts (which I never usually have in the house but have 3 teens) and craving caffeine like crazy. I think I must reach for the donuts for the sugar high to combat the low energy. I try to stay away from caffeine but lately wonder why? What if at 1 or 2 pm I had a cup of real coffee? I have been off of caffeine for years but lately feel like going back on it! I feel so much better when I drink caffeine! The world seems a better place. I get more done. I sometimes get irritable bowel from it and that is why I went off it in the first place. But it seems the good outweighs the bad. My DH drinks it so it is in my face daily and I feel like a crack addict around it. It has be come a larger than life thing in my life. I act like people who drink coffee have better lives than me! When I was pregnant with my 3 kids I was "borderline gestational diabetic" and the doc said I could develop diabetes later in life. I have tried to eat to ward that off and quit the caffeine thinking that might help too. What sense can you make out of all this? ANy help?
posted by seekingsimplicity to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had this problem and I seem to have fixed it by eating a smaller sugar-free lunch, with treats only at night, and lots of carbs only for breakfast. Maybe drink coffee very early in the morning? Or try to switch to another source of caffeine that doesn't hurt your stomach as much?
posted by melissam at 12:13 PM on September 28, 2007

I'll be lurking for answers, too. I have the same thing at 2-2:30 pm, and always have had. (So much so that in college I tried really hard never to take a class then.) I don't eat sugar. I don't eat many carbs. I don't drink coffee. I do drink, green and sometimes black, tea.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:18 PM on September 28, 2007

Have a cup of coffee.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:25 PM on September 28, 2007

You might want to try the Simple Smooth coffee, which is marketed towards those with sensitive stomachs.
posted by melissam at 12:26 PM on September 28, 2007

More coffee, fewer donuts.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:29 PM on September 28, 2007

Is it impossible to take a nap? Something around 30 minutes or less will do the trick.

When I cut the related wheat-related carbs out of my lunch, my afternoons got a lot better. Good lunch ideas for me include: half an acorn squash, microwaved and topped with butter. Salad with lunch meat. Soft corn shell tacos. Roasted chicken salad with grapes and almonds. Sushi, easy on the rice. Meat and bean chili (maybe not so good for IB). A donut would be the worst idea possible (for me).

If you feel like you need caffeine, try a cup of green tea. Quasi-science says we process the caffeine in coffee and tea differently, and with tea we tend to get a little kick for a longer time instead of a big rush. It'll be easier on your stomach, too (I find it calms mine down).
posted by Eringatang at 12:34 PM on September 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

Not to potentially derail this thread by unintentially starting a low-carb diet debate, but it has been my experience that carb intake has a whole hell of a lot of impact on my energy levels throughout the day.

The most striking thing I noticed when I was low-carbing was that my energy levels shot through the roof, and remained consistent throughout the day. Whereas before, I wanted to take a nap at my desk by lunchtime, and by 5 PM, I was frequently yawning and longing for my bed, back home. By controlling my carbohydrate intake (especially from things like white flour and sugar), and eating non-carbo loaded foods whenever I felt hungry, I felt like fucking superman...unfortunately I still didn't look like him.

Caffiene may have a bit to do with your lethargy, but in my experience, it was a practically insignificant factor in my energy levels, compared to the impact that carbs had.
posted by melorama at 12:34 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

2nding the impact of carbs.

A couple of weeks ago, trying to solve the same problem, I went low-to-no-carb at lunchtime and it had a huge impact.

Today I had a couple of sandwiches and I totally felt the difference. And that, my good friend, is called "science."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2007

I had this problem. I had a personal trainer for a jujitsu tournament I was in and my trainer determined I was way under drinking water. I upped my water intake to 16oz when I woke up, 8oz every two hours throughout the day, and finally 16oz before I went to bed. It basically changed my life. I rarely have energy issues as well as it cleared up some other issues I was having.

In conclusion, drink more water and if you are like most people (including myself at one time) drink A LOT more water.
posted by birdlips at 12:42 PM on September 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

Don't overthink this bag of (coffee) beans. Have a hot cup of coffee, and relax.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:44 PM on September 28, 2007

When I was religously on the South Beach Diet two years ago, I had consistently higher energy levels all day long. I avoided carbs like the plague. Early on during the diet, I had some energy drops. Worried about falling off the diet, I only allowed myself to drink water, and it worked.
posted by Doohickie at 12:44 PM on September 28, 2007

Oh, you may want to look at the SBD book; it discusses this kind of stuff quite a bit, including how the diet is supposed to ward off the onset of diabetes.

The one vice I allowed myself on SBD, actually, was coffee. I only drank a couple cups in the morning though, never after lunch.
posted by Doohickie at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2007

Thirding the low-carb advice. I find that since I stopped bringing sandwiches or a pasta salad to the office for lunch, I don't get that tiredness in the afternoon. I see people in the office who've had a carb-heavy lunch almost nodding off after lunch, and that used to be me.

