4 reasons why your breakfast choice is giving you the afternoon slump

Do you feel tired and less motivated throughout the day? Your breakfast could be the reason why...

man eating breakfast
(Image credit: Prostock-Studio / iStock)

There's nothing worse when your to-do list is longer than your arm and you're just not feeling up to to the job. There's a number of reasons that could possibly make you feel like this, but one prominent cause is usually the mid-afternoon slumps. We’ve all experienced it, where our energy levels dip and we feel less productive, affecting the the way we perform. 

Whilst there are a lot of tips to avoid the afternoon energy slump, a lot of people don't realise that their breakfast choice could be having the biggest effect on how they feel. A new study conducted by Protein Works has revealed how what you eat for breakfast can affect your productivity throughout the day, and the results are certainly worth a read. 

Before you find out more about breakfast choices, make sure you’re setting yourself up for a good night's sleep with the the best mattress and the best pillow so you at least wake up feeling rested! 

1. You're not eating breakfast

It was revealed in the study that people who skipped breakfast saw the biggest afternoon crash in the whole study, declining by a huge 15% from 2pm onwards. This is due to the fact that the longer a person goes without eating, the quicker their blood sugar levels will spike at their next meal causing a bigger eventual crash – clearly evident in this group’s productivity scores after lunch. 

Make sure you're setting time aside in your morning routine to consume something for breakfast. Even if you're not hungry, why don't you make a smoothie? This recipe tastes delicious and is a great breakfast choice!

2. You're only having a cup of coffee

Those who only drink coffee for breakfast can expect to hit their peak afternoon slump at 2:36pm as they experience an earlier caffeine crash. Coffee gives an initial boost of energy increasing productivity by 5%, but only lasts for 4-5 hours leading to a caffeine crash around midday.

Caffeine works by stimulating your nervous system, increasing brain activity and enhancing focus and cognition. However, the stimulating effects of caffeine typically wear off after 4 hours letting fatigue set in – evident in the dramatic decline of productivity at 1pm. Read our guide on why you shouldn't drink coffee first thing in the morning for more information!

3. You're consuming too much sugar

Those who had a high-sugar breakfast on average hit a slump at 3:05pm, they also saw the most fluctuating productivity levels, with three peaks after breakfast, lunch, and at the end of the day. 

After a high-sugar breakfast, it’s evident that blood sugar levels spiked causing a large burst of energy and 10% increase in productivity within the hour. However, as a result of this quick energy, insulin will start producing rapidly to help maintain blood glucose levels causing a sudden drop in energy levels, also known as hypoglycaemia – aka a sugar crash. Read these 4 sugar-free ways to beat fatigue if you interested!

4. You're not eating enough protein

Those who ate a protein-filled breakfast had the longest lasting energy levels, with a slump not occurring until 3:12pm. High-protein breakfasts also caused the highest peak in productivity of the whole study, increasing by 15%. This could be linked to the fact many high-protein foods also contain the amino acid tryptophan which creates serotonin (the feel-good chemical).

Check out the best protein powders or the best protein bars if you're wondering how to boost your intake. 

What do the experts say?

Kyle Crowley, nutrition expert at Protein Works: “What is evident from the study is that consuming any sort of energy in the morning, whether that be sugar, coffee or high protein is always better than skipping breakfast, as that will only lead to a greater crash in the afternoon.”

“It’s evident in the study that people's average productivity levels are lower and hit quicker on Mondays and Tuesdays so perhaps focus on more protein-fuelled breakfasts early on in the week and save the sweet treat or coffee run for Friday instead.”

“Likewise, swapping the cookies and chocolate snacks for natural sugars like fruit will help give you that much-needed afternoon pick-up. Even better would be to consume a more filling and stabilising source of protein like nuts around 1 pm prior to the slump to help prevent the feelings of fatigue rather than solve.”

Interested in more? Have a look at these 3 homemade energy drinks recipes that will help boost your motivation and make you feel good at the same time. 

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.