Avoiding a Mid-afternoon Sugar Crash with Diabetes

Overview

Our energy levels tend to vary throughout the day and are related to the levels of blood glucose or blood sugar. It is especially common in people with type 1 diabetes.(1,2) The afternoon crash usually tends to feel similar to having low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.(3) While in people with diabetes, it is possible that low blood sugar is the cause of an afternoon crash, but it is more likely that it is happening due to a combination of the morning caffeine finally wearing off, along with the rapid changes in blood sugar that makes you feel drowsy and in need of a nap.(4)

There are ways to avoid this mid-afternoon crash, and it begins with what you eat at lunchtime. Having a balanced lunch that includes just the right foods and avoiding getting stuffed during lunch can help prevent this afternoon slump. Here are some ways you can avoid this afternoon crash with diabetes.

Essentials to Include in a Crash-Resistant Lunch

If you want to avoid feeling tired and sluggish and craving a cup of coffee after having your lunch, the key is to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, which is also diabetes-friendly. A diet that helps avoid a mid-afternoon crash and is also safe for people with diabetes is easy to have on the go and should ideally include the following elements:(5)

  • Vegetables that help you feel full faster.
  • A good source of plant-based anti-inflammatory fat
  • A good-quality protein source
  • Choose fiber-rich foods, which means you need to pick complex carbohydrates over refined carbs.

All these foods will act as ‘buffers’ that your blood sugar needs after your lunch. This means they will prevent your blood sugar from spiking after eating and thus avoid the resulting afternoon crash. Vegetables and fiber help you feel full faster and keep you feeling satiated for a more extended period of time. Here’s how to achieve this.

Why are the Benefits of Slower Digestion?

Once we have a meal, the food goes into the stomach and just sits there for at least one to four hours. When we eat simple carbohydrates, which include carbs that don’t have a lot of fiber, they get processed fastest by the stomach. This also includes any food that is sweet. Such foods get processed rapidly and can lead to an intense and quick spike in your blood sugar levels.

Adding fat, fiber, protein, vegetables, or all these four categories to a meal means the speed at which the stomach digests the food is slowed down. Slow digestion means you keep feeling full for a more extended period of time and thus keep feeling energized for several hours. It also means that the cells and muscles of your body keep receiving a slow but steady and constant supply of energy instead of getting the rush all at once.(6,7,8)

This is especially important for people with diabetes to understand that the more energy stabilizing foods they have, the more stable their blood sugar levels remain throughout the day. It also helps avoid feeling zapped out of energy throughout the day.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid a mid-afternoon sugar crash when you have diabetes.

Tips to Avoid a Mid-afternoon Sugar Crash With Diabetes

Never Skip Breakfast

Mornings can be hectic for everyone. But, this should never be an excuse to skip breakfast, especially for people with diabetes. Skipping the first meal of the day can mess up your energy levels throughout the day, especially post-lunch.(9)

It is essential to eat a balanced breakfast to avoid an afternoon slump. Try eating something that includes healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. For example, a veggie omelet, oatmeal, or even yogurt with some fruits and a handful of nuts can be excellent choices.

Eating a healthy and well-balanced breakfast helps jumpstart your metabolism and feeds your brain. It provides you with long-lasting and much-needed energy for the rest of the day.

Skipping breakfast can affect your concentration levels, making it harder to go through the day. Missed meals also mean you are missing out on important nutrients at the start of the day itself. It has also been observed that people who skip meals or have an erratic eating pattern end up overeating or binging later.(10)

Consume High-Energy Carbohydrates

It is always better to choose foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. These give you a quick burst of energy and are healthy sources of energy that are easy and fastest to digest. You can opt for hummus, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereals, vegetable sticks, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and even spring rolls and burritos made from fresh ingredients can help.

Choosing foods rich in protein, such as peanut butter or cheese, takes longer to digest, keeping you full and satiated for a longer time.(11)

Drink Plenty Of Water

Staying well-hydrated is essential for avoiding a mid-afternoon crash. Even if you are just mildly dehydrated, it can cause fatigue, irritability, moodiness, and problems concentrating. The thumb rule of determining whether you are drinking enough water is to check if you are urinating every couple of hours. If you are not, it is likely that you are not drinking sufficient water.

You should keep a water bottle handy at your work table and also eat foods that keep you hydrates, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers.

Pick Your Snacks Wisely

Just as what you have for a meal is important, equally important is what snacks you choose. Snacks should be treated as mini-meals that contribute to your overall nutrition for the day, and picking healthy snacks will ensure that your body is getting the fuel it needs to keep going.

This also helps avoid an afternoon slump.

Try picking fruits and vegetables to increase your intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can also opt for having plain non-fat yogurt or lattes made with skim milk to get a boost of calcium and protein. You can also consider having roasted chickpeas or nuts and seeds. Avoid heading over to a vending machine to pick a candy bar or a packet of chips. A snack containing fiber and protein will help you stay full and avoid a crash.

Follow A Proper Sleeping Schedule

It is important that you sleep well. For any person, getting even an hour less of sleep can lead to a slowdown in your mental functioning. Your memory may suffer, your reactions will be slow, and it is more likely to feel irritated at the slightest of things. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average adult needs around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.(12) The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends at least seven or more hours of sleep each night for anyone over the age of 18.(13)

Conclusion

If you find it challenging to keep your eyes open in the mid-afternoon, especially after you have had your lunch, it is a common problem that affects most people today. Many people experience these mid-afternoon crashes or energy lags, but there are steps you can take to prevent them. Choosing a healthy and well-balanced lunch can make a huge difference in your productivity levels and mood in the afternoon. Remember to include protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and plant-based fat sources to create a healthy lunch. Combining all these factors and following the tips mentioned here can help you avoid a mid-afternoon crash, especially if you have diabetes.

References:

  1. Daneman, D., 2006. Type 1 diabetes. The Lancet, 367(9513), pp.847-858.
  2. Atkinson, M.A., Eisenbarth, G.S. and Michels, A.W., 2014. Type 1 diabetes. The Lancet, 383(9911), pp.69-82.
  3. Hillson, R., 2020. Fatigue and tiredness in diabetes. Practical Diabetes, 37(2), pp.45-46.
  4. Weinberg, B.A. and Bealer, B., 2002. The Caffeine Advantage: How to Sharpen Your Mind, Improve Your Physical Performance, and Achieve Your Goals–the Healthy Way. Simon and Schuster.
  5. Vanstone, M., Giacomini, M., Smith, A., Brundisini, F., DeJean, D. and Winsor, S., 2013. How diet modification challenges are magnified in vulnerable or marginalized people with diabetes and heart disease: a systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. Ontario health technology assessment series, 13(14), p.1.
  6. Lehmann, U. and Robin, F., 2007. Slowly digestible starch–its structure and health implications: a review. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 18(7), pp.346-355.
  7. Kaczmarczyk, M.M., Miller, M.J. and Freund, G.G., 2012. The health benefits of dietary fiber: beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Metabolism, 61(8), pp.1058-1066.
  8. da Silva Dias, J.C. and Imai, S., 2017. Vegetables consumption and its benefits on diabetes. Journal of Nutritional Therapeutics, 6(1), pp.1-10. Bi, H., Gan, Y., Yang, C., Chen, Y., Tong, X. and Lu, Z., 2015. Breakfast skipping and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Public health nutrition, 18(16), pp.3013-3019.
  9. Nicklas, T.A., O’Neil, C. and Myers, L., 2004. The importance of breakfast consumption to nutrition of children, adolescents, and young adults. Nutrition today, 39(1), pp.30-39.
  10. Dangin, M., Boirie, Y., Guillet, C. and Beaufrère, B., 2002. Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects. The Journal of nutrition, 132(10), pp.3228S-3233S.
  11. Sleephealthjournal.org. 2020. Home Page: Sleep Health: Journal Of The National Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/> [Accessed 19 November 2020].
  12. Cdc.gov. 2020. CDC – How Much Sleep Do I Need? – Sleep And Sleep Disorders. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html> [Accessed 19 November 2020].

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