Tired after eating? Here are 6 tips to feel energized after a meal
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Feeling sleepy after eating is a common problem. Many people notice this, especially in the afternoon, only a short time after lunch. That’s why it’s also called the “afternoon slump.” You may have noticed that you or your colleagues wander around searching for sugar and coffee. Both are tempting because they can offset afternoon fatigue.
Yet there’s a better approach to boost your energy than sweets and coffee. For example, structure your meals in a way that helps sustain your energy. Below we’ll look at just how to do this, plus foods to limit that can zap your energy.
Why do you feel tired after eating?
You’re most likely to feel this way after eating a big meal, especially one high in low-quality fats, starches, and/or sugar.
One of the leading causes of feeling tired after eating is a drop in blood sugar (glucose).
After you eat starches or sugars your blood sugar rises quickly, and it won’t take too long for the levels to fall as your “blood sugar crashes”. This can cause feelings of brain fog, cravings, and fatigue/tiredness. Although the severity of these symptoms varies from person to person.
In addition to those feelings, sugar starches also cause more serotonin to be released. Serotonin is a “happy chemical,” but it can also make you feel relaxed and tired.
Other reasons you feel sleepy after eating include how your parasympathetic nervous system works and your circadian rhythm.
Your parasympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that is in charge of “rest and digest” processes. It responds to you eating a meal by making you feel more relaxed.
Eating also calls for additional blood activity in your digestive system to speed up digestion. You may have never thought about it, but breaking down the food you eat is a lot of work for your body, which requires a lot of energy.
Besides the physiological process, tiredness can also result from your “internal clock” (circadian rhythm). It’s considered natural and “normal” to feel a little tired in the afternoon, usually around 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., which is a couple hours after most people’s lunchtime.
To find out what you can do to support your body with its processes and feel less tired, we’ll share a few tips with you next.
- Balanced meal: Aim to strike a balanced meal by including high-fiber foods, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables. Be careful not to load on refined carbs like pasta dishes, cereal, grain bowls without protein, noodle dishes, sweets, etc.
- Add veggies: When in doubt, add some vegetables to a protein dish, such as sautéed chicken or fish, and incorporate some fat, such as olive oil or avocado slices, to round things out. Remember, though, that too much protein causes some people to feel lethargic. So we recommend a mix of proteins, not just one single source.
- Vitamin B and D: Foods that supply you with B vitamins, vitamin D, and iron can also help support your energy levels. B vitamins and iron are essential for supporting digestion and metabolic processes that convert the nutrients in your diet into usable energy. Such as salmon, eggs, or dairy products.
- Smaller meals. Remember that we mentioned that digestion requires a lot of energy. So when you eat a larger meal, your body may need to “shut down” while it handles the monumental task of breaking down all that food.
- Drink enough. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (and not too much caffeine, alcohol, or sugary drinks) since hydration is vital for feeling your best. Alcohol to a meal can make you especially tired because it impacts liver function and how your body handles carbohydrates.
- Go for a walk. Light exercise during the day, especially after eating, can help people feel less tired.
Many people experience a dip in energy after eating. Large meals and meals rich in protein and carbohydrates are most likely to make people feel sleepy. Track your blood glucose to determine if your favorite lunch is a blood sugar dropper. And learn about the small changes you can make to keep enjoying it.