Yawning, falling asleep at your desk, or irritable mood – these are all symptoms of the common ‘afternoon slump’, something which most people will experience at some point. However, new research shows there might be a healthier way to beat the fatigue, and it all starts with a dose of fresh mixed berries…
The new research*, conducted by the University of Reading in conjunction with British Summer Fruits, found that consuming mixed berries at breakfast could sustain or improve cognitive function for up to six hours after consumption.
The research, which was presented at a recent health conference in Quebec, tested 40 adults aged between 20 and 30 years who consumed either a drink containing 75 g mix (a portion) of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, or a placebo.
The adults were tested on a computer-based task battery examining executive function and mood at two, four and six hours after consumption. Findings from the double-blind trial suggests that the adults who consumed the polyphenol-rich berry drink sustained cognitive performance throughout their day.
British Summer Fruits nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire, says: “Polyphenols are a type of phytochemical, which are naturally occurring compounds that give plants their colours and protect them from dangers in the natural world. Research has revealed that consumption of phytochemicals, including some polyphenols, may be good for you.”
The study also found that reaction time for those who had consumed the mixed berry drink was faster six hours after consumption compared to their performance at two hours and four hours, whereas no improvement was found for the control group. Importantly, this increased speed of performance for those who consumed berries did not result in any cost to accuracy.
Why do we experience an afternoon slump?
There are many reasons why we tend to feel tired and groggy in the afternoon, causing an afternoon slump. Symptoms can include a foggy mind, heavy eyelids and the desire for a nap, but what causes it?
1. A heavy carbohydrate lunch: a lunch loaded with carbs can cause people to experience a ‘sugar crash’.
2. Caffeine: You can experience a rebound in fatigue after drinking caffeine, as this would have suppressed the tiredness you’d naturally experience first thing in the morning.
3. Dehydration: mild dehydration can subtly, yet negatively, affect energy levels as well.
4. Sleep deprivation: modern society means less of us are getting enough rest to function well throughout the day.
5. Stress: stress can also remove resources from the brain, leaving us physically exhausted.
Dr Emma Derbyshire, Nutritionist for British Summer Fruits adds: “From this study, we can make the assumption that if someone working a nine-to-five job consumes a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, it will help to improve cognitive function, through both sustained accuracy and improved reaction speeds. This research also points to the benefits of eating a mixture of berries, compared to just a single type of fruit.”
If faced with a busy day ahead, eating mixed berries for breakfast is good fuel to keep you on top form. From improving your mood, staying focused and juggling tasks; mixed berries provide a strong boost for cognitive performance, lasting from breakfast right up until mid-afternoon.
Dr Emma Derbyshire provides her top tips on how to avoid an afternoon slump:
Taking a nap may seem like the best approach to manage an afternoon slump, but for most this isn’t possible. Equally, caffeine can shift your cardiac rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep at night, but there are a few ways to give yourself a boost to avoid the slump…
Get plenty of sleep at night. If you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to experience an afternoon energy dip.
Choose lunch wisely. Opt for high-protein and low-fat options. Fat takes a lot of resource to absorb. Protein on the other hand is easily digested and will keep your body supplied with energy for hours.
Get out in the sun. Sunlight can make you more alert.
Eat mixed berries in the morning. Berries can help improve cognitive function and accuracy for up to six hours after consumption.
Exercise. Even light exercise causes a slight bump in cortisol and body temperature making you more awake.
Avoid sugar and caffeine. They provide your body with temporary energy, but cause a big dip in energy later on in the day.
* Whyte, R., Cheng, N., Lamport, D., Butler, L, & Williams,C.M. (2017) Polyphenol-rich mixed berries maintain cognitive function over a six-hour period. School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, United Kingdom. Presented at The International Conference on Polyphenols and Health in Quebec. British Summer Fruits is the industry body that represents 98 per cent of all berries supplied to the UK’s leading supermarkets.