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Stop The Nana Nap

No More Nana Naps!

Do you feel like every afternoon at 3 o’clock you’re ready for a siesta? Have you found yourself looking for the nearest lolly jar or chocolate bar to get energy hit to get through the afternoon? Let’s face it, we have all been there; however are we giving our body what it needs?

A few years ago I wrote an article for a company I was providing corporate health programs about the role of protein to help us stay awake in the afternoon. My theory was that adrenaline; a hormone that makes us alert is promoted by protein foods. A new study from Cambridge University in the UK, has confirmed that protein foods will help to keep us awake by stimulating brain cells.

Not only do these brain cells make us feel more awake, they tell our body to burn calories, helping to keep us thin. The special cells in the brain are called orexin cells and send electrical signals that make our body feel awake and tell it to use up excess energy. These cells are found in the hypothalamus and produce a hormone called orexin/hypocretin. This hormone helps to regulate energy balance, wakefulness and is also involved in the pleasure or reward pathways, helping us feel good.

When the researchers used protein they found the orexin cells were stimulated more so than with other nutrients such as carbohydrate and fat. In fact in previous studies they found that using glucose (sugar) blocked the activity of orexin cells which may be the reason we get sleepy after meals.

In this study, they found that by using amino acids from protein, it stopped the glucose from blocking the activity of the orexin cells. Whilst more research needs to be done in this area, it indicates the role nutrition can have on our mood and well-being.

If you find that most afternoons you’re ready to have a nana nap, why not grab a small protein snack. Here are some great protein snack ideas.

1. Yoghurt

2. Cheese and fruit

3. 30g raw Nuts

4. Skinny flat white coffee

5. Ham slice rolled up with tabouli

6. Tuna on 3 rice crackers

Reference: "Activation of Central Orexin/Hypocretin Neurons by Dietary Amino Acids"; Mahesh M. Karnani, John Apergis-Schoute, Antoine Adamantidis, Lise T. Jensen, Luis de Lecea, Lars Fugger, Denis Burdakov;Neuron - 17 November 2011 (Vol. 72, Issue 4, pp. 616-629); DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2011.08.027

29 Feb 2012

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