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I work about 40 to 45 hours a week at my office, sitting most of the time. My company allows me to adjust my time table and I can arrange my working hours as I like, as long as the job gets done.

I want to increase my productivity during working hours, so I analyzed my daily productivity curve. Morning is perfect for me, I achieve a lot from 9am until lunch break, which I usually take around 1pm. Afterwards I often feel drowsy and my motivation starts to lack, especially after eating too much. Sometimes this condition lasts for several hours, affecting my productivity more than I like.

The first two changes I want to make to improve this situation is sleeping more during the night and changing my diet to lighter meals for lunch. I am also considering hitting the gym after lunch (it is in the same building as my office) to get fresh energy. Now I need to find out, which kind of training will help me to regain my mental fitness for my work in the afternoon.

Which exercises would be good and how long should I work out? Including a quick shower I do not want to spend more than an hour, but I guess more wouldn't help my cause anyway. Should I start my workout right after I ate or is it better to wait a little? Or is this a bad idea all together and it wouldn't help me to achieve my goal?

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Demento, very many people report having massively more energy on a low-carb, high-fat diet. (Plus the weight pours off you, if you are overweight, as a bonus.) Exercise will make no difference one way or the other. I strongly suggest the popular book "Protein Power Lifeplan" by the Eades. It is incredibly easy to try for two weeks. It could change your life, if you have far more energy all day. You never know! Cheers! –  Joe Blow Oct 5 '11 at 21:16

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Many times that tiredness you feel in the afternoon is more related to what you eat more than anything else. In studying for music recording, one of the instructors made the comment that if you want to kill a recording session quickly order pizza for lunch. He then went on to suggest deli sandwiches as a better alternative. Now, we can all agree that a music recording instructor is not a nutritionist. However, that observation is based on experience.

Bottom line: heavy, greasy foods that cause your digestion system to work hard are going to sap your energy in the afternoon. Your body is moving its most precious resource (blood) to the stomach and digestive tract to process all that heavy food. Something that is lighter in the middle of the day, but still filling is much better. A deli sandwich has protein in the meats and cheese on the sandwich, yet without being too heavy (unless it is monster sized). It gives you the energy to go a few more hours and that's all you want out of lunch anyway.

Now, if you do choose to get your blood pumping to boost your alertness in the afternoon, you still don't want a heavy greasy meal.

Actually, you will do quite well if your lunch meal has:

  • Good source of protein (fish or chicken about the size of an open hand, or even steak about the size of a closed fist)
  • Good source of green vegetables (spinach, green beans, asparagus, etc.)
  • Optional: a source of fat (like cheese or sour cream, in small doses).

Now, I specifically left out carbs and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. The reason is you will be getting more than your share of these at either breakfast or dinner. Additionally if you overdo quickly processed carbs (like pizza crust, french fries, or corn pudding), you might be overcompensating with your insulin levels and be left a little hypoglycemic. The goal here is to provide energy without overloading the digestive system.

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I haven't tried working out in the middle of the workday, but I did find that just changing two things about my lunch helped a lot.

  1. I went from Lots of Meat & Cheese & Carbs (think meatball parm sub, cheesesteaks...) to A Medium Amount of Meat and Veggies (steak & salad, chili, chicken with broccoli) helped a ton.
  2. Eating food from home > going out for lunch. Either I make double portions for dinner the night before, or on Sunday night I make a huge batch of soup or wraps or whatever that'll last the whole week.

I would try that for a week and see if you still feel the need for the workout.

Good luck on the mid-day exercise part of your question.

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From my experience, hitting the gym in the middle of the day may not be what you're looking for. After a good workout, which I try to get every time I go to the gym, I'm tired, sweaty, and on an adrenaline buzz, none of which are conducive to being productive in an office setting.

I've started doing small in-office workouts; planks, jumping jacks, jump rope, or even just walking around the office or outside (I have a large circular hallway around my building, I'll just walk around that). I personally find these short, invigorating physical activities more useful than a full-blown workout, which I do at the end of my day.

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