Real talk: I’m more tired most days at 4 p.m. than I am at 10 p.m. This afternoon slump has become the bane of my existence, given that modern life isn’t exactly designed to include midday naps (or naps at all, amirite?). While there are a lot of slump-beating hacks floating around–e.g. Bulletproof tea—most of us simply reach for a snack (ideally one consisting of veggies, fruits, and nuts rather than sugar-filled processed foods, but TBH this can be a struggle when stress levels are high and free time is low.)
So, curious as to how the over-committed and yet ever-energized Jillian Michaels, celebrity trainer and creator of the MyFitness app, powers her way through the afternoon, I ask her for a go-to snack rec. Her answer, shared backstage at the Livestrong Stronger Weekend event in Los Angeles, is not what I expected, however.
“There’s not any one food that’s going to give me energy except caffeine and water,” she says. “Really, with hydration I notice a difference and with caffeine I notice a difference. Other than that, if I’ve slept and I eat every few hours and blend my macro[nutrients], I stay pretty much even keel. I don’t get that 4 p.m. slump.”
In other words, my everyday struggle is totally foreign to Michaels. (Brush your shoulder off, superwoman!) Below, find more deets on why Michaels thinks the best 4 p.m. fix can’t be found in snack form.
Keep reading to get Jillian Michaels’ tips for sustaining energy throughout the day.
Hydration is mission critical
This simple hack may sound too easy to be true, but in fact, even the tiniest hint of dehydration can affect cognitive function. And if you’ve tried and failed to count the number of glasses you’re drinking per day (guilty), using Michaels’ simple hack may help. “I hydrate until my pee looks like lemonade which is gross but true—there’s not a set amount of water,” she says.
Caffeine consumption should be strategic
Michaels’ approach is not to frontload all of her java first thing in the a.m. (guilty again!) “[I have] one cup at breakfast and one at 1:00, which keeps my energy level stable,” she says. The pro trainer purposely limits her intake to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily; however, you may be able to consume more (or need to consume less) in order to keep from crashing, depending upon your body’s specific ability to metabolize caffeine.
When you eat matters
Okay, so different experts recommend different things when it comes to how often you should be stuffing your gullet. What works for Michaels and her clients, however, lies somewhere between grazing and the traditional three-meals-per-day model. “I eat every three to four hours—breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner,” she says. “If you’re listening to your body and you’re eating when you’re hungry, that’s about how often it should be.” This type of intuitive eating, she believes, will help you to avoid dramatic dips in energy not just in the afternoon but throughout the day.
Another timing-based strategy Michaels employs is a 12-hour fasting window between dinner and breakfast, which she tells me helps to crush the crash by stabilizing her blood sugar This concept may be familiar to you dressed up as the trendy (and controversial) diet trick known as “intermittent fasting,” but Michaels swears it, too, is intuitive. “Break. The. Fast. It’s built in,” she says.
What you eat matters, too
Remember earlier (like, five paragraphs earlier), when Michaels said something about blending her macros? What she means is that eating balanced meals that contain a combination of sources of healthy proteins, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats helps her to avoid an afternoon (or any time of day, really) crash. “If you’re not cutting out a macro, like ‘Oh, I have no carbs’, [the slump’s] not going to happen,” she says. (Need proof your carb aversion is causing you to crash? Here you go.) In other words, Michaels preaches the one thing not really trending when it comes to diets: balance. “I’m not selling a meal plan called ‘the balanced diet,” she tells me with a laugh. “It’s just common sense.”
In addition to making sure your plate is diverse, Michaels advocates for another “duh” meal-time tactic that’s also often easier said than done. “If you’re not eating a ton of processed food, you’re not getting a sugar crash,” she says. If you find you absolutely can’t focus until you’ve had some chocolate, however, one way to avoid the drop in energy that inevitably follows its consumption goes back to balance—pair the sweet stuff with a little protein to mediate the spike.
None of this works without adequate sleep
Michaels, one of the most famous trainers in the world, says she doesn’t skimp on sleep in order to work out—that’s how important she thinks it is to get your zzz’s. From a slump standpoint, it makes sense to prioritize snoozing above all else—getting an inadequate number of hours nightly will not only make you feel tired because, well, you are tired, but also it will make it much more difficult to stay on track with just about every other anti-slump strategy listed above. Just make sure you’re not sleeping too much (it’s a real, potentially-heart-harming thing!).
Still experiencing the slump no matter how healthy you eat? You might want to get your cortisol levels checked. Plus, excessive daytime sleepiness (not brought on by a Netflix binge, btw) could be a sign of this degenerative disease.
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