Why do we often feel tired after eating? Is it the time of day we choose to have our meal? A lack of sleep from the night before? Perhaps even the foods in the meal itself? Any and all of these factors contribute to how the body responds to a meal, in turn affecting how we feel.
Some researchers believe that fatigue after meals is brought on due to the body’s production of serotonin when eating. Serotonin is a chemical responsible not only for mood and social behavior, but appetite and sleep, as well.
Tryptophan, an amino acid, encourages the production of serotonin. This amino acid is common in many protein-rich foods. When carbohydrates are consumed, the body processes the tryptophan more quickly and effectively, thereby producing more serotonin. Scientists surmise that this process is the reason why carbohydrate-rich foods make us sleepier than other foods. (Hence the famous “Carb Coma.”)
Eating raises blood sugar in general, but carbohydrate-dense foods can cause it to rise too high. Not only can the carbs themselves make you tired, but blood sugar spikes can also make you feel fatigued. Just another reason nutrition is so important. Not only to prevent sleepiness after a meal, but also to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
How can we conquer the post-meal tiredness, with the bonus of maintaining stable blood sugar? The first answer is easy – food! The body’s primary energy source is food. Calories are the measurement of energy/fuel available in a food. If you aren’t consuming enough calories, the body will not have sufficient fuel on which to run, leading to lack of energy.
On the other hand, if you are consuming too many calories, the body cannot utilize them all. This will lead you to feel sluggish instead of energized. Stick to appropriate portions and you’ll be less likely to experience fatigue after eating. Try eating smaller servings more often throughout the day to help keep energy and blood sugar more stable.
Energy levels are not based solely upon the amount of calories we consume, but also upon the quality of the foods that we eat. Some foods simply do more for the body than others. Salmon and spinach are two fantastic examples of foods which provide energy to body and mind.
Salmon is full of vitamins B6 and B12. Vitamin B12 is used by the body for energy, and vitamin B6 is essential to the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles. Spinach contains folic acid which helps to reduce fatigue and improve mood. Spinach is also rich in iron, a mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your cells, giving the body energy on a cellular level.
Research also suggests that being calcium-deficient may make it difficult to fall asleep. Dairy products like yogurt and milk are good sources of calcium. Be sure to choose full fat dairy products as they contain less sugar. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale and other greens, also contain calcium.
Along with consuming quality foods, we need to get moving to increase energy levels. Walking, especially after a meal, is one of the easiest ways to improve health and mood. Exercise literally produces energy. Exercise also releases endorphins, giving a boost to both mind and body. (Not to mention, new research has shown dramatic improvements in blood sugar levels with a 10 minute walk after meals!)
A post-meal beverage could also help perk you up. Avoid alcohol, as it acts as a depressant and encourages fatigue (among other things!) Instead, enjoy a cup of coffee or green tea. Both of these beverages can improve not only mood, but blood sugar, as well.
Research has found that the caffeine in coffee can have positive effects on blood glucose levels. Drinking coffee has been tied to increased levels of energy, as well as feelings of kindness and pleasure. Studies have shown that caffeine may improve memory and cognitive performance. Coffee also contains particularly high levels of antioxidants which serve to protect the body from free-radical damage.
Green tea does not contain any calories, making it a flavorful replacement for soft drinks and juices. This is especially helpful for diabetics, as it offers a beverage choice that isn’t water, but won’t raise blood sugar. In fact, researchers have found that green tea can improve insulin sensitivity, help keep blood sugar stable, along with reducing fasting glucose levels and Hb A1c concentrations.
Another reason for tiredness after meals could be the simple fact that your body is not getting enough rest. Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep. Decide on a time to go to bed each night, and set your alarm for the morning. Allow for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Create a bedtime routine to help calm mind and body. Avoid screen time (TV, cell phone tablet) prior to bed to help your mind relax. Write down a to-do list if you have items weighing on your mind. A warm bath or shower before bed can also be helpful.
Avoiding post-meal tiredness or fatigue is simple. Choose healthy foods, take a quick walk after meals, and get sufficient rest at night. We hope these tips help to energize your next meal!