Ditch the donuts, eat fruit or carrots and some protein instead, and I think you'll notice a huge difference in your energy levels.
posted by essexjan at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2007

Are you at your place of work when you get this slump? If not, another idea is exercise. This may be the least appealing idea when you are fatigued but it helps. Have a coffee, a couple glasses of water, and take a brisk walk.

Yesterday I was up at 5am and was busy, busy. I thought I would die if I didn't take a nap around 3 pm. I forced myself to work out and was energized again until 8.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:50 PM on September 28, 2007

Eat a banana.
posted by four panels at 12:55 PM on September 28, 2007

well, your body naturally -does- slow down around 3pm. i don't know why, but we are almost programmed to nap then. so part of it is just nature.

but i'm nth-ing the lower-carb advice. it makes an enormous difference. the reason you are reaching for the donuts is because your blood sugar has crashed and you're looking for readily-available sugars. staying away from refined flour and sugar at lunchtime, plus getting a lot of fiber and protein, will help reduce your sugar crash. and, if you need a boost, eat a banana, snack on some nuts or sugar-free yogurt, or drink some juice (real juice, not sweetened with corn syrup).
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

What about green tea instead of coffee? You'd be getting antioxidants AND caffeine.
posted by 6:1 at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2007

Coffee is probably far, far less likely to induce diabetes than donuts. Try green tea if you can't stomach the coffee. Have a snack with a bit of protein in it instead of a donut, and eat a balanced breakfast and lunch. Some good snacks to try are some cheese on whole wheat bread, an apple with sugar-free peanut butter, or a tortilla with some cheese or meat on it.
posted by yohko at 1:44 PM on September 28, 2007

Seconding birdlips. I always found while working in an office that I would be really tired at the end of the day because I didn't drink enough water.

Also you may want to take a look at how much sleep you're getting overall. Supposedly if you're getting enough you should never reach the point where you're ready to actually doze off during the day.

But I don't see why it should be a big problem to just drink some caffeine if that's what you want to do.
posted by dixie flatline at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2007

You have already said it all with the hypoglycemia. Eat more protein, less carbs. Also, drinking coffee with or right after lunch can actually make you more tired; don't ask me why, but I did see it in one of those studies posted in the popular press, and it happens to me. ymmv
posted by caddis at 2:19 PM on September 28, 2007

N-thing watching your carbs. Try doing a day by day comparison. I'd bet that three-donut-lunch day leaves you way more exhausted at 3:00 than steak-fajitas-no-tortilla lunch day. My experience is that sugary carbs really kill me an hour or two later.
posted by chocolate_butch at 2:49 PM on September 28, 2007

nap nap nap. just twenty minutes and you'll be genuinely refreshed and ready to start doing stuff again. caffeine and sugar are stop gaps, not a solution, you'll just feel tired again after they wear off.
posted by lia at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2007

Not to be crass, but usually when I get really tired at work after lunch, I have to poop. Stay away from the caffeine and donuts.
posted by hooray at 4:19 PM on September 28, 2007

A local 57 year old Chicago radio dude, Garry Meier, has been touting (although it is a sponsor he says that it has really worked for him and he is a decent guy - I've been listening to him for almost 20 years) Joebee's Bee Pollen, from British Columbia. He takes two capsules per day - in the morning - and doesn't have the need to take afternoon naps anymore plus he says he has a lot more energy.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 4:44 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I used to have the exact same problem until a dietician put me on a weight-loss diet which made me eat smaller portions of balanced carbs and protiens during the day. The result has been much more balanced and consistent blood sugar levels during the day = stable energy all day.

I would definately recommend booking in to see a good dietician in your area and explaining your problem, they will be able to help. I tried a lot of self-help methods with my own afternoon sleepies but none of them ever worked because what needed to happen was an overhaul of my entire diet, you will probably find the same thing.

I hope that helps! Good luck :)
posted by katala at 6:16 PM on September 28, 2007

I have trouble with hypoglycemia, too. I find it helps to go for a twenty minute walk after eating anything.
posted by Coventry at 6:39 PM on September 28, 2007

Low carb meals for breakfast and lunch. Only exception is if you're working out immediately before or after one of these meals. By low carb I mean no starchy or sugary foods- stick to dairy, meat, vegetables, nuts, small amounts of fresh fruit. Try it and I bet you won't feel the need to caffeinate just to stay awake (keeping up your energy level might be a different thing).
posted by rxrfrx at 9:51 AM on September 29, 2007

I have this exact same thing, and it is definitely improved if I don't eat a heavy lunch. However, one way to quickly rectify the situation is to eat a banana, and drink a mug of herbal peppermint tea. Sets me straight.
posted by msali at 1:10 PM on September 29, 2007

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