If you often feel tired after eating, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you should specifically avoid or eat in order to boost your energy. Feeling drowsy after a meal is a common problem that many people experience after lunch (hence the name “afternoon fatigue”). This is also the time of day when cravings for sugar and caffeine tend to kick in, which is tempting as it can offset afternoon fatigue.
Rather than masking your fatigue with sweets and coffee, a better approach is to structure your meals to support your energy. Below, we’ll tell you how to do this, as well as which foods to limit that can drain your energy.
Why am I tired after eating? (Causes)
What do you call being tired after eating? Another way to describe being in a “food coma” is postprandial fatigue, also known as postprandial drowsiness. You are more likely to feel this way after eating a large meal, especially a meal high in fat, refined carbohydrates and/or sugar (once the effect of the sugar has worn off). If you find your motivation and focus dwindling soon after you finish a meal, you’re probably wondering, “Why am I crashing after eating?” »
One of the main causes of feeling tired after a meal is a drop in blood sugar (glucose). After eating sweets or refined carbohydrates, insulin levels rise, but a few hours later levels drop and blood sugar levels plummet. This phenomenon can cause feelings of lethargy, fatigue, food cravings and brain fog, although the severity of these symptoms varies from person to person.
Sugar and processed “white” carbs also cause the release of more serotonin, which is a “happiness chemical” but can also make you feel relaxed and sleepy. Other reasons why you feel sleepy after eating include the functioning of your parasympathetic nervous system and your circadian rhythm.
Your parasympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that is in charge of the “rest and digest” processes. It reacts to ingesting a meal by making you feel more relaxed. Animals, including humans, have built-in “vigilance cues” that keep them awake and alert when hungry. These signals help them locate and acquire food. It follows that when an animal (or a human) has eaten a lot, these alertness signals dissipate and are replaced by feelings of fatigue.
Eating also causes a rush of blood to the digestive system to aid digestion. Breaking down food is actually a lot of work for your body, and this process consumes a lot of energy, which can lower your mood and level of arousal.
Your circadian rhythm, or “internal clock,” plays a role in your energy levels throughout the day, including after eating. It is considered natural and ‘normal’ to feel a little tired in the afternoon, usually between 2 and 4 pm, which is a few hours after most people’s lunchtime.
You may feel sleepy due to your normal circadian cycle rather than your last meal.
Should you be worried?
If it is relatively normal to feel a lack of energy after a large meal, especially in the late afternoon or before bed, if you feel chronically tired, it could be a sign that another problem is in question. Besides feeling tired after a meal, watch for signs of reactive hypoglycemia (when too much insulin is produced and released, usually after a sugary or carbohydrate-rich meal). These symptoms usually appear three to four hours after a meal. If you experience muscle weakness, feeling jittery, pale skin, shaking, sweating, and dizziness, see a doctor for further examination.
Another set of symptoms to be aware of are those caused by food allergies/sensitivities. If you often feel like you have brain fog throughout the day, mood swings, signs of inflammation like skin rashes, digestive issues, and joint or muscle pain, see a specialist for find out if you are suffering from an allergic reaction.
How to Stop Being Tired After Eating
What foods cause fatigue?
You should avoid consuming too many carbs (especially refined carbs) and sugar all at once, without consuming enough protein, fiber, and fat to balance it all out. Large, heavy, high-fat meals (fried foods, fast foods, and processed meats) can also rob you of energy because your body takes time to digest them. In some people, food sensitivity can also contribute to postprandial sleepiness. Sensitive foods or potential allergens may include wheat/gluten, dairy, tree nuts or shellfish. Of course, alcohol can also lower your mood and ability to concentrate, so avoid alcoholic beverages if you know you need to be up and running.
Why are we tired after a big meal and what to do instead?
Meal times are a matter of preference, as each person is a little different. Some prefer to eat two or three meals a day, for example if they practice intermittent fasting, while others prefer to eat every three or four hours. Experiment to see which schedule works best for you. You may be a person who benefits from eating three small meals and one or two snacks a day, as these smaller meals put less strain on your digestive system.
What meal composition is best for preventing fatigue?
Overall, try to strike a balance by including high-fiber foods, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables. Be careful not to binge on refined carbs like pasta dishes, cereals, protein-free cereal bowls, noodle dishes, sweets, etc. When in doubt, add a few veggies to a protein dish, like sautéed chicken or fish, and stir in some fat, like olive oil or sliced avocado, to top it all off. Keep in mind, however, that excess protein causes some people to feel sluggish, likely due to an increased release of tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein foods like turkey, milk, meat, and eggs. , which triggers the production of serotonin.
What are the best foods to boost your energy?
Above all, try to eat enough protein, such as:
– grass-fed meat
– vegetable proteins such as beans and nuts
Complex carbs, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, can also give you a quick boost of energy, but don’t overdo it.
Foods that provide you with B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, vitamin D, and iron can also help boost your energy levels. B vitamins and iron are especially important for supporting digestion and the metabolic processes that turn nutrients from your diet into usable energy.
Finally, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (and not too much caffeine, alcohol, or sugary drinks), as hydration is essential to feeling your best.
When to consult a doctor
In addition to improving your diet, including adjusting the timing and content of your diet, you can also fight fatigue by
– trying to get enough sleep
– to manage stress
– exposure to sunlight during the day
– exercise (for example, a walk outside after lunch or a short exercise and stretching session can often help combat drowsiness).
If these strategies don’t help, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to check for food sensitivities, a thyroid problem, or other health conditions, like anemia, that could be contributing to your fatigue. . This is especially important if your fatigue is interfering with your ability to work, go to school, parent, exercise, etc.
Your doctor may perform several tests to look for signs of inflammation in the body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, which could indicate an underlying cause of fatigue. You may also need a hormone panel test to check your thyroid and possibly other tests to rule out issues such as nutrient deficiencies.
In addition, you may be recommended to keep a food diary in which you record what you eat and when. This way, you will be able to form patterns and identify potential trigger foods or food combinations.
Why are you tired after eating? One of the most common causes of fatigue after a meal is a blood sugar imbalance, usually due to eating refined carbohydrates and sugar without enough protein, fiber and fat. Heavy, fatty meals, large meals, and the time of day can also contribute to your fatigue. If you are tired after eating lunch in the afternoon, it may simply be due to your circadian rhythm cycle. However, you shouldn’t feel so exhausted that you can’t concentrate.
See a doctor if you also have signs of inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, or pain. To avoid feeling drowsy after eating, try eating balanced meals more regularly, such as every three to four hours. Drink plenty of water and avoid consuming too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine and processed grains.