As the workday rolls along (or drags on, depending on your take), many of us find ourselves in need of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack to help us power through the natural lag in energy we feel during those times.
Depending on what you choose, snacks can be a great way to keep your energy up- or a complete sabotage to your focus and stamina. We get it, convenience is king when it comes to office snacks. But, grabbing another cup of coffee or heading for the box of doughnuts your co-worker brought is usually counterproductive to feeling focused, alert and keeping your mood up at work.
Luckily, with a little nutrition savvy, we can outsmart those boxes of doughnuts and be well on our way to sustained energy in the office, without sacrificing convenience or deliciousness. Read on for our top 3 tips for snacking strategically:
1. Pick Protein
A study from the University of Cambridge in England and published in the November 2011 issue of Neuron, found that glucose (sugar) interferes with certain processes your brain uses to maintain alertness. The good news is, that same study also found that protein prevented that “brain slump” from happening.
So when you find yourself at that critical point in the afternoon where you feel like you just want to crawl under your desk and doze off, remember that a protein-rich snack can keep you going. Unfortunately, many people find themselves craving sugar at that time of day. Biologically, this makes sense, since carbs are the primary source of fuel for your muscles. The problem is, unless you’re moving your muscles a lot, most of the carbs won’t be used to fuel activity, but instead cause your blood sugar to elevate quickly and then imminently “crash”- giving you that same sleepy feeling you were trying to escape in the first place. It’s ok if your snack has a small amount of sugar, but for maximum, sustained energy, make sure that your snack is much richer in protein than in sugar.
- Hard boiled eggs
- Salted edamame
- 3-4 Matcha energy balls
- 1-2 oz mixed nuts
- Carrot, celery or apple sticks with nut butter
- 8 oz plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup berries or granola
- Whole grain crackers with 2-4 oz tuna or chicken salad
- Veggie sticks or whole grain crackers with hummus or homemade bean dip
- Protein shake made with high-quality packaged supplement (Check out our top pick: Shaklee’s Life Energizing Shake)
2. Plan Ahead
When you’re starving and busy at 3 PM, it’s much easier to visit the vending machine, office candy dish, or tray of cupcakes in the break room than it is to seek out fresh, healthy options like the ones listed above. That’s why planning is key to office snacking success.
Try planning out your snacks for the week ahead of time. Decide what you will have, and how you will make it most convenient for yourself. For example, you can hard boil all of your eggs for the week on Sunday rather than cooking them each day (according to the FDA, hard boiled eggs will keep in the fridge, unpeeled, for one week, or five days peeled). Many offices have shared kitchens where you can keep your snack supplies on hand. Make matcha energy balls and keep them in the fridge at work for easy snacking. Keep a bag of edamame in your office freezer, and when you need a protein boost, microwave in a dish with some salt sprinkled on top. Stash a jar of nut butter at the office, and on your way out of the house in the morning, grab an apple to cut up later.
Often, preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can mean the difference between making a nutritious choice, and giving in to sugary treats.
3. Control Caffeine
Another way some of us sabotage our energy levels during the workday is by relying too heavily on caffeine. Caffeine is not inherently bad for you in moderation, and some studies suggest it can even play a role in long-term brain health. In high doses, however (more than 16 oz of regular strength coffee per day), it could cause physiological problems such as nervousness, anxiety, sweating, nausea, increased heart rate, digestive issues, and disturbed sleep. It can interfere with your body’s hunger signals, and it can also, ironically, deplete your energy as the effects wear off.
There’s no need to give up caffeine entirely if you don’t want to, but you might benefit from deciding to use it in moderation to maximize its effects, rather than leaning on it as a necessity.
If you’re a coffee drinker, experiment with teas, which typically contain 1/4- 1/2 the caffeine of coffee. Have one cup of morning coffee, then for every additional cup you would drink, switch it out for green or black tea. There are thousands of varieties of tea to try, and a simple internet search or walk down the aisle of a grocery store can lead you to many flavors and varieties, from chocolate and vanilla, to spicy, herb-y, tart or fruity.
Another way to get a mini jolt of caffeine, and protein at the same time is with our matcha energy balls. Matcha is a type of high-quality green tea that can be purchased at many grocery stores or online.
Note that since caffeine is an addictive substance, you may feel a little bit more tired than usual, or even get a minor headache, when you initially try cutting back on caffeine. But these effects are temporary, and after a few days your body will adjust. The restored equilibrium of your natural energy levels in the long run will be well worth it.
If you do choose to drink caffeinated beverages, keep in mind that using a lot of sweeteners or cream can negate some of the brain-boosting effects. Also, try not caffeinate after 3 PM, since it can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
What are some of your favorite healthy office snacks? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Julia Workman, CYT
Julia is an experienced yogi, athlete and dancer with a passion for wellness. As the Fitness Program Director OmBody Health, she designs and implements Yoga and fitness programs for our corporate clients. She also teaches powerful workshops that guide busy people toward healthier work/life integration.