You know the feeling: The clock strikes 2 p.m., and you can barely pick your head up off the desk. Your first instinct may be to reach for a cup of coffee or an energy drink, but slow down. The tiredness you’re feeling is likely due to a drop in blood sugar, which can’t be corrected with caffeine. Although that cup of Joe may give you a quick energy burst, you have to work on correcting your blood sugar levels.
When your blood sugar levels drop, the main goal is to get them back up as soon as you can. Foods that contain sugar are easily absorbed and raise blood sugar levels quickly, while foods that are rich in protein and fat have a much slower effect on glucose levels. Reach for a small apple, a small orange, a half of a banana, 15 grapes or two tablespoons of raisins. All of these foods contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates. If after 15 minutes you’re still feeling tired from low blood sugar, eat another serving.
Because it’s mostly simple carbohydrates, that apple won’t leave you feeling full for long. Once your blood sugar is stabilized and you’re feeling a little more energetic, eat a proper meal or snack that contains fat and protein. These macronutrients help keep your blood sugar steady and hold you over until the next time you eat. Choose a turkey sandwich with avocado on whole-grain bread or a handful of cashews.
An Ounce of Prevention
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is best to follow a diet that will prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping in the afternoon, rather than trying to correct blood sugar levels once they are low. Dr. Alicia Stanton, an expert on women’s health, recommends eating small meals every 2 to 3 hours. These meals should consist of a lean protein, such as chicken, turkey or fish, and a complex carbohydrate, such as vegetables, fruits, quinoa, beans or legumes. Start your day with a high-fiber breakfast, like oatmeal, every day.
Words of Caution
If the blood sugar drops you experience in the afternoon are related to diabetes, speak with your doctor about your symptoms. When you have diabetes, drops in blood sugar can be life-threatening. Hypoglycemia can lead to fainting, seizure or coma. You may need an adjustment to your meal plan or your prescribed medication.
- University of California, San Francisco: Treating Low Blood Sugar
- New York State Department of Health: The Importance of Controlling Blood Sugar
- Rutgers University: Small Steps to Improve Blood Sugar
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus: Diabetes: Low Blood Sugar: Self-Care
- Dr. Alicia Stanton: The Hormone Harmony Diet Plan
- Kids Health: Teens Health: When Blood Sugar Is Too Low