Beating the Afternoon Crash…aka Arsenic Hour

Tacy Singleterry and Sarah Thomssen

We were talking the other day about how we used to wake up tired and crash every hazy-brained afternoon. The key phrase is “used to”…we don’t do that anymore, and we’re out to help you leave that behind you too. It’s all about blood sugar. Read on!

 Does this schedule sound familiar?

  • Earlier than you’d like – you wake up and reach for coffee, along with any of the following: a bagel, cereal, fruit juice, a processed smoothie, a muffin, toast, instant oatmeal, granola, and/or anything sweet. (Or, you skip breakfast altogether.)
  • Around 7 or 8 AM – you shuttle the kids off to day care or school, and hurry yourself off to work or you are full-in with baby/toddler and household stuff.
  • Note from Tacy: The other morning, I saw a mom out walking the dog and pushing a stroller at 8:00 AM drinking a Red Bull for goodness sakes!  What is going on here?  
    • Throughout the day – you grab whatever food you can find to keep you going. This might include sandwiches, items from the vending machine, instant foods popped into the microwave, chips, candy, cookies, etc.
    • Around 3:00 or 4:00 – you CRASH; your daily cravings kick in, if they haven’t already today.
    • After the crash – your energy levels are so low; you don’t know how you’ll make it through the day. Your brain feels pretty much useless.
    • 4:00 – 7:00 – you end up eating or drinking large quantities of things you wish you wouldn’t eat  (soda, candy, cookies, salty snacks, wine, crackers, etc.). You’re starving, out of it, and just trying to feel better so you can function in meetings, prepare dinner, remember to pick up children, help with homework, and get little ones off to sleep. You might be a little grumpy too.
    • Right before bed – you have more cravings for foods you wish you wouldn’t eat.
    • Next morning – the vicious cycle continues….where’s my coffee…..?

 Chances are, if this is happening, you are also putting weight on around the middle and feeling like your metabolism has changed. (Or if it isn’t, you’ll probably be there soon.) You’re thinking it must be because you’re getting older.

 The good news is that you don’t have to wake up tired or crash in the afternoon, it’s pretty straight-forward to drop weight off the middle, and a shift in metabolism is typically reversible. It’s not as hard as you might think.

 Here’s the problem:

You are likely spiking your blood sugar (repeatedly) thus causing your daily roller coaster ride.  We used to do the same thing. While our diet included a lot of healthy items such as fish, lean meat, vegetables and fruits, it also included some not so healthy items such as breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, bagels, juice, pasta, potatoes, rice, sweets, salty snacks, and anything else that consist of processed white or wheat flour.  Yes, wheat flour turns quickly into sugar in the body! (Whole grain or stone ground is better.)  

 When we eat something that causes our blood sugar to rise rapidly – this is caused by foods that are high glycemic – we get out of the ideal range for our bodies to function well. High-glycemic foods include many of the not-so-healthy ones we’ve mentioned. Basically most white foods, processed foods, instant foods, most salty snacks, and the obvious sugar-y culprits.

The picture of your blood sugar outside of the ideal range looks like this:


Ideally, it would look like this:


At the high end of a blood sugar spike, extra insulin is released to bring your sugar levels back to its normal levels. Insulin is used for energy, or if you don’t need that much energy (because you’re not running a 10k or climbing a mountain that day), you’ll store the extra insulin as fat around the middle.

At the low end of the blood sugar range, you experience the sugar/carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, and afternoon crash.  These are REAL urges (not a lack of will power) – your body simply must get its next “fix” in order to raise your blood sugar levels.  These urges typically lead you to another high glycemic snack.    

After years of this rollercoaster, your cells start to resist the regular flood of insulin – it’s like they close off the doorway to insulin because they are overwhelmed. Your body tries to compensate by sending out more insulin for the same foods. What happens to all that extra insulin? Well, it is stored as fat. This is when people notice they are gaining weight even though their habits haven’t changed. They blame it on age, but the real culprit is insulin!

This glycemic rollercoaster is highly inflammatory, and over time it can lead to even more significant health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, just to name a few.

So what can you do to get off the high glycemic, sugar roller coaster and stabilize your blood sugar?  It is easier than you think.  By making a few simple changes to your daily routine you can boost your energy levels and get yourself moving in the direction of a healthier you. 

1)      Start your day with a low glycemic breakfast such as a veggie omelet/scrambled eggs and a bowl of fruit, a strawberry-banana smoothie with skim milk and soy or whey protein powder, or fresh fruit and cottage cheese.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Studies show that those who ate a high glycemic breakfast ate over 80% more calories throughout the rest of the day than those who ate a low glycemic breakfast.   

2)      Cut back on high processed carbohydrates in your meals – pasta, breads made with white or wheat flour, rice.  Make a switch to whole wheat pasta, stone ground or seeded breads, brown or wild rice. 

3)      Always balance a good carbohydrate with a good fat and a good protein. It’s not as hard as it sounds! Instead of reaching for the cookie or candy bar, try some of these – an apple with string cheese or peanut butter, a handful of raw almonds, an apple or ½ a banana with almond butter, vegetables topped with hummus. 

4)      Switch the afternoon sodas or lattes with green or herbal tea.

5)      MOVE your body everyday!  A 20 minute walk works wonders at clearing your head and giving you energy. 

6)      If you need a sweet fix, eat a piece of dark chocolate or dip strawberries in dark chocolate. 

7)      Follow the 5-Day RESET program from USANA Health Sciences – this made the biggest difference for us in getting off the rollercoaster and eliminating cravings, so we could make healthier choices from there.

  • This is what we get our clients on for a jumpstart to healthier eating.
  • Email Tacy at  tsingleterry at if you think this might be a good program for you.

 These are simple steps, and you know what?  They work!  Are you going to see immediate improvement in your energy levels?  With the RESET, you probably will. With the other steps alone, you will definitely see improvements; however the changes will be more gradual and less dramatic.   Either way, what is most important is to get off that blood sugar rollercoaster – the long term impact of not doing so may lead to serious health issues down the road.        

We will dive deeper into ways to improve your health in upcoming articles… stay tuned!

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  1. Khushi

    Hi. This was useful – at least to understand why I get those afternoon crashes. Also, all the best with the business! Great to see women enterpreneurs.

  2. Sarah Thomssen

    I’m glad it was helpful, Khushi! We love hearing from people who are reading the post. Feel free to post questions, and we’ll answer them. 🙂

  3. Jason Anderson

    Good stuff Sarah! You are right about these steps being simple. The hard part is changing years of bad habits which didn’t seem like bad habits when were younger. Simple actions yet mentally tough unless you commit.

  4. Indrani

    Thanks Tacy for such a useful post. I don’t seem to be awake off late without my morning caffeine shots (my first cup of coffee) to kickstart the day. Will surely try to get over with it. They are easy steps to follow and hopefully will help me shed off some extra pounds I have been trying to lose for sooooo long!

  5. Tacy

    Hi Indrani! I’m so glad you found the article helpful. I’ve personally experienced some amazing results in my energy levels by adding these into my daily routine. Keep me posted on your progress!

  6. Anonymous

    Just to clarify two things. Insulin is a hormone, and its job in the body is to move all those sugars we’ve eaten from our bloodstream to our cells, so our cells can use the sugar for energy. By moving sugar from our bloodstream to our cells, our blood sugar levels get lowered. If we take in more sugar than we need, our body stores it as fat all over our body, not just in our midsection. Having too much circulating insulin in our body is bad, but it does not get stored as fat.

  7. Mona

    I think it is a wonderful article and a must read!!!

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