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Conquering the Mid-Morning Slump

By Jess Kolko | May 08, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Maintaining consistent energy levels throughout the day is a constant challenge for any athlete. For those of us who don’t get paid to train, our refueling most often happens under less-than-ideal circumstances; we refuel at our desks, between classes, in our cars and on the run. The best way to maintain your energy so you can stay focused and survive a mid-day workout is to plan ahead and keep up with the demands of your body.

For many of us, 10 in the morning is a dangerous time. Our energy levels begin to dip, and we become distracted, edgy and a little cranky. There’s a physiological explanation for this mid-morning slump, and it’s all about digestion, absorption and insulin.

Let’s look at Jim, a recreational athlete, and how his morning starts. He’s up at 5 a.m., grabbing a cup of coffee and half a bagel before hitting the pool for an hour and a half. Jim cranks out 3600 meters before rushing off to work, and is checking his email by 8 a.m. He’s planned ahead, so he brought oatmeal with a few nuts and some fruit for breakfast.  His body is happy and working on digesting and absorbing the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in his meal.

Two hours after eating, Jim’s stomach is empty and has moved its contents to the small intestine. At this point, blood sugar dips causing a slum in energy; it’s 10 a.m. and all our Jim wants to do is nap. But a better solution is a snack.

Since our brains run exclusively on glucose we get a little fuzzy when blood sugar levels dip in the middle of the morning. Many of us would reach for one of those fancy coffee drinks, thinking that we need the caffeine to get a boost. But these are usually filled with lots of refined sugars. These might help for a few minutes, but will cause a serious crash in energy within 30 minutes.

Here are a few options to get Jim — and you — through lunch without a crash:

  • A quick snack that combines carbohydrates, proteins and fats will satisfy your hunger, and fuel your brain so you can get some work done
  • Half of a sandwich can be a great option. Many athletes choose half of a PB & J as a morning snack, saving the other half for the afternoon before a workout
  • Try a piece of fruit with an ounce of raw almonds or a string cheese
  • Low-fat or non-fat plain Greek yogurt with berries
  • A hard-boiled egg and a few whole grain crackers
  • Hummus with veggies or pita

Planning ahead for an energy slump by having healthy snacks on hand can help you get through the day without being tempted by the vending machine, the cupcakes in the break room, or another cup of sugary coffee.

Jess Kolko is currently the Healthy Eating Registered Dietitian and Culinary Educator at Whole Foods Market Global Headquarters. When she is not knee deep in nutrition Jess also enjoys training and competing in long-distance triathlon and running events. You can email her at

This article originally appeared on, founded by Olympic gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale and his family, who believe that good taste and healthy food really can go together.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.