Episode 67 - Are You Struggling With 3:30itis? - Why You’re Tired In The Afternoon and How To Avoid It

Are You Struggling With 3:30itis? - Why You’re Tired In The Afternoon and How To Avoid It

If you’ve ever struggled in the afternoons, listen to this!

Three-thirty-itis is real. 

Do you crave sweets in the afternoons?

Do you crash and need to take a nap?

Do you reach for more caffeine to get you through?

If any of that sounds like you, chances are your nutrition is not right. But it is easy to fix with the right knowledge.

There are a few things you can look at to prevent the afternoon slump. Listen in as I walk you through the big ones.


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Episode Transcription

Episode 67: Are You Struggling With 3:30itis? - Why You’re Tired In The Afternoon and How To Avoid It

Taryn Richardson  00:00

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:37

Are you struggling with 3:30-itis? Now if you have no idea what 3:30-itis is, it's that time of that afternoon, it often happens around 3pm/ 3:30pm , you know, around there - where you get this afternoon slump. Like you're just really tired, you feel like you need a nap. And often we've got to work so we can't nap and so we tend to try and fix the situation with food.  You might really crave sweet in this window of time here. And your body's, kind of, sending out these messages saying grab some fast acting, easy to digest sugars, to give me a bit of a spike. Maybe you're somebody that reaches for an extra coffee in this timeframe, again, to kind of get you through that slump. You're using caffeine to mask the problem and what's actually going on here. Or you might be somebody that, through this window of time in the afternoon, you just can't stop nibbling. Like you're reaching for the cookie jar, you're trying to grab some nuts and just continuously nibbling on those until the whole packet's gone. So whatever it is for you at this window, chances are there's something not quite right with your nutrition earlier that's causing you to feel all these things.

Taryn Richardson  00:45

Now, it's really hard for me to give you something specific and one thing to fix it without knowing what you're doing, but I'm going to throw some ideas your way to help you avoid this afternoon slump. And because I love using athlete examples, I'm going to sprinkle a few of those in here too, if that's okay. And if it's okay with you, at the end of today's episode, what I want to show you is how you can get help implementing all of these things so much faster. So you can get off Dr. Google and stop winging it when it comes to your nutrition trying to figure it out for yourself. Now what we're going to do is we're going to start with lunch, and work backwards into the morning time to see if there's some things that you can, kind of, pick up and fix with your own nutrition as we go.

Taryn Richardson  02:40

So if you're feeling like this in the afternoon, you know, 3pm-ish, then there's probably something in your nutrition leading all the way up to that that we can fiddle with and tweak to make that afternoon time period so much better for you. So let's start with lunch. Is your lunch nice and balanced? Or did you get scared and cut carbs right back? or even out - here in this meal?  Unless you're completely sedentary and you're lying on the couch all day, then you're going to need to include some carbohydrate in your lunch meal, no matter what type of training volume you're doing right now. Now your lunch meal is going to be something that you need to dial in for you and whatever you're doing - it needs to be periodised to your overall training program. And that's something that we really dive into inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program - is how to specifically do that.

Taryn Richardson  03:33

One of the athletes inside the program, Lisa, I know I've used her example before, but it's a really good one, her lunch meal just didn't have enough protein for what she needed. She wasn't actually full and satisfied from eating lunch and she would always reach for a packet of chips in the afternoon to get her through 3:30-itis. So have a look and have a think about your lunch meal. Is your plate perfectly formulated and designed for what you need at that time? If it's missing a key macro nutrient then put it back in there and see what happens in the 3:30 window.

Taryn Richardson  04:08

Going back further into the day. What is your morning tea or, you know, snack in that between breakfast and lunch window look like? Do you have one? Or do you not have one? Do you need one or do not need one? And if you are eating here in this snack opportunity, is it the right mix of things for what you need as well? One of the busy lawyer athletes I worked with - every afternoon she went for an office break to go to the corner store and buy a Mars bar to help get her through 3:30-itis. Now she didn't have a morning tea whatsoever. Because she was trying to force her way between breakfast and lunch because she thought missing out on calories here was the right answer. But it was setting her up to fail after lunch because she wasn't eating enough in that morning window. She also had a really crap breakfast. So she started the day on the wrong foot from waking. And that resulted in every afternoon, putting a whole heap of calories down the hatch where she didn't need it.

Taryn Richardson  05:11

Which moves me on to the next bit. What is your breakfast look like? Is it a recovery meal after a training session that morning, and is it perfectly formulated to tick the right boxes for you? Now, recovery nutrition is a big topic that I could talk about for at least an hour - just on this one key thing. If you are a Brisbane based local triathlete, I am running a workshop in January (on the 21st), all about recovery nutrition and getting that right for you. So if you are local or happy to travel a little distance, make sure you check that out and register before seats fill up - dietitianapproved.com/triathlonworkshop.

Taryn Richardson  05:51

Now for you with your recovery breakfast - missing things here is a huge factor in how the rest of your day shakes out. So if so far, you've been listening, and you're like, "Yeah, lunch is fine, my morning tea snack is fine as well", or "I don't need it", or whatever is going on, then have a really deep look at what your recovery meal is or your breakfast is and see if there's something that we can tweak and evolve here. One of our lovely listeners, Penny literally needs a nap every single day. Now she knows that she needs to work on her morning nutrition and she's going to do that in 2023. But it's because she's not doing the right things in the mornings around her training session that she feels like that every day. So Penny, if you're listening, this is your kick in the butt to get your nutrition sorted, once we hit January. You're welcome.

Taryn Richardson  06:40

So does your recovery breakfast have enough carbohydrate for you? Does it have enough protein for you? Does it tick all of your other recovery boxes that you need? Do you have no idea what any of that means? If you don't have a perfectly formulated recovery breakfast for you, then you need one, stat. So you might want to consider joining the Academy program in January when we open doors because that is the very first topic that we cover to make sure you get that right. And it's dialled in for you.

Taryn Richardson  07:10

Moving further into our morning ... have you done a training session? And what was your nutrition during that training session? It is again another huge topic that I could talk to you about for over an hour. But it depends on what type of session it is.  I don't believe you should be throwing the same amount of fuelling at every single session. There's no blanket approach. You really need to periodise your 'during training' nutrition to where you're at too. Where are you in your season or your off-season? What are you trying to achieve in that session? Is it a performance goal? Or is it a 'just let's get through this' thing? Are you trying to drive some fat loss? Are you really trying to fuel for performance? I truly believe you need to be way more strategic with your nutrition than you probably are at the moment. And so thinking about that a little bit more deeply and getting some education around what you need is really going to help you be more strategic with your nutrition and perform way better to what you're truly capable of with just a few tweaks.

Taryn Richardson  08:10

Sometimes really under fuelling a session can set our day up really, really badly. We can dampen that a little bit with our recovery nutrition and what we're doing for our subsequent meals. But sometimes you can put yourself so far into a hole that there's no escaping that. And so we just need to be careful around those types of sessions. If that's what you're doing on purpose, know that and work with that so that everything else is kind of dialled in, right? Or if you've done that by accident, and you've bonked or hit the wall and you've got absolutely nothing left, then there's definitely a key area that you need to focus on with your nutrition if you want to be maximising your performance.

Taryn Richardson  08:48

It's really common for triathletes that I see to scale back through that morning. They think that you know, cutting carbs or cutting calories and trying to restrict food around training is going to equal fat loss. But it doesn't. It never works. Sometimes eating a bit better around our training sessions will help set up our afternoon window for success so that we aren't reaching for the chips or the cookie jar or going for a walk to get a Mars bar or drinking our 20th cup of coffee for the day to get through. So I'd encourage you to think a bit more globally around your nutrition to fix that afternoon window. That's what you would have a look at for that day. But then you also need to go a bit more big picture and think about what did I do the day before? Or what have I been doing for those previous weeks that setting me up for this in the afternoons?

Taryn Richardson  08:48

Further into the morning, what was your pre training nutrition? There is no blanket, "You should do blah before every single session". Again, it's another area that you want to periodise. Rather than doing all sessions one way think about, you know, the key focus of that session - your goals, is it performance or is it not really? Where are you in your season? What are we trying to achieve here? And then layer in your nutrition approach before training to suit that as well. One of our Academy athletes, Denise, wasn't doing a very good job with her fuelling before, during and recovery nutrition before she started our program. She wasn't meeting her body composition goals. She wasn't feeling great in her sessions and, I hope she doesn't mind me saying this, but she's probably drinking like 15 cups of coffee a day to survive. What we've been working on is getting her food and fuelling right around training and reducing her caffeine intake as well - which is probably become a bit more habitual than need over time. But getting that right around training is where I think you get the best bang for your buck. And if we do a good job here, it really sets up our afternoon window so much better.

Taryn Richardson  10:52

Am I just chronically under fuelling? And so I'm just constantly tired and constantly starving.  Have I had a massive weekend of training and I haven't fuelled and refuelled properly? And so it gets to my training week where you know, I probably am working, I probably am doing some double session days in here, and I'm just ravenous and wrecked. There are so many things that you can get wrong with your nutrition. But there's also so many things you can get right, if you just have a little bit of knowledge and understanding about why you need to do certain things. It's not difficult, but you can waste so much time trying to figure this stuff out on the internet.

Taryn Richardson  11:29

If you want me to fast track you and just lay out the law, say "This is what you need to do and why" and I'll show you exactly how to do that for yourself, then you might want to make sure you've got your name on the list for the waitlist for our Academy opening in January. Doors will open on the 21st of January and we're going to hit the ground running. We're going to come up with a specific plan for you - for your recovery nutrition on week one, day one. Then we're also going to make sure you have a plan that's specific for your pre training nutrition and making sure that is periodised to what type of session it is that you're doing.

Taryn Richardson  12:03

There is no one size fits all with triathlon nutrition. And there is no blanket approach to doing the same thing constantly. Let's think a bit more strategically about what we're doing rather than just blindly following well-meaning, but maybe misaligned advice, from our training buddy or our coach or some random blog I've read on the internet. I'm also going to show you how to build out your meal plan to periodise it to your training program. So you know exactly what to eat for lunch on particular types of training days. I'm also going to teach you in Phase One, in the first eight weeks, you're going to have a plan for what you're doing in sessions as well. So on the bike and on the run. Something that a lot of triathletes have actually no idea about. They follow the advice on a gel packet for how many gels to have in an hour. They have no idea what ingredients are in their products. They have no idea what sort of targets they need to hit. There is so much noisy advice out there. And I want you to start the year strong with some evidence based nutrition support, so that you can stop wasting so much time trying to wing it on your own.

Taryn Richardson  13:09

So if you struggle with 3:30-itis, stop for a second and think back to what you've been eating for the whole beginning of that day. How's your front end day nutrition looking? And is there something that you could tweak there and see the result in that afternoon window? One of our Academy athletes, Kelly, he is retired and does pro hours. So he does all of his training in the morning, you know, he has a sleep in, can get out there and the beautiful part of the day. And, before the Academy, he was needing a nap all the time in that afternoon window and hey, he's retired, he can do whatever the hell he wants. But now he doesn't need that nap! He can spend that time so much more productively doing whatever the heck he wants, because he's got all the time in the world. I'm very jealous. But a good yardstick that you're getting this right is that you have energy in the afternoons - you don't have a slump. And that's a really good indicator that your fuelling and nutrition around 'before, during, after' your training sessions is somewhat close to right for you - which is excellent.

Taryn Richardson  14:11

If it helps, actually write down what you're eating for a couple of days and see if there's any holes that you can see by yourself that are just staring at you in the face. For me, it's really easy to look at somebody's food across a week and see really quickly things that need to be fixed - to help them feel better and perform better. But for you, it might take a little bit of thinking to go, "What is actually wrong here? Why do I feel like this?" Sometimes you just need an external eye or external brain to look at it and go, "Oh, that's an easy fix. You need to do blah", and it's done. And then you're off again. And that's something that we do in Power Hour inside the Academy program. My athletes have me live every week so they can ask those questions, show me what they're up to and we can fast track them through that so that they're not mucking around and wasting time winging it with nutrition.

Taryn Richardson  15:04

If you're looking at getting some help come January, I am running my online Triathlon Nutrition Training Camp again. It ran in September this year and oh my goodness, it was so much fun. But that's all set up ready to go for January - it's going to run from the 23rd to the 25th, here in Australia - so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday morning. If you're in the northern hemisphere, it'll run your evening the day before. So Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night. Head to dietitianapproved.com/camp to check out all those details. But that might be a really good kickstart when it comes to our new year nutrition so that we're doing the right things and laying the right foundations, rather than doing weird things come January and that New Year's resolution vibe.

Taryn Richardson  15:48

All the Christmas stuff is up in the shops now. Christmas music is being played. I've seen full blown houses, dolled up and all their Christmas festivities already. It's November! It is crazy. But I think everyone's just ready for this year to end and the celebrations to begin. So if you want some help, there's a couple of places to get it, if you're thinking about it. Get yourself organised now before the chaos begins! Register for my online training camp, dietitianapproved.com/camp - I'll pop the link in the show notes. And make sure you chuck your name on the waitlist for the Academy too if that's something that you're thinking about doing in the New Year as well - dietitianapproved.com/academy and I'll pop that in the show notes too. All right. Thank you so much for listening today. If you are really struggling with 3:30-itis, I hope that that has given you some tips to see if you can try and rectify it yourself. But hey, I'm always here if you want my help to do that too.

Taryn Richardson  16:47

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to www.dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